Fourth Down and Inches: Concussions and Football’s Make-or-Break Moment by Carla Killough McClafferty

Referencing multiple recent studies and discoveries, McClafferty sheds light on an important issue facing athletes today: the long-term consequences of frequent hits and/or concussions. Long thought to be a “joke” of an injury, players are often told to “shake off” head trauma and “play through the pain”. However, recent studies are indicating that this mentality has sometimes fatal consequences. Increasing numbers of former NFL athletes are suffering from mental conditions such as alzheimer’s, dementia, CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), and even Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Doctors now believe that these illness can be linked to the many hits these players took on the field — even when they weren’t diagnosed with a concussion. The research McClafferty brings out is certainly alarming, and something all coaches, players, and parents should take into account when considering the treatment of contact sports players.

I cannot express how important I think the information in this book is. I picked it up to try and bridge my huge gaps in knowledge of “sports” book, and now I find myself an unexpected advocate for concussion awareness. Just like it took a long time for people to realize it was bad to smoke or drink while pregnant (or that it was bad to smoke at all), long-term effects of concussions (and all head trauma) is just emerging. The implications are terrifying. Bottom-line: if you play contact sports of any kind, you are at risk for problems in the future. I don’t say this to discourage anyone from playing sports, but you should definitely understand your risks. Some of the people McClafferty talks about never suffered a concussion and they still had permanent brain damage. Know the risks before you play, and hopefully more research like this will be brought to light.

Rating: 5/5

*YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults, Nominee, 2014

For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS) click here.

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