It's that time of year again. Well-groomed fields, crisp fall days, crowds cheering in the stands, and yes, football. This year I am looking at the season with a bit of a tainted view.
As a dentist and healthcare professional, I read more and more evidence of the consequences of participation in high-impact sports on the player's long term health. How many NFL players are emerging with dementia, memory-loss, and other neuropsychological and neurophysiological complications. How can we as a society cheer on sports that are harmful to the players? Football isn't the only sport guilty of this situation, but this is the sport I am focusing on here. How can parents encourage their kids, or at the very least, allow them, to participate in this? How can they stop them?
If I am watching a game myself, am I condoning this sport?
Besides these physical concerns, of late there are other concerns with the football world. Just a few days ago, Ray Rice, a professional football player with the Baltimore Ravens, was indefinitely suspended from his team due to evidence of him committing domestic violence. A few months ago, Aaron Hernandez , former member of the New England Patriots, was indicted on murder charges. These are sports figures young players look up to and idolize. Really? What is this football culture that entices young players, makes them want to play, draws them in to become life-long fans of even the worst teams?
By now you may have figured out that I am an accidental sports fan. I never followed any sport, until I became a mother to my son. From before the time he could talk, he was mesmerized by many sports. I learned all about baseball, hockey, golf, and yes, football, from him. (I still don't have all the details of football down, but I keep trying.) From my son's participation in all these sports, I learned how sports draw people together. If you are a spectator, it gives you something to cheer for, something to feel you are a part of, something to distract yourself from the pressures of work, politics, and the economy. If you are lucky enough to be able to play the sport, and be on a team, that is even more meaningful because you are part of something bigger than yourself. You learn about teamwork, cooperation, mutual respect, defeat and achievement. Sports can be a powerful instrument.
So this year, as I drove over to Stamford High School, to meet this year's varsity football team, I put all my negative thoughts about football behind me. I can't do much about the ill-behaved professional athletes, except ignore them and the media frenzy they create, but I can do something about the possible trauma that can come from playing this sport. I continue to make custom-fitted mouthguards for the team, as I have done for the past several years. I feel it is my way of trying to keep them safe.
As I met the players, I was again impressed with their polite and grateful behavior, and I was even more struck with their fun-loving attitude, true sense of camaraderie, and love of this game.
So who is KEYSTONE? They are the great company that makes the mouthguard material, and donated all of the material needed to supply this team with their custom-fitted mouthguards.
So here's to you, Stamford Knights, and to a safe and successful season!