Father tries to ban football at NH high school
DOVER, N.H. (WHDH) -- For some Americans, the high school football season is the best part of the year. But a New Hampshire doctor, Paul Butler, said that fun comes at too high of a price.
A retired physician and father of three who now sits on the Dover School Board wants to shut down the high school football program for good.
He believes the risk of concussions and long-term brain injuries to young players is too high.
“I think it's bad to take this program away. I certainly do. But I think it's worse to let it continue,” said Butler.
Not surprisingly, a controversial call.
“I think it's overly radical and is not supported by medical evidence,” said Dr. Julian Bailes of the NorthShore Neurological Institute.
The school board released a statement, saying Dr. Butler’s opinion is his own and that the,"...termination of the DHS football program has not come before the board and is not on any agenda at this time."
Still, parents were quick to speak out.
“The backing is there. Jim McMahon just came out and said he's suffering from dementia, so there is an issue,” said a local.
“If you're going to look at sports in general, look at them all; hockey, lacrosse, I mean, you can't just pick football,” said a local mother.
But concussions are serious, particularly in kids.
“The younger the brain is, the more vulnerable it is to brain trauma,” said Dr. Bailes.
Symptoms are often subtle and easily missed among children and adolescents. Emergency room visits for sports related brain injuries, including concussions, have gone up 60 percent in ten years and for boys, the rates are highest in football.
“From the NFL all the way down to Pop Warner Youth Football, unprecedented steps have been taken the last several years to make the game safer,” said Dr. Bailes.
More than half of the states in America, including New Hampshire, have concussion laws to protect student athletes.
At Eastern Tech in Maryland, players take brain function tests to determine if, and when, they can play after an injury.
“It’ll tell me how severe my injury is, it'll tell me how long I have to get back,” said a player.
Banning football altogether may be extreme, but Butler's proposal has triggered a passionate debate forcing the country to take a difficult look at one of its most cherished pastimes.