Fourth Down and Inches: Concussions and Football’s Make-or-Break Moment by Carla Killough McClafferty; published Sept 1, 2013; 9781467710671.
From this book’s very first account – in 1897 – of the death of University of Georgia college sophomore and defensive lineman,Von Gammon,this book shows how potentially dangerous football can be. The death of Von Gammon caused many schools to disband their football teams and the Georgia state legislator proposed a bill banning football altogether. Governor William Atkinson vetoed the football ban bill because Von’s mother, Rosalind Gammon, wrote a letter stating the “it would be inexpressibly sad to have the cause he held so dear injured by his sacrifice. Grant me the right to request that my boys’ death should not be used to defeat the most cherished object of his life.”
As the story of American football proceeds, CKM shows how football has always had its fans and its detractors. It’s repeated often in the book that many players knew the possibilities of [sometimes serious] injury, but because of their love for the physicality of it, they found it worth the risk. However, as medical science discovers more about concussions, a.k.a. Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), what they used to call in boxers “Punch Drunk”, it’s becoming obvious that repeatedly getting whacked in the head has profound and long-lasting implications that many players couldn’t have foreseen.
(One peculiar fact: not all players who receive repetitive trauma develop CTE, but those that do develop CTE have no hope of recovering full brain function. CTE is found not only in football players, but in those who play other sports: rugby, hockey, wrestling, boxing, skiing, etc…and sometimes CTE develops in people who have simply banged their head against a wall.)
If you are a football fan like me, you will likely read this in one sitting because it’s such an engaging read. Football’s ongoing tension since its inception is well-documented and the final takeaway for me is that everyone needs to become better informed about the dangers of concussions and decide if they’re willing to chance repetitive brain trauma.
Big bonus: the book is not only well-laid out and written in an engaging manner, it has beautiful graphics. Highly recommended for anyone you know who enjoys football, especially those who want to play.