Wednesday, April 20, 2011

"Head Games: Football's Concussion Crisis" Book Review*

Since we are an "All Things Football Related" type of blog, we felt that a book review dealing with a hot topic in high school, college, and pro football might be a good idea. I finished this book a little over a year and a half ago. The conclusions and story stay with me to this day.

  • Title:  "Head Games: Football's Concussion Crisis"
  • Author:  Christopher Nowinski
  • Synopsis:  This book is a mixture of many things: autobiography, lessons learned, advocacy, etc.  Nowinski tells the story of his battle with multiple concussions and warns football players, families, and coaches of the danger of not taking concussions seriously.
  • Impression of the book: I was impressed with Nowinski (Harvard football player turned professional wrestler) and his ability to tell a really sad story that continues to wreak havoc in his life.  I closed the book feeling both sad for him and fortunate that  I walked away from football mostly unscathed.
Nowinski tells a story that is perhaps familiar to many that have played high school and/or college football. He has multiple instances of getting dinged, having his bell rung, etc.  What football players, coaches, and professional wrestlers don't realize is that each of those cultural phases for going loopy after hit are basically the recognition of the symptoms of a concussion (without actually saying concussion).  I had ONE pretty serious concussion as a high football player, but thinking back on my career, it is likely that I had multiple "minor" concussions that never took me out of the action.

Head Games: Football's Concussion Crisis from the NFL to Youth Leagues
This book caused me a lot of consternation, but it also confirmed a lot of my beliefs about youth football. I am one that believes that tackle football at ages less than middle school/junior high is counterproductive.  First, there is such a great disparity in body size at young ages that there is an inherent problem of the smaller players quitting (or never starting) because of the size mismatch with larger kids.  Second, there is nothing that is taught or learned at those young ages that is neglected in higher levels of football.  Finally and probably most importantly, the coaches of these Pop Warner or Pee Wee leagues don't have the training to recognize the signs of head injury.  For that matter, neither do some high school or college coaches if we are to believer the reports from Texas Tech last season.

I think that every youth, junior high, and high school football coach should read this book.  I think that coaches care about their players. Living with the fact that they could have prevented an injury (or death) of a player would be extremely difficult.  I also recommend this book to anyone involved with high school athletics.  Finally, I would recommend that high school coaches associations around the country bring in neurologists or other doctors to train/inform coaches on the dangers of head injuries for adolescents.  Emphasizing the dangers might reign back some of the cavalier attitude toward head injuries that can be seen on almost any Friday night during football season.


*This review was originally posted on my "general" blog:  The Minimum Publishable Unit (MPU).


  1. I believe they should all wear a soft shelled helmet for protection so they these kids don't feel invincible. I made my son's high school wear them. You can also buy them individually on the site.

  2. The National Parkinson Foundation notes that Parkinsonism can be caused by blows to the head. Its called Parkinsonism Pugilistica. For more info contact Amy Gray
    Vice President of Chapter Relations
    and Community Partnerships
    National Parkinson Foundation
    1501 N.W. 9th Avenue / Bob Hope Road
    Miami, FL 33136-1494
    P: 305.243.2986
    C: 305-301-4157
    F: 305.243.6073