Monday, October 28, 2013

#S4SC in Review: Patrick Hruby

ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS. Patrick Hruby stressed this quote. “In order to get the right answers, we would need to ask the right questions,” he mentioned. However, what exactly are the right questions.

Hruby is a journalist for Sports on Earth, the joint venture USA Today and MLB Advanced Media sports website. Hruby's work focuses on the politics and social issues of sport, writing extensively about amateurism issues in the NCAA, the use of Native American imagery in sport, and safety issues in sports. His presentation at the Sport For Social Change Conference focused on concussions in the NFL.

Photo via Alexa Fontanella

He started off by talking about a man by the name of Mike Webster. For any of you that have read or seen League of Denial, you know why or what he was referring to. It is an issue that is huge today in the NFL and it is one they are struggling to deal with. The NFL has been accused of hiding and lying information about head injuries and concussions from the league. He mentioned how originally Webster’s brain looked normal but after Dr. Bennet Omalu double checked his brain there was microscopic brain damage similar to that of a boxer’s brain (CTE).

What if getting hit in the head in football even with a helmet is similar to getting hit in the head in boxing? What if it causes invincible brain damage?”  This is the right type of question. Hruby then asked us to imagine if there was a game out in stores. This game was fun, it was a workout, and if one was good at this game it would make him very popular. The game sounded great. But then he said what if every now and then a boxing glove would hit you in the head. Sometimes it would be a little tap and other times it would knock you out. He then asked us, “Would you allow this game to be sold in the shelves at toy stores? And if it was allowed in stores, would you sell it to kids?” This game he was talking about is football.
Photo via Alexa Fontanella

“Not playing football is not an option to most of America right now. Should we consider it as an option? One of those questions I was telling you about.” He then went on to what the NFL is trying to do about this issue. USA Football has a campaign called “Heads Up” out about safe tackling and how that can reduce the number of concussions in the game of football. Roger Goodell mentioned that he was trying to take the “head” out of football. Question to ask Roger Goodell, Why do football players need to wear helmets then if you are trying to take head out of football with safe tackle techniques?

Patrick showed these videos to his classes with college football players in it and they laughed.  Showed it to former players and they laughed. Not at the fact that they didn’t support it, they do, but at the fact that the NFL thought they could take the head out of the game. “To make a tackle, you need to get leverage. To get leverage you lower your shoulders. When you lower your shoulders, your head follows.”

Patrick then went on to talk about this conspiracy that the NFL is a part of in this issue. For more on what the conspiracy is, have a look at League of Denial. One part that specifically interested me was when Patrick started to talk about Austin Trenum. Patrick wrote a story about Austin and he starts it off with, “When a well-adjusted Virginia teen suddenly killed himself, his parents looked for warning signs they had missed. But Austin had no dark secret, no teen angst. There was nothing—except for a concussion he had sustained during a football game a few days earlier.”

Photo via Alexa Fontanella

“When football causes brain damage, who is going to pay for it? We’re not just talking about people dying, were talking about people living but living poorly. These kind of brain problems makes life hard, hard to work, hard to do much of anything.” He ended his presentation with a bold statement. “We have to ask for Austin, for Mike Webster, for the people that have been or will be hurt by football. We owe them an answer and we wont have an answer if we don’t ask the right questions.”

Recap written by Lindrit Shkodra

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