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Why parents should absolutely know the risks of their kids' playing football.

Two doctors think we need to put an end to high school football, but maybe there's another way.

Why parents should absolutely know the risks of their kids' playing football.

Each Friday night in the fall, high school students take the field in a quintessentially American tradition: football.

Families around the country file into bleachers at their local high school campuses, ready to take in the action. Might they be watching a future NFL superstar? Will they be able to look back on the game one day and say, "Oh him? I saw him play back when he was in high school"?

It's a tradition that brings whole communities together.


Two Louisville, Kentucky, schools take the field. Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images.

But not everyone is so sold on the benefits of high school football.

Two Minnesota doctors are calling on schools to drop their football programs out of concern for student safety.

Doctors Steven Miles and Shailendra Prasad penned an editorial for the January 2016 issue of the American Journal of Bioethics, titled "Medical Ethics and School Football." In it, they argue that while putting an end to youth football programs is unrealistic, the current set up of school football is unethical in that students and parents aren't fully aware of the risks involved, such as concussion.

Marysville-Pilchuck High School football players gather during a game against Meadowdale High School. Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images.

Between 5 and 20% of high school players will have at least one concussion over the course of a season.

Not only that, but after someone has a concussion, the risk of additional concussions increases. But what's the big deal? Well...

"A concussion increases the risk of a later catastrophic brain or neck injury that may result in paralysis or death," write Miles and Prasad. "Studies show that football concussions are highly likely to cause headaches and difficulty concentrating or performing schoolwork for a week, several weeks or even longer."

In 2015 alone, seven high school football players around the country have died as the result of on-field injuries.

The Shoreham Wading River High School team gets ready for its first game after teammate Tom Cutinella died on the field. Photo by Andrew Theodorakis/Getty Images.

Not only are the odds of making it in the pro leagues remote, but risk of serious injury only gets worse.

The odds of going pro are slim, with just 0.08% of high school varsity football players going on to play professionally. Even then, the average career is only 3.3 years.

Concern about the long-term effects of sustaining multiple concussions has been mounting for years now, and even some who make it to the NFL have some major doubts. For example, Chris Borland, who signed a four-year, almost $3 million, contract in 2014, retired from the league after just one season, giving up millions of dollars in the process.

And just last week, St. Louis Rams quarterback Case Keenum took a nasty hit, leaving him concussed. Despite what seemed obvious to those of us watching from home, neither coaches nor refs believed Keenum needed to be pulled from the game following this hit. He stayed in for two more plays.


GIFs from NFL/CBS Miami.

But is banning football really the most practical solution?

While Miles and Prasad's proposed ban would surely reduce the risk of football-related injuries, it's a solution that's unlikely to stick. It's a well-intentioned, idealistic plan, albeit one based on the very real concerns and risks involved with playing a high-contact sport. And maybe their proposal will pass. Anything is possible.

But in the meantime, and just in case it doesn't, there's no reason we shouldn't be doing the next best thing for football players: Parents, coaches, players, yes, even those of us in the bleachers, need to be informed about the risks that go along with playing football, and we need to understand the symptoms of concussions.

Wearing protective gear like helmets isn't enough in itself to keep a player safe from injury, but making sure they're wearing it correctly can help reduce the risk of serious injury. Chin straps, mouth guards, and other protective measures should be taken.

If you know the risk of injury and you're wearing protective gear, what's left is for players, parents, and coaches to keep a keen eye out for concussion symptoms — which aren't always immediately apparent. Symptoms include headache, confusion, amnesia, nausea, delayed response, and ringing in the ears, among others.

Mayo Clinic has a quick rundown of how to know if you have a concussion and what to do in the event that you do to avoid long-lasting or even permanent damage (hint: don't go back into the game that day).

Have fun, but be safe!

South Plaquemines High School football players look on with concern as a player is treated for an injury during a football game against Belle Chase High School. Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images.

We know that mammals feed their young with milk from their own bodies, and we know that whales are mammals. But the logistics of how some whales make breastfeeding happen has been a bit of a mystery for scientists. Such has been the case with sperm whales.

Sperm whales are uniquely shaped, with humongous, block-shaped heads that house the largest brains in the animal world. Like other cetaceans, sperm whale babies rely on their mother's milk for sustenance in their first year or two. And also like other cetaceans, a sperm whale mama's nipple is inverted—it doesn't stick out from her body like many mammals, but rather is hidden inside a mammary slit.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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