Last fall, Sports Illustrated splashed a cover story declaring football to be on the verge of changing forever. Based on what science is discovering about the lasting effects of repeated blows to the head, SI said, it's going to become impossible to defend the kind of hard hits that drive the National Football League's raucous popularity. As the NFL ponders its responsibility to its players as well as its role as an example to millions of college and high school players, researchers are also finding that seemingly safer sports such as soccer and basketball put players at risk of serious head injury as well. Parents are beginning to question whether they should allow their children to play any contact sports.
Lynda Carroll, a health writer for MSNBC, and David Rossner, a former sportswriter for Newsday, wade into the discussion with a book compiling the most salient research as well as some truly chilling anecdotes. Carroll and Rossner detail such serious phenomena as post-concussion syndrome, which can have debilitating effects on mood, personality and brain function long after a blow to the head; second impact syndrome, which has caused death when a concussed athlete returns to play; and the dementia that haunts the ranks of retired boxers.
There are a few alarmist digressions into sketchy cases, but Carroll and Rossner for the most part assemble a thorough accounting of what science is telling us now about the frightening effects from what used to be considered "mild" head injuries. This is required reading for sports-minded families. --Cherie Ann Parker, freelance journalist and book critic