, , , , , , , , , ,

Yes, you heard me correctly. Eliminate volleyball, basketball, soccer, baseball, rugby, lacrosse, tennis, golf, track & field, gymnastics, handball, water polo, long distance running, cycling, and swimming & diving. Each one of those sports I’ve listed inherently have a measure of physical danger to them and although this is no mystery to either amateur or professional athletes, it seems to be a mystery to a lot of people making strong accusations against the sport of football.

No sport is completely safe. I have countless friends who played college and high school basketball who experienced knee injuries. Many times, these injuries did not come while hustling for a loose ball or driving into the paint. More often than not, it was a simple lay-up or jump stop and the landing was awkward. In fact, sometimes there wasn’t even a defender in sight. The knee just seemed to give away.

I never suffered even a minor knee injury in high school, college or while playing professionally, but a few years ago after my 30th birthday, I went to my doctor complaining of chronic knee pain. My knees just seemed to hurt for no reason. If I ran for longer than 10 minutes, they hurt. If I walked up or down stairs, they hurt. If I wore heels and had to lecture all day, my knees would remind me of it later.

My doctor did some tests and took x-rays and she told me I was developing arthritis. Arthritis? At age 30? I was incredulous, but she went on to explain the wear and tear that had occurred during all the pounding that my knees endured from playing organized basketball for so long. She prescribed ibuprofen and knee braces and suggested I look into a low-impact sport like swimming laps, and sent me on my way.

Now, I admit I was disappointed that at the ripe age of 30 I would have to concern myself with the health of my knees and modify my exercise routines to protect them. Yet, I have never once regretted my decision to play basketball and pursue it collegiately and then professionally. As Ed Reed of the Baltimore Ravens so eloquently put it, “I signed up for this”.

Basically, the threat of injury or getting an injury is part of the game. Another reality is that many athletes don’t get the type of compensation that professional athletes receive when they are injured or they haven’t had the opportunity to sign a large salary contract prior to being injured.

Being paid to play does not make getting injured better, but it is a great compensation compared to the millions of collegiate athletes that never signed a professional contract. When they start filling the effects of their high school and collegiate athletic careers, they grab ice packs out the fridge and do the best they can at managing their injuries and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Yes, football is dangerous. The guys are faster, stronger, and bigger. At any moment, one hit could be the last hit. But we cannot forget that other sports are not exempt. Have any of you watched the X Games on ESPN? Many of the competitors are in their teens and yet I’ve watched several of them being carted off because of head injuries, contusions, back problems and broken ribs. Yet, no one is suggesting that Extreme Sports be banned. What about gymnastics? Has anyone ever researched the seriousness of the injuries that they sustain? Are we suppose to ignore athletes like Greg Oden, Grant Hill and Tracy McGrady who battled serious injuries while in the prime of their lives and their NBA careers? And do you really want me to mention the sports of hockey and rugby or the throwing arms of our MLB pitchers?

I rest my case.

Yes, I don’t like the fact that whenever I run now I usually feel some level of pain emanating from my left or right knee, but No, I do not regret one moment of my basketball career. From the first day of 7th grade try-outs and being the only person to make my left-handed lay-up, to my last game in a small gym in the city of Haifa, Israel, I don’t regret one moment. Because of basketball, I received a free college education, traveled the nation and the world, and befriend people all over the globe. That’s not bad for a small-town country girl from Roseboro, N.C. And if my basketball career means that my knees don’t work as well, I can live with that.

Should sports be as safe as possible? Definitely. Should any sport be banned? I don’t think so. That’s why we have to be careful about jumping on the “football-is-dangerous” bandwagon. If one sport is in jeopardy, all sports are in jeopardy.

Signing out, (not from the sport;just from this blog)