It Is Football Season -- Why My Tension Mounts

Posted by Michael Collins in Life After Paralysis on November 13, 2018 # Christopher and Dana, Mobility

As brightly colored leaves take their responsibility to heart and begin falling to the ground in waves of brightly colored reds, oranges and yellows, it is clear that Fall has arrived. This particular season won't last long, as soon the start of Winter will leave the stately trees denuded and stark until the warming breezes of Spring stir them into sprouting their summer foliage.

Fall and the beginning of Winter also coincide with what is known in America as 'football season.' This is not solely an American sport; not to be outdone, Canadians have created their own brand of football, changing the rules and the dimensions of the field slightly to reflect their independent nature.

It is important to differentiate these two types of football from what the rest of the world calls futbol, a sport which many of us know as soccer. In soccer, bodily contact between players is discouraged through a complex system of yellow and red cards followed by penalty kicks. In football, the game played in North America, violent collisions between players are the norm and those who hit the hardest often receive the largest paychecks.

I will admit that I like football but am not a fanatic. That is because watching a football game is not easy for me as there are far too many injuries and some are very serious. Some people may think that is an indicator that maximum effort is being given to playing the game, but I know there are injuries occurring that should be unacceptable in our enlightened world.

Despite research that has taken place for years, players surrounded by bodily armor with heads encased in plastic shells are still at risk of injury when collisions occur on every play. It is true that there have been steps taken to lower that risk and these changes help, but I know that sports injuries continue to be a major contributor when it comes to the prevalence of spinal cord injuries and traumatic brain injuries.

Football is not the only sport that has a problem with the severity or frequency of player injuries, but it is the one that occupies many of our television screens during this long season. My cervical spinal cord injury happened while skiing, but when I watch football I flash back to those first few minutes after I was paralyzed and find myself cringing every time a player stays on the ground after the play-ending whistle is blown.

Perhaps ironically, many football players who have been paralyzed due to spinal cord injuries have become responsible for an influx of millions of dollars of funding for SCI cure, education and research. Marc Buoniconti was paralyzed when playing football for the Citadel, which led his father to found The Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis and follow that up with the formation of the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis.

Other football players have followed suit; Mike Utley was injured while playing for the Detroit Lions and subsequently created his own foundation. More recently, Eric Legrand, who was injured playing football for Rutgers University and now works closely with the Reeve Foundation, has become a high-profile spokesman for the need to find a cure for paralysis; his efforts have resulted in over one million dollars raised.

Accidents happen in other sports, even those where serious injuries are not an everyday occurrence. Perhaps the non-football player with the highest profile when it comes to spinal cord injury and the need to find a cure was Christopher Reeve.. His equestrian accident followed a long acting career and friendships with leaders in positions of power have resulted in billions of dollars being committed to research.The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, founded by Christopher and his wife, continues to lead coordinated efforts to find that elusive cure.

With the prevalence of contact sports and the popularity of active lifestyles, it is unlikely that spinal cord injuries and brain injuries will ever stop occurring. Our best hope is that spokespeople willing to share stories about their lives and the need for prevention and cures will eventually make a difference for future generations.

© 2018 Michael Collins