Seahawks celebration tempered by concussion concerns

By Joanne Peterson | Feb 05, 2014

I write this shortly after the Seattle Seahawks—supported 24/7 by the ever-present and devoted 12th Man—walked away with a Super Bowl victory over the hapless Denver Broncos.  It wasn’t easy to turn away from the TV screen and the after-game interviews. How exciting!

I feel sorry for the Denver fans, who paid as much for their Super Bowl tickets, flights and hotel rooms as Seattle fans did, but went home heartsick, having nothing to celebrate. Probably more than a few Bronco fans wish they had spent the money on a trip to Hawaii.

Now, though, all over Seattle, streets are thronged with celebrating fans. It’s likely quite a few of them won’t make it to work tomorrow. The 12th Man parties on—and no doubt Seahawk 12th Man fans in New York celebrate just as wildly.

The football heroes will parade through Seattle streets later this week, after a jubilant flight home. What a perfect end to the season—a season during which fair-weather fans eased into feeling like part of the 12th Man contingent. For the price of a t-shirt, fans looked equally devoted, whether they were Hawks supporters for years or whether they hadn’t cared until late this season.

What I’m hoping is that next year the fair-weather fans will tune in to the Seahawks early on, develop long-term enthusiasm for the team and support them throughout the season, however it goes. (It surely will go well. And, OK, yes. I was one of the fair-weather fans. I’m going to be a better 12th Man next year.)

At the opposite pole from football celebration, last week I watched a troubling program-- on Nightline, I think. The topic was the effect of numerous concussions suffered by football players. During later years, too many professional players deteriorate mentally, displaying suicidal tendencies, anger issues, depression or inability to cope.

Players and family members interviewed appeared convinced that there is reason for professional contact-sport athletes to fear for their future brain function. A pathologist studying the brains of deceased pro football players found 46 out of 47 showed the same specific brain injury patterns. The NFL, originally contending that there was no evidence supporting the issue, now is addressing concerns.

Most of all, I was troubled by the pathologist’s concerns about youth football. If she had youngsters, knowing what she knows now, she would not let them play. Apparently, the teen brain, not fully developed, is lighter in weight and more vulnerable to injury.

I do think youth sports programs are taking the problem of contact-sport concussions more seriously.  I know we can’t just wrap kids in bubble wrap and protect them from everything, but parents and coaches can insist on premium equipment, take every head injury seriously and prevent injured kids from playing.  It’s appropriate to consider these safety concerns, even in the midst of celebrating a major professional football victory.

Ah, yes, Seahawk victory!  The Seattle Seahawks—and the 12th Man-- won the Super Bowl!  Wow!

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