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Ann McKee, MD is the chief neuropathologist for the Framingham Heart Study and the Boston University-based Centenarian Study. She is also the chief neuropathologist for the Boston-based Veterans Administration Medical Centers and for the Sports Legacy Institute.
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1954: ‘No tackle football before high school’, say educators
Feb. 15, 1954, Lincoln Star NE, p.9‘Boxing Has No Legitimate Place’Elementary, Junior High Athletics HitBy Clark BeachATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP)–A commission of educators said Sunday elementary and junior high schools should have no “varsity” athletic teams, inter-school sports competition, leagues or tournaments.Such activities are permissible for senior high schools, the commission said, but “boxing has no legitimate place in educational programs.” And it recommended the influence of gate receipts be reduced by paying athletic program costs out of general school funds.The Educational Policies Commission of the National Education Association (NEA) and the Ammerican Association of School Administrators (AASA) reported it had found high-powered competition and commercialism typical of “big-time” sports and college athletics in sports programs of many elementary schools.Adult organizations and business firms have promoted high-pressure sports for boys in the fourth, fifth and sixth grades, the commission said.The commission reported some of the sponsors mistakenly thought such programs were good for the boys and the community. Some, the commission reported, “are motivated by the desire to provide adult entertainment, to secure prestige or advertising for commercial enterprises, or to gain income from gate receipts.”The report was presented at the annual convention of the AASA by the commission vice chairman, N.D. McCombs, superintendent of schools of Des Moines, Ia.The commission’s report scored over-emphasis on athletics in both elementary schools and junior and senior high schools. At the same time the commission strongly endorsed athletic games, if properly conducted, as an important part of the school program.What the commission termed athletic exploitation of boys from eight to 12 years drew its hottest fire.“Practices resulting from such efforts are fairly widespread and appear to be on the increase,” it said, adding that it was “a problem of serious proportions.”The commission said that high-pressure athletic competition for children is dangerous to their health and their emotional development.Interscholastic competition should be permitted only in senior high schools,” said the report. “In elementary school and in junior high school there should be no ‘school team’ (in the varsity sense), no leagues, no tournaments, no afterschool championships.”The commission also said that “children of elementary school age should not engage in boxing, ice hockey, tackle football or other sports involving serious risk of injury from body contact.”“Although ice hockey and tackle football are permissible for boys in senior high schools, boxing has no legitimate place in educational programs. Injuries received from boxing are apt to be disfiguring, and damage to brain tissue from repeated blows may be cumulative and serious.”In senior high schools, the commission found there was a overemphasis on the varsity team, to the detriment of a well-rounded athletic program in which all pupils could participate.It found that teachers and coaches were often under pressure to compromise their standards in order to favor the athletes and win the games.The schools’ need for gate receipts is a prime reason for the senior high school abuses, said the commission.“To make as much money as possible, games are played at night during the week, and too many games are scheduled,” said the educators. “To prevent having to forgo income, games are played in bad weather. To attract spectators, games are scheduled with uneven opponents. To accommodate large crowds, fire and safety codes may be violated.”The commission recommended that “the complete cost of the athletic program should be paid out of general school funds. If this were done, many of the problems that plague interscholastic athletics would disappear.Girls’ athletics are being neglected, the commission said, because of the overemphasis of boys’ sports. All girls should engage in some athletic activities, it said, although warning against “any sport for girls which involve rough and tumble body contact or great likelihood of bodily injury,” such as boxing, wrestling and football.It recommended more co-recreation sports in which girls and boys play together. For this is suggested swimming, tennis, badminton, archery and golf.