Friday Night Lights: Fun or Fatal?

Reported by Harley Burger

February 27, 2008. A day that lives in infamy in both the hearts and minds of Madison Maverick Football Fans. At the tender age of 20, David Edwards, a former Varsity Defensive Back for James Madison High School, passed away due to medical complications after contracting pneumonia. Just five years earlier, the Unanimous First-Team All Area Class 5A player, was traumatically injured in JMHS’s first playoff game against Westlake High School. After colliding, head-first, into Coy Aune, Westlake’s Wide Receiver, Edwards’ C-4 and C-5 neck vertebrae were shattered, causing permanent damage throughout his body. Wheelchair bound, and entirely paralyzed from the shoulders down, David Edwards’ season and future in football came to an end. However, his heart for the sport, and his desire to make the world a better place, encouraged Edwards toward a career in motivational speaking. The Texas Native would spend the final years of his life vulnerably sharing his story and providing hope to audiences everywhere. His influence both on and off the field made Edwards’ death all the more difficult for his community to stomach. David Edwards’ tragic accident accompanied by his devastating premature death prompts the question: Is football really worth the risk? 

Football-induced tragedies are not tales of old, and they still frequently plague our nation. On Monday, January 2, Buffalo Bills’ 24-year-old Safety, Damar Hamlin, went into cardiac arrest after crashing into Cincinnati Bengals’ Tee Higgins. Now “sedated on a ventilator” the football star remains in critical condition (CNN). Much like David Edwards’ story, David Hamlin’s harrowing experience displays the violent, and even lethal, nature of American Football. 

Will a conjecture ever be reached upon the costly and dangerous essence of America’s Favorite Sport? 

One Madison Varsity Football Player, who requested to remain anonymous, commented, “The issue isn’t the sport of football. It’s the leadership, or lack thereof, within specific organizations.” He continued saying, “Yes, the sport is dangerous, but many of these tragedies can be prevented by proper leadership training and by providing a better understanding of overall health to both players and coaches.” Declaring his passion for the game, the athlete stated, “The possibility for injury hasn’t deterred me from playing. The risk-factor, although high, doesn’t change the beauty and fun of football. I just love the game. To me, it’s worth it.” 

Hayden Byrd, a Madison Junior, described the risks of this sport as, “Previously inevitable, due to the lack of structure and rules in place.” The student elaborated, “Now, there are way more regulations in place, and the risks for fatal injuries have really decreased. Tragic injuries are still bound to occur, but now there is an active effort to keep players safe.” Another Maverick, Westin Smith, concurred that an element of risk has been present “throughout the history of football”. Smith declared that “although football has undergone extensive technological and training advancements, injuries will happen regardless of safety precautions. The dangers presented in football are inevitable.”

Unpredictable. Fast Paced. Exciting. America’s Favorite Sport is stocked full of tension and risks, yet week after week, countless fans pack themselves into stadiums and sofas – seeking to take part in the action. Tragic injuries continuously haunt football players, and the vicissitude such tragedies cause throughout communities is immeasurable. The costs of this risky sport can be much, and the cost of sacred human life is incalculable. But football is beloved by most- providing a forum for entertainment and camaraderie. No one can independently determine whether football is worth the gamble of health, but as leadership, equipment, and other safety precautions continue to present themselves at the forefront of American Football, fans can rest easy- knowing the protection of players continues to remain the primary goal for football participants at every level.

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