Acceptable Risk?

http://savingugreen.com/football-collision-sports-acceptable-risk/

Saving U Green is a web page devoted to promoting “healthy living, healthy food, and living a green life on a budget.” It is run by Marla Zickefoose. a former Sandusky resident and SMCC grad. As many of her numerous followers are parents with children either already participating in or considering contact sports (She’s located in Texas, one of the few states more football-crazy than Ohio.), I reached out to Marla to see if she would be interested in me contributing a guest post to her page addressing concussion awareness. Marla graciously agreed, and I have linked it above.

While there, check out the many reviews, giveaways, fashion, beauty, and travel tips Marla provides. For your own edification, follow her page, subscribe to her newsletter, and follow Saving U Green on Facebook and Twitter. Marla is a gifted writer and a savvy social media entrepreneur. I didn’t do the math, but between Marla and more than 40 of her followers who re-tweeted her announcement of a giveaway of two signed copies of GOODNESS FALLS, potentially well over 100,000 people were exposed to the name Ty Roth and the title GOODNESS FALLS for the first time! You can’t buy that kind of publicity; well, at least I can’t.

http://www.amazon.com/Goodness-Falls-Ty-Roth/dp/162287529X

Guest Post at Saving U Green

http://savingugreen.com/football-collision-sports-acceptable-risk/

Saving U Green is a web page devoted to promoting “healthy living, healthy food, and living a green life on a budget.” It is run by Marla Zickefoose. a former Sandusky resident and SMCC grad. As many of her numerous followers are parents with children either already participating in or considering contact sports (She’s located in Texas, one of the few states more football-crazy than Ohio.), I reached out to Marla to see if she would be interested in me contributing a guest post to her page addressing concussion awareness. Marla graciously agreed, and I have linked it above.

While there, check out the many reviews, giveaways, fashion, beauty, and travel tips Marla provides. For your own edification, follow her page, subscribe to her newsletter, and follow Saving U Green on Facebook and Twitter. Marla is a gifted writer and a savvy social media entrepreneur. I didn’t do the math, but between Marla and more than 40 of her followers who re-tweeted her announcement of a giveaway of two signed copies of GOODNESS FALLS, potentially well over 100,000 people were exposed to the name Ty Roth and the title GOODNESS FALLS for the first time! You can’t buy that kind of publicity; well, at least I can’t.

http://www.amazon.com/Goodness-Falls-Ty-Roth/dp/162287529X

Prescription Drug Abuse in GOODNESS FALLS

Prescription Drug Abuse Image

Telling a compelling story is always my first responsibility as an author; however, I’m from the school of artists who believe that art, at its best, can be a tool for social awareness and change. Raising awareness of the dangers inherent in the participation in collision sports – especially head trauma as it occurs in football – is the major goal of GOODNESS FALLS, but another issue I hope to illuminate is that of prescription drug abuse. In the novel, as for many in real life, the use of prescription drugs begins innocently enough, often as a means to mask physical pain and to allow normal functioning. These legitimate uses, however, often give way to masking emotional pain and mere recreational use, both of which often evolve into abuse and dependency.

Just as I’m not an expert on traumatic brain injuries, I’m not an expert in drug abuse. I’m just a novelist, a guy literally making shit up. Nonetheless, as a high school teacher, I have daily interaction with and insight into the lives of young adults that places me in a unique position. Although I find it dangerous and ill-advised to lump people of any demographic too neatly into a package, in my avocation as a writer, I try to use my position and these opportunities to educate the world at-large of the pressing issues in the lives of today’s teenagers. I’ve said many times that I write about young adults for adults as much as I write for young adults themselves. Outside of their own children and for only a brief period, most adults have little or limited contact with teenagers. As a result, they rely upon outdated notions and stereotypes with which they make mistaken judgments of young people. My goal is to provide these adult readers a window into the world of teens, a world that has changed drastically since these adults were teenagers themselves.

One of the recent and more pernicious changes in teenage behavior is in their use and abuse of prescription drugs. It is, however, far from merely a problem with young adults. The abuse of such drugs has grown increasingly-pervasive in American society, and for too many kids, because these drugs are doctor-prescribed, they lack the stigma of more illicit drugs. A mistaken notion of their being more safe persists, and their easy accessibility inside their parents’ medicine cabinets only adds to the dangerous perception of their being less dangerous. Not only are prescription drugs easily obtained, they can be consumed surreptitiously. They do not need to be lit, snorted, huffed, or injected – just swallowed. They are tiny and do not come packaged in some highly visible or difficult-to-hide container. They leave behind no smoke or odor, so they are very difficult to spot. Sadly, prescription drugs, seem almost tailor-made for the convenient abuse by teenagers.

In GOODNESS FALLS, the protagonist begins to consume prescription drugs in order to mask a head injury, the discovery of which would jeopardize his current position and potential for future success. He quickly finds himself in the downward spiral described above and in danger of losing far more than he fears.

My hope is that in reading the novel, young people and their parents will learn vicariously of the dangers of both repeated head traumas and prescription drug abuse. Armed with a fictional example of the ramifications of both, they can make informed decisions without having to actually be subjected to either.

The Fake Problems video below, “Songs for Teenagers,” was a major inspiration as I wrote GOODNESS FALLS. Listen to its lyrics, and I think you’ll see why.

Worth Thinking About

Concussion
At the risk of raising the ire of many and exposing myself to legitimate accusations of hypocrisy, I believe it’s time that we take a serious look at eliminating youth sports that pose high risk for traumatic brain and spinal injuries. Last fall, six young men died, I said, “died,” as the direct result of brain or spinal injuries incurred while participating in high school football, and according to an article written by Dr. Robert Pearl in the April, 17, 2014, “Forbes” magazine, “the Center for Disease Control estimates that as many as 3.8 million sports-related traumatic brain injuries occur in the United States each year.” In Pearl’s article, Malcolm Gladwell – the author of the bestsellers “Tipping Point,” “Blink,” and “Outliers” – is quoted as suggesting, “Let us teach sports in school that people can play their whole life. I’m opposed to football being the central sport in schools. It’s the ultimate non-sustainable sport. The longer you play football, the less capable you are of exercising past your physical prime. This is an argument for tennis. It’s an argument for running. It’s an argument for a whole different set of priorities in schools.” Before you stroke out, let me say that I’m not as courageous as Gladwell, or perhaps, I’m simply more realistic and less ambitious. I do not possess the audacity or courage to call for the abolition of contact youth sports; although, I do believe it is a justifiable position to take. I’m not sure encouraging our children to slam violently into one another is the product of the voices of our better angels.

I already know the arguments, and they are good ones: 1) Kids can just as easily get hurt on skateboards or bicycles; 2) Football teaches valuable life lessons about teamwork, toughness, and discipline; 3)For some, it provides scholarship opportunities; 4) For many, memories associated with high school football are some of their most cherished; 5) The entertainment provided under Friday night lights, College game day afternoons, and all day on NFL Sundays; 6) The money earned from football finances the majority of the other sports offered by high schools and colleges alike; 7) The billion dollar plus impact of football on the economy. I’m sure there are many more additional arguments for the societal value of youth football . . . BUT I keep coming back to that number 6, six deaths of children last fall for the sake of lessons that could be just as easily taught through other sports/activities, for financial reasons, for nostalgic purposes, and for our entertainment. I’m willing to bet that before their child became one of those six, the parents of those children would have agreed with at least some of the pro-football arguments. I wonder if today they feel the same way.

In my cowardice, I will settle for joining with Dr. Pearl and many in the medical and coaching communities and call for 1) the teaching of safer tackling and blocking techniques, 2) the continued research into traumatic brain injuries, 3) the improved and ongoing education for trainers and coaches in the diagnosis of concussions, and 4) the establishment of a more standardized protocol for allowing a concussed athlete’s return to full participation that errors on the side of caution and demanding extended time for those who have been diagnosed with a concussion.

A Sneak Peek into Chapter 1 of GOODNESS FALLS

Sneak Peek
T.J. Farrell is the protagonist of GOODNESS FALLS. Unlike most of us, at a young age he finds his thing, that one thing that comes easy, that one thing at which he is very good, that one thing that gives his life purpose and meaning. Sadly, many of us never find that thing at all. But T.J. can read a defense and quarterback an offense like a mini Peyton Manning. But what future or real world value are those skills for a kid in his senior year of high school whose average build doesn’t quite fit him into the suit that Division I programs require? And how precious must every play be for that same kid whose history of football-related concussions means that even a glancing blow to the helmet could banish him to the sidelines prematurely and forever? At 18, his life is about to enter sudden death:

from Chapter 1

“Unlike pretty much everything else in life, football made sense to me. For some kids, it’s math or hip-hop or engines. For me, it had always been football. Since I was just a little kid playing pee wee ball, it was on the football field and during the manic eight seconds of an average play that I felt most comfortable and the most alive. Eight seconds a play multiplied by approximately sixty offensive plays a game over a ten-game season equaled eighty minutes of high-quality living a year. That doesn’t amount to much, but I bet it’s more than most people get. And if we scored on that final play, the game, the season, my life would be extended for at least another eight minutes into the playoffs.”

Are You Not Entertained?


I had planned to write about anything other than concussions; however, after learning of the death of Navy freshman football player, Will McKamey, after collapsing at football practice this past Saturday, I don’t think I have a choice. The facts that 1) he received nothing stronger than a routine hit, 2) that he had been cleared to play by four neurosurgeons, and that 3) he had gone nine months without contact after a previous head injury all serve as reminders of the pernicious nature of traumatic brain injuries and of our responsibility to do better by our young people.

It’s too easy to say that his death was no one’s fault; that he had been thoroughly screened by medical personnel before being returned to the practice field; and that he died doing what he loved to do. If we’re being honest, not one of those proclamations is satisfying. Some will play apologists and argue that what happened to Will could have happened to anyone, anywhere: falling off a bicycle, tripping in the shower, or in a car accident. However, it did happen on a football field to a young man with a history of head injuries. We cannot, not in good conscience, file this so easily away. With what we now know regarding the causes and effects of traumatic brain injury, we can no longer, with near religious zeal, revel in the violence perpetrated in the name of our sports and our entertainment then turn around and bemoan the deaths of our children as if they were accidental and unavoidable. I say it again: we have to do better.

It’s too late for Will McKamey, and with our current love for bloodsport, it’s probably too late for the one after that, or the one after that, or the one after that. But at some point, we must stop simply crying and cry, “Enough!” We must do better.

At What Cost?

As reported on the ABC News web page this morning, a “U.S. Naval Academy football player Will McKamey is in critical condition in a Baltimore hospital after he was knocked unconscious during practice this weekend. McKamey, 19, is now in a medically induced coma after he underwent emergency surgery to relieve pressure on his brain.”

In recent posts, I’ve hinted that the main plot of GOODNESS FALLS tells the story of the tragic after effects suffered by a high school football player dealing with the symptoms of repetitive head trauma. Prior and during the writing of the novel, I performed fairly extensive research into the issue of sports induced concussions. What I learned shook me to my core as a father, as a former football player and coach, and as a football fan. Today, when I read the story quoted above and watched the video linked below, my heart sank, not only in sympathy for Will McKamey and his family but also as I selfishly realized that the young man in that coma could have been me, one of my boys, one of hundreds of mothers’ sons who played in my charge, or any of the players from high school through the N.F.L. who perform for my entertainment throughout the fall.

During the 2013 high school football season, six young men died on the altar of the gods of American football and before legions of their worshipers. Four died from head-related injuries, and two died as the result of spinal injuries. According to a study over a twenty-year period (1990 – 2010) and conducted by the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research, an average of 12 high school players die each year when additional causes of death such as heart conditions and injuries from heat-related causes are factored in.

Every day in countless and often unconscious calculations we weigh the risks we take against the possible ramifications of those risks. Most of these risks are all-but-impossible to remove from our day-to-day existence. For example, every ingested morsel is a potential choke inducer, yet we have to eat, so we rightly do so with hardly a thought to the hazard. However, there are other risks that we choose, both for ourselves and for our children, that are far from unavoidable. Risks for which a simple cost/benefit analysis can be completed and for which logical answers can be arrived upon that reduce placing anyone in Harm’s way unnecessarily, such as the risk of participation in sports that by necessity turn skulls and the fragile brains they encase into battering rams themselves or targets for others.

I really don’t want to preach, and I’m not pretending to have all the answers, but at some point, as a society, we are going to have to weigh the undeniably many benefits associated with participation in some of these sports against the cost of even a single death or mental or physical crippling of even one of our children. If you are currently an athlete or the parent of one, that day has arrived.

GOODNESS FALLS and the American Church of Football

That's me, #1, on St. Mary 8th Grade Football Team.

That’s me, #1, on St. Mary 8th Grade Football Team.


GOODNESS FALLS tells the tragic story of the confused final days of a high school quarterback suffering the cumulative effects of multiple brain traumas endured over a decade of playing tackle football, from Pee Wee through the varsity level. In the throes of ever-worsening headaches, protagonist, T.J. Farrell, struggles to maintain his increasingly-tenuous hold on his girlfriend, his starting position, his future, his sanity, and his very life.

The genesis of my interest in this topic dates back to my own experience as a high school football player, when as an undersized sophomore, I suffered a concussive injury that rendered me semi-conscious for a period of nearly an hour. Ironically, it occurred against Port Clinton, the school at which I now teach. I remember the knee to the front of my helmet, but from there, only snippets of adults talking at me in urgent tones and blurred images of the stadium, an ambulance, and the hospital remain. What I do remember clearly, however, is that – with no obvious signs of external injury – I returned to full contact practice on Monday. Parents, coaches, and the vast majority of doctors didn’t know better in those days, and if they did, they weren’t telling. Now, we know that a second blow to the head like the first, suffered so soon after, very well could have killed or seriously impaired me for life. In a small way, GOODNESS FALLS is an attempt to better inform all who read it of the dangers of sports-induced brain trauma, especially that which is repetitive and especially as it occurs in children and young adults.

As a former high school football player and coach myself, I understand that even the slightest condemnation of the American Church of Football reeks of at least some degree of hypocrisy. However, my goal is first and foremost to tell an interesting story then to make a salient social commentary. The oldest writing axiom in the book is to “write what you know.” What I know is the culture of high schools and, especially, the culture of high school football; therefore, these are the topics on which I write with at least a modicum of authority. My purpose, however, is not to call for the abolishment of football at any level but to encourage stricter measures for the diagnosis and treatment of concussions that err on the side of safety and the slow return to participation. I also want to encourage the continuing trend (thanks to USA Football’s Heads Up Program) of the establishment of coaching techniques and rules of play that provide the most protection possible for kids.

Read Here to learn more about the May release of Goodness Falls: http://wp.me/pSq2Y-9Q