by Carla Killough McClafferty
Carolrhoda Books, 2013. 95 pgs. Nonfiction
Anyone contemplating playing Middle School, High School, or Pop Warner football, or of enrolling a child in any of the above ought to read this well-researched, well-written book on football's greatest threat to the health and well-being of its players. The book begins with a horror story. Von Gammon, a football player at the University of Georgia. In a game against the University of Virginia, Gammon was at the bottom of a pile-up. When the other players got up, he didn't. Although he was taken quickly to the hospital, he died a few hours later from the effects of a brain concussion. This event took place in 1897, and led to a ban on football, not only at the University of Georgia, but at a number of other schools. Von Gammon's mother asked that the ban be lifted because her son had loved the game so much, and would not have wanted it done away with on his behalf. Ever since that dreaded day, young men have suffered brain injuries and brain damage from playing football (girls' soccer is the second most concussion-ridden sport), but it has not been until recently when a number of high profile retired NFL players have either killed themselves or been overtaken by dementia, ASL, or other neurological illnesses, that the dangers of the sport have taken a front and center position. McClafferty's thorough, chilling narrative is thoughtfully balanced by her acknowledgement of the love of the game which may keep players and fans from totally coming to grips with its dangers.