Choose Life Over Football
It would have been better to just say “no.”
Last week two young men died on the football field. One known epileptic; another from some kind of cardiac accident. Both had presumably passed some kind of medical clearance including a physical examination, signatures from parents, whatever.
In my day, which was not over thirty years ago, I heard about those diagnosed with epilepsy not playing football. After all, people who have an alteration of consciousness such as epilepsy are held from driving cars, as they could lose control and the car could kill others, as well as themselves. Seems to me that people who had that capacity might not be ideal candidates for a full body contact sport. How long seizure-free is long enough? What kind of seizure? There are all kinds of possible questions. Hats off to ABC Good Morning America where the questions were asked, how do things like this happen? Both parents and kids want the chance at sports and may be minimizing symptoms.
One of the brightest statements I ever heard about chronic illness and children prognosis came from my French professor of pediatrics, on day one. We were talking about chronic disabilities in children. He said that if a child had a physical problem, to consider focusing on academics and getting them as far as possible. Because their future, their success, would lie in their intellectual achievements, not their physical ones.
Wow. Never heard an American say anything like that. Whatever we worship here, it has little to do with the length and quality of human life. Hey Christians, I was weaned on the same texts as you. Mother of blessed memory did prayer book readings with me when I could barely read. Try Deuteronomy 30:19 “Choose Life.”
Anyone who actually read the Bible would realize it has not got a darned thing to do with abortion. It has to do with “life is good” and “life is valuable” and “you can do things when you are alive”. I always point out to patients in life-threatening situations that I can’t do a single thing to help them when they are dead — death being the ultimate irreversible side effect.
The death of the young epileptic man will NOT be investigated because he was a known epileptic, according to the folks at ABC. Wow. Epileptic seizures do not usually just kill folks. Sometimes if you have “status epilepticus” which means someone starts seizing and can’t stop. But it is necessary to ask here what the mitigating factors were. Heat? Head injury?
The other young man died of something cardiac, as far as I could figure. People claim this is a great controversy. Should every young athlete get an electrocardiogram? A physician whose specialty was physical (not sports) medicine rightly said getting a family history would help. But if parents don’t want their child excluded from sports, are they going to tell about how both dad and grandad died in their fifties from a heart problem? The only cases of which I have any (admittedly indirect) knowledge were both cases of congenital heart defects (cardiomyopathies) that were revealed in circumstances of extreme physical stress. I don’t even know if a regular EKG would show them up. Maybe a stress test. Most would come back normal; only a few abnormal. But an abnormal stress test means that somebody would have an EKG (electrocardiogram or heart tracing) on a treadmill. And if they “failed” the test, we would have induced a heart attack. Even though this would be the best screening, I am not so sure we want to give a teenage an avoidable heart attack. Let alone spend the money for the test.
I mean, by all that is holy, I am old enough and have been in the past sick enough, that I would be a cardiac stress test candidate. As much as I believe in preventive medicine, I would never, ever, sign an informed consent for this test. I am doing too well and do not need or want to risk even a tiny heart attack.
So, faced with the possibility of an expensive or dangerous test to get a young athlete through screening for athletics, I think people will avoid the testing and barrel through. Even if it is just high school athletics, don’t people realize the risk is life? Don’t they care? I remember a not too bright pre-medical student in college with me who got a scholarship mainly because he owned a bassoon and could (reportedly) play it.
Nobody will admit the real problem. We think sports ARE religion. We have some kind of an ersatz pseudo religion that we take after it has been macerated and spit out by talk show hosts and some kind of clerics and this is the kind of thing that happens.
Not everyone has to be quite as overprotective as my mother of blessed memory, who never let me ride a two-wheel bicycle without the training wheels touching the ground, because she was afraid I would fall, get a head injury, and lose IQ points. Still, I must admit, I may not have earned my current profession had she not felt that way.
She was right about the head. As bad as things are, it seems there are fewer deaths in young people’s football since they do not do direct “butt heads.”
Choose life. It is both precious and fragile. Choose its length and its quality and its joy. Listen to preventive medicine. If you do not agree with it, if you want your offspring and loved ones and anybody on the high school playing field, know it is a risk. You don’t have to be a doctor to think in terms of risk-benefit ratio, as doctors are always supposed to do.
“Using your head” in sports is really not that bad an idea. Just use it for thinking.