Review : Fourth Down and Inches : Concussions and Football’s Make-or-Break Moment

Fourth Down and Inches : Concussions and Football’s Make-or-Break Moment by Carla Killough McClafferty. 9781467710671. 2013. Gr 7-12.

Concussions have been in the news a lot lately—especially in relation to sports.  I enjoy reading nonfiction—especially science and medical nonfiction—so while I’m not a sports fanatic, I was drawn to this title. And since I’m not a hypochondriac, I don’t usually worry much about what I’ve read.  Until this book.

Fourth down and inchesThis book for both middle and high schoolers describes the problem of concussions as it relates to the history of football.  The author tells the personal stories of players that have been disabled or have died from concussions, including changes to the game of football that have resulted from these injuries.   McClafferty explains what a concussion is and how it damages the brain—resulting in both immediate trauma and in injuries that might show up days or even years later.

What disturbs me is that these problems are not confined to the high impact world of professional and college football; brain injuries from forceful collisions have been found in high school athletes—and younger.   Another alarming fact is that, while helmets help to avoid damage to the skull, they do little to prevent brain injuries from the jarring impacts of many sports.

And even more troubling is that you don’t have to be an athlete to be at risk from long-term brain damage.  Since I suffered from severe asthma as a child, I did not compete much in sports.  Even so, I sustained three concussions before I became an adult, which have had long-term consequences.

And the author chose to write this book because her young son died from a head injury after falling from a swing.

An appendix at the end explains the symptoms of a concussion and how long someone with a concussion should keep it easy.  Kids will find out about the latest research on traumatic brain injuries and learn how they can protect themselves.  The information in this book should be passed along to all athletes, coaches in every sport, playground supervisors, and parents of athletes and active kids, all the way down to elementary school.

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