There has been a flurry of books in recent years about concussions in sports, an issue MomsTeam and I began covering back in 2001, way before the crisis grabbed the attention of the media, politicians and the sports establishment. So, when I received a review copy of Throwaway Players: The Concussion Crisis from Pee Wee Football to the NFL by Gay Culverhouse, I was a bit skeptical that it could add anything new to the discussion.
I couldn't have been more wrong! I loved this book! It is a must-read for parents for one simple reason: as former President of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the NFL, with a doctorate in special education and mental retardation, and as a woman and mother, Gay has a unique perspective on the concussion crisis in football. Culverhouse offers an oftentimes painfully honest, up-close-and-personal glimpse into a world and a culture most of us have never seen: a place in which, for far too long, the lifelong damage that is inflicted on the brains and bodies of football players has been swept under the rug in the name of the big business of sports, in the name of entertainment not unlike, as she says in the book, the fights of gladiators at the Coliseum in ancient Rome.
The book contains poignant stories of NFL players Gay has known who have grown old before their time, suffering from early dementia and clueless to their surroundings after a career taking blows to the head. She talks about the sexism she encountered as a female executive in the male-dominated world of professional sports. She writes of athletes abusing their bodies with performance enhancing drugs, of testifying to Congress, and of forming a non-profit organization to assist retired players in accessing NFL benefits. Throwaway Players not only "shines the light on the underbelly of America's sport," but issues a clarion call to everyone involved in football, from the NFL to youth football, to make sports less violent and much safer.
Gay takes pains throughout the book to make clear that she "does not want to kill the game of football." Her goal is for there to come a day in the not-too-distant future, in which our sons, and their children, and their children's children, play a smart game of football; a world in which they aren't tempted to use performance enhancing drugs, one in which, after they hang up their helmets, they don't need, as is sadly the case with far too many, a drool bib because they suffer from early onset Alzheimer's or Parkinson's, dementia and or mind-dulling addictions; for football parents to make sure their sons develop secondary skills so they have a career after they leave the game.Throwaway Players is an important and timely book by a woman with the courage to speak truth to power, and with a burning passion to make a difference in the lives of football players everywhere. Its breezy, conversational style makes it an easy read, but one deserving the attention of every football parent, coach, and player.