CNN Tackles Westport Football

While the sports world focuses on Fox for the Super Bowl, CNN trains its cameras on Westport PAL football.

This Sunday’s SGMD show (7:30 a.m.) features host Dr. Sanjay Gupta examining youth football, concussions and tackling.

The segment begins by noting that for many years, Westport PAL president and coach Carmen Roda did a traditional “bull in the ring” tackling drill with 5th graders.  It was “head to head, hammer to hammer,” he says.

After his players had 20 concussions during the 2009 season, Roda switched emphasis, from aggression to technique.  “Bull in the ring” was out.

“The game 20 years ago is not the game today, so why not teach it differently?” Roda says on Gupta’s show.

Westport PAL has introduced a preseason concussion education class for all coaches, players and parents.  They’ve also reduced the amount of tackling during practice.

In years past,  Roda says on CNN, when a player got “what we used to call a ‘stinger’ or a ‘ding,’ we would simply ask ‘Are you okay?’ and send him back in if he said yes.

“Now if we see a kid with a big hit, we’re checking on them to see if they’re OK, and we’re asking different kinds of questions to get the answers.”

Roda tells Gupta that parents and coaches initially resisted the new rules. There were concerns about “weakening” the game.

But the Westport Wreckers made it to the league championship — and had 50% fewer concussions.  That quieted many concerns.

The eyes of the world — well, those who watch Sanjay Gupta at 7:30 a.m. — will be on Westport on Super Bowl Sunday.

Take that, Ben Roethlisberger!

9 responses to “CNN Tackles Westport Football

  1. What a Fool Believes

    It is estimated that a high school football player takes 200 hits to the head each game. A research team at Boston University has linked Lou Gerhig disease (ALS) with a high protein in brain and spinal column samples taken from deceased NFL players. Gerhig himself was knocked out six times as a Yankee and played football at Columbia. One method of avoidance is not to merely ask questions following a big hit, as Roda suggests, but to immediately bench the player and keep him out of contact for several weeks. The brain is then allowed to heal itself. Anyone suggesting that the game is “weakened” because of no head-to-head tackles needs a CAT SCAN.

    • 200 hits to the head? There are about 120 plays per game. If a player participated in all 120 plays, he would have a hard time getting hit in the head 200 times. If he played only one way, he would need to be very unlucky to get hit in the head more that three times per play.

      • What a Fool Believes

        Have you dismissed the possibility of multi-hits to the head on each play?
        A linebacker may take five hits to the head on each play. Argue with the B.U. study, not me. Talk to Troy Aikman who took a concussion and doesn’t remember the last quarter of a Super Bowl win. I guess they didn’t ask him the “right questions.”

  2. Football players riccochet on every play, incurring multiple hits, although not all to the head, obviously. The 200 figure is likely an overstatement. What is not an overstatement, however, is that today’s concern about concussions at all levels of play is a very good thing and a vast improvement over the bad old days. My two worst concussions at Staples did not occur in games. The first took place in a ’64 practice when our All American linebacker Billy During nearly decapitated me. He thought he’d killed me and was relieved that I was still breathing. I was playing again a few minutes later. The worst high school concussion did not occur in either a practice or a game but at Compo in the spring of ’64. We had no spring practice then so played pick-up touch football games at the beach, sometimes under the watchfull eye of Paul Lane, who sat in a folding chair across the street. Apparently, I was clotheslined on a pass play and dropped like I’d been shot, my head bouncing off a bit of exposed rock. I was packed into a sports car and driven to Dr. Beinfield’s office and was confined to a dark room for a few days. I have no memory whatever of even a moment of that day.

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  4. What a Fool Believes

    It is interesting that they were aware of the proper treatment of a concussion in the 1960’s and seem to think, as advocated by Director Roda, that a few questions are deemed suitable now. It takes a least two weeks to recover from a concussion. Parents take heed.

  5. Two weeks is a good number, more if needed. I thought that doctors Beinfield and Hughes handled concussions well in the 60s. I never noticed any abuses, same with coaches. We were very fortunate. I saw far worse in college, where likely concussions were generally ignored.

  6. “Anonymous” above is me. I pressed the wrong key. Probably too many concussions.

  7. What a Fool Believes

    Dementia is the first beginning. Considering your memory bank, I would not worry.