Youth Football Lineage and Debate: Pre-1900 News Line

Opposition to schoolboy football rears in the 1890s, Victorian Era America, as the college game faces abolition threat

By Matt Chaney

Posted Saturday, August 13, 2016, ChaneysBlog.com

Copyright ©2016 for historical arrangement by Matthew L. Chaney

1862  Nov 13  “Camp Lyon [Va., Union Army,] presents quite a winter-like aspect this morning, and the season is being speedily introduced by a severe snow storm. It looks gloomily enough about the camp, and every body is glad to keep indoors, and hug the stove as lovingly as he would a fair friend at home. Nothing of very great importance has transpired in the regiment since I wrote you last… on Saturday afternoon we have  game of amusement for exercise in the stead of a battalion drill, in the shape of a foot ball match [English soccer], which is considered a very favorable substitute. To be sure, barked shins are quite numerous, but notwithstanding, all seem to join in the fun and enjoy it amazingly”—“CHAS.,” infantryman correspondent, Pittsfield Berkshire County Eagle MA

1872  Oct 20  “With the same blood running in his veins, the healthy American ought to be the peer of the athletic Englishman. … Surely Young America will not quietly sit down and excuse itself for its shortcomings to the athletic world on the ground that our climate is deteriorating to the Anglo-Saxon race as physical beings! … The finest thing for the young men of this country would be the establishment of thousands of athletic clubs before next Summer. Till we have them we must be content to be… physically inferior race to our cousins on the other side of the water”—New York Times

1873  July 3  “FOOT-BALL, according to the newspapers, is becoming a popular game all over the country. Boston girls claim to be the most skillful.”—Pulaski Citizen TN

1876  autumn  Incoming college freshmen Walter Camp and Theodore Roosevelt arrive at Yale and Harvard, respectively, destined to become key opinion leaders on tackle football for boys and men in America. Camp plays football for Yale, but young Roosevelt avoids the rough game to become fervent fan instead, donning a Harvard jersey he secures from a varsity player

1876  Nov 22  “Princeton College in a circular to Harvard, Yale, and Columbia, asks them to send delegates to Springfield, on the 22d, to form an International Foot-ball Association”—newspapers report

1878  Oct 14  “At Lake City a son of Dr. Adams, aged 10 years, had one of his legs broken above the knee by the accidental kick of a boy, while playing foot-ball”—Saint Paul Globe MN

1880  March 20  “They are playing football down at Medicine Lodge. The Cresset says: ‘Legal fraternity, physicians, druggists, merchants and cowboys may be seen at almost any time swinging their lily white hoofs in frantic attempts to kick the seductive football’”—Kinsley Valley Republican KS

1882  Athlete-managed “football associations” at four eastern universities—Yale, Harvard, Princeton and Columbia—establish the Intercollegiate Football Association [IFA]. The evolving tackle sport is now based on English rugby, but American rules set a line of scrimmage between opposing teams, ball possession for one side at a time, and loss of possession for failure to advance five yards in three downs. Consequently, linemen and backs form “interference” or blocking schemes to lead ball-carriers, disallowed in rugby, and ramming becomes prevalent in American football. Injurious collisions are reported routinely by newspapers, especially of the “rush line”

1882  Nov 12  “A fine game of foot-ball was played Saturday afternoon between the [Washington] High School and Columbia College teams, which resulted in a tie, each securing one goal. The goals were kicked by English for the High School, and Davidson of the Columbias. A High School player had his knee sprained by being jumped into by one of the Columbias”—Washington Sunday Herald DC

1883  Nov 15  Schools should offer physical training and athletics, a doctor recommends at convention for the American Public Health Association convention. “Exercise is necessary to health. [Dr. Charles Lundy] spoke of the debilitated appearance of school children, and remarked that if we wished to preserve the highest type of manhood and womanhood in this country, we must devote more time to exercise and less to book knowledge. He favored the appointment of a physical trainer… Throughout the schooling period, physical sports and games, such as running, jumping, hare-and-hounds, base ball, foot ball, cricket, lawn tennis, lacrosse and boating, under proper guidance and restrictions, are admirable, and should be encouraged”—Detroit Free Press

1883  Nov 23  IFA rules ban “butting,” officially defined as striking a man with the shoulder or head, along with “hacking, throttling, tripping up, tackling below the hips or striking with closed fists”—New York Tribune

1883  Nov 24  Anti-butting policy helps “safeguard” American football, the forward-colliding sport “established as firmly as baseball at many colleges”—New York Times

1884  Oct 7  “Dr. Dudley A. Sargent, director of the gymnasium at Harvard, says that greater attention than ever will be given to athletics at the college the coming year. The report that the faculty will forbid football, he says, is without foundation. ‘The fact is,’ he says, ‘the members of the faculty are just as much interested in Harvard’s success in athletics as the students are themselves… the Harvard faculty simply tried to take some action that would make the football association change their objectionable rules. The rules for 1884, just issued, disqualify a player for a single foul, and the result is accomplished.’ Dr. Sargent says that the physical examinations of college athletes will be much more thorough and strict this year. He says: ‘Last year there were men in the crew, in the base ball nine, and in the football team, who had no business there. They didn’t keep the rules of training, and were not manly enough to let the people know about it until it was too late. I shall see that nothing of that sort happens again. Heretofore I have examined the athletes two or three months before the various contests came off. Hereafter I shall examine them at short intervals up to the day of the games and races. If they are not in good condition they cannot take part in the contests’ “—Wilmington Morning News DE

1884  Nov 26  “W.B. Phillips, one of the most popular Harvard students and leader in college athletics, is lying at the point of death from injuries received in playing football. The committee on athletics have announced their intention to ask the faculty to prohibit football after this season”—newspapers report

1885  March 6  “An interesting game of foot ball was played yesterday between fifteen boys of the Macon school, and fifteen of the graded school. The score made was 4 for Macon school and 3 for the graded school. The game lasted three hours”—Charlotte Observer

1885  Nov 2  “Yesterday afternoon on the Lehigh University Athletic grounds the Lehigh and Lafayette elevens played a match game of football. Lehigh forced the ball near the Lafayette goal and by good playing kept it there for forty minutes, when Pierce, Lehigh’s centre, [butted] into Davidson, Lafayette’s half back. Referee W.C. Posey, of the University of Pennsylvania, ordered Pierce off the field. Lehigh claimed that this was an unjust decision, as the collision of Pierce and Davidson was purely accidental. The Lehigh faculty ordered the men off the field, whereupon the referee, as compelled by the rules, gave the game to Lafayette”—Wilkes-Barre Times PA

1885  Nov 15  “But few of the objectionable characteristics of modern college foot ball have as yet been eliminated from the game. … The fact is, the American college game of foot ball is not foot ball [soccer] at all, but simply a game in which a foot ball is used as the medium for a series of wrestling encounters in which mere weight of muscle turns the scale in awarding victory or defeat, and skillful strategic play finds but a limited field for exercise. As to the danger of the sport the recent death of a Yale student in New York, which was caused by an injury sustained in a foot ball match last week, is but one incident in the chapter of accidents arising from the dangerous roughness of the game as played under the existing rules of allowing the ball to be handled”—Brooklyn Daily Eagle

1886  Oct 11  “The Yale men are hardening themselves by butting their heads against trees and fences, while Harvard’s forces prefer dropping iron anvils upon their toes. Altogether the football outlook is most promising and the ambulance driver will soon have lots of work”—New York Morning Journal

1886  Nov 25  “A chilling rain fell during the afternoon, but the people, armed with umbrellas and horse blankets, never minded the [Thanksgiving] elements. Hodge [of Princeton] and Wallace [of Yale] indulged in a slugging match in which blows were exchanged, and even butting with the heads was resorted to”—New York Sun

1886  Dec 5  “Town of Princeton, the center of what is supposed to be college refinement and the best educational influences of New Jersey, was the scene of the display of low, vulgar brutality and rowdyism which marked the occasion of the match between the fighting and wrestling teams of Yale and Princeton. … This is nice kind of work for college students claiming to be gentlemen. It is simply vulgar wrestling encounters, with slugging thrown in. The sooner the college clubs drop their game and substitute regular foot ball under the English Association [soccer] rules the better. Such a scene as that at Princeton on Thanksgiving is a disgrace to both Yale and Princeton”—Brooklyn Daily Eagle

1887  March 27  “The Inter-Collegiate Foot-ball Association met at the Fifth Avenue Hotel to-day [in Manhattan]… A general opinion was expressed that some means would be adopted to stop the extreme roughness of the game as played on some fields, but the only thing done in this direction was to pass a resolution expressing the sense of the convention that referees should more strictly enforce the rules in future than in the past and pledging the captains of the teams to use their strongest personal influence to prevent their men holding in the rush line, slugging and all other objectionable features of the game. The convention will meet again in May”—Philadelphia Times

1887  Oct 10  “Outbursts of temper in play cannot be guarded against, for slight ‘spats’ often occur in practice games. In a regular game there are twenty-two players nearly all of whom are at work all the time, and on the rush lines where fourteen big fellows are constantly blocking each other’s movements, it is not to be wondered at that hot-headed men in their great anxiety to do all within their power to win the game, occasionally lose their heads and try to ‘put a head’ on the fellows opposite. The [newly sanctioned] second referee has long been needed and will undoubtedly improve the game”—New York Tribune

1887  Oct 10  Despite anti-butting and further rules, football’s necessary collisions include head-ramming reported in virtually every newspaper’s play-by-play accounts. IFA leaders, pressured by faculty and advisory committees, convene to address “brutal playing that has unfortunately marred the sport in the last five or six years” and promise “practicable and sensible measures”—newspapers report

1887  Nov 20  “Yale beat Princeton to-day at foot ball on the Polo grounds by 12 points to 0… As it was, over 5,000 persons were present, and the foot ball enthusiasts and experts were unanimous, and justly so, in the opinion that the game on the whole was the sharpest, best-tempered, and most reputably played between the two colleges since the present championship series began. The Yale team work was a model of snap and vigor. The rush line stood up like a stone wall, and the Princeton players tired themselves out butting blindly against it”—Chicago Inter Ocean

1887  Nov 25  “A large crowd went to the [New York City] Polo grounds this morning to witness the foot ball match between the University of Pennsylvania and Wesleyan college teams. These colleges were tied for last place in the college tournament. It was a very rough game, and slugging was freely indulged in. In some cases actual knock-downs occurred. Referee Walter Camp, of Yale, and Umpire Richard Hodge, of Princeton, tried in vain to keep the game within proper limits”—newspapers report

1887  Nov 26  “The Emerson Institute team defeated the second eleven of the [Washington] High School yesterday by a score of 8 to 0”—Washington Evening Star DC

1888  spring  “Interference” or blocking is finally sanctioned under IFA rules, along with “low tackling” above the knees. Tacklers now duck legally for thighs of a ball-carrier, aiming to strike “eyes open” with head up and held aside—per coaches’ specific instruction—and absorb impact with shoulder and chest. Football coaches discuss new head-up theory in newspaper accounts complete with artist illustrations of “proper” tackling. Some coaches, widely known as “football experts,” write for the popular press of newspapers and magazines

1888  circa  “The history of college football in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries is a chronicle of rules constantly evolving in large part to outlaw tactics the old rules had inadvertently permitted”—Michael Oriard, Oregon State University, author and former NFL player, in his Reading Football: How The Popular Press Created an American Spectacle [1994]

1888  April 25  “The Bush murder trial is nearing its end. The prisoner sat behind his attorneys quiet, pale, and holding his hands to his face. … Dr. S.V. Clevenger said that he had given the prisoner much thought since the trial began, and had come to the conclusion that he was suffering from traumatic insanity—produced by wounds. The doctor also believed that the prisoner had inherited his affliction. Traumatic insanity also disclosed itself in suicidal and homicidal tendencies. … He concluded by saying that in his opinion the prisoner was not responsible for the murder of his wife”—Chicago Daily Tribune

1888  Nov 18  “One of the prettiest foot ball games ever played in this vicinity was that at Princeton today between that college and Harvard, which the Jersey men won by a score of 18 to 6. …  Harvard was surprised to find that her rush line, strong as it was, could not make an impression upon Princeton’s line of giants. … The powerful Tigers sprang at Harvard’s rush line, and beat it out of shape. Cowan, Cook, Irvine, and George began to butt away at the Harvard rushers like human pile-drivers… Mr. Camp’s work as referee was excellent”—newspapers report

1888  Nov 30  IFA referee, rule-maker and coach Walter Camp is ridiculed for lax penalty enforcement in the violent game between Penn and Wesleyan on Thanksgiving, when numerous players suffered head wounds and/or brain trauma, among injuries: “both teams endeavored to find out which possessed the most force as battering rams, and they were ramming away most cheerfully when time was called, at 4:45, just as it was growing too dark to see”—New York Times

1888  Nov 30  “Unfortunately there was considerable unfair playing and ‘slugging’ [between Penn and Wesleyan]. It is hard to say which side began it. Only one man was disqualified when there should have been half a dozen”—New York Tribune

1888  Dec 1  Referee Camp, of Yale, under fire for the Penn-Wesleyan game, blames players for failing to “tackle properly”… “The tackling, as Walter Camp says, was generally disadvantageous to the runner and often ‘laid him up’ ”—newspapers report

1889  March 11  “It was a current rumor that a bill would be introduced to prohibit football playing in North Carolina! Of all absurd things… It was said last night that [legislator] Mr. Walser proposed to introduce the bill, but had concluded not to do so. What a storm of ridicule that passage of such a bill, or its mere introduction, would have aroused”—Durham Tobacco Plant NC

1889  March 21  “The Boston Globe publishes the following amendments to the rules governing intercollegiate foot-ball… Rule 27. A player will be disqualified for hacking, striking with closed fist, or unnecessary roughness. For intentional tackling below the knees, butting, tripping and throttling, the other side gets twenty-five yards or free kick”—newspapers report

1890  September  “Of all college sports foot-ball has proved most attractive to the spectators. It has suffered more rebuffs at the hands of the press than any other game, but these rebuffs were attributable to ignorance of the rules and customs, and as the sport became better known the adverse criticism decreased until it has now almost disappeared… No game has shown such a remarkable vitality in the face of all opposition. It has steadily increased the number of its supporters, and it has no deserters. Every convert becomes an eager advocate of its merits, and although it is only fifteen years old in America, nearly every school and college has a team.”—Walter Camp, the multi-entrepreneur as Yale football director, IFA rule-maker and field referee, football consultant and children’s author, sportswriter and medical technician, in his Foot-Ball Rules and Referee’s Book annual published by A.G. Spalding & Bros. equipment company

1890  September  Walter Camp omits the term “butting” from his football rulebook, as he has for editions since 1888, published by his business associates at A.G. Spalding & Bros. With various rule printings in circulation, confusion and lax enforcement will continue regarding field colliding, especially for striking with or at the head

1890  Nov 6  “Is it not possible to play the game without the exercise of quite so much muscle? If not, it is time for some kind philanthropist to step to the front with a contrivance for the protection of the players. How would a tin suit do?”—Brooklyn Daily Eagle

1890  Nov 16  “Harvard has not yet learned to ‘tackle low,’ but it is a proverb at Princeton ‘never to tackle a Yale man low’ “—New York Tribune

1891  Sept 24  “A fifteen-year-old… in Talbot County, Ga., whose favorite sport was butting heads with other boys, has been sent to the lunatic asylum. It is thought his insanity was caused by the concussion of the brain received in his contests”—Salina Daily Republican KS

1891  Oct 13  “The Cook County High-School League met at the Grand Pacific yesterday afternoon. It is composed of these schools: Evanston Township, Englewood High, Manual, Hyde Park High, and Lake View High”—Chicago Daily Tribune

1891  Nov 27  “Ten thousand shivering enthusiasts saw the Chicago university club eleven beat Cornell today [Thanksgiving], by 12 to 4. It was a great game, won by Chicago’s splendid work. Cornell was a strong team, but not so good individually. Her best player, Galbraith, was hit in the face by Alvord [of Chicago] and compelled to quit early in the last half, hopelessly weakening the rush line. Two Chicago men were ruled off for foul tackles, and altogether the team distinguished itself by disregard of the rules. Scarcely a member of the New York team escaped injury of some sort, and nearly every one of them closed the day with blood on his face”—Los Angeles Herald

1891 Nov 29  “To tackle a man by the head or neck is not in any way foul, and an umpire should always ask himself the question when a foul tackle of this nature is claimed, ‘Did the tackler shut off the man’s wind?’—for a man who is being throttled cannot breathe”—Walter Camp, writing for newspapers

1892  March 6  “Cracked skulls, broken fingers, shattered teeth, dislocated ankles and bleeding noses were the only things in order at Central Park yesterday. The announcement that football teams of the Berkeley and Oakland High schools would play in the morning and the teams of the Berkeley Gymnasium and the San Francisco High School in the afternoon did not tend to draw much of a crowd. … The [Berkeley-Oakland High] game was very tame, the players showing that they knew very little of the rules governing the different points. They seemed to take special delight in butting into one another, and the player who could spill the most blood was considered the best player”—San Francisco Chronicle

1892  Oct 30  “The star of the Pennsylvania team is one [Arthur] Knipe. A homely genius is Knipe. He is one of those stocky sons of toil with a foundation under him that would make the Chicago Post office a useful edifice. His head is his distinguishing member, however. It is inordinately large to start with and is covered with a growth of bushy hair… when he starts down the field and gives the wind a chance at it he is a sight once seen not soon to be forgotten. When he ducks that huge top piece of his and starts at the anatomy of the rush line he generally relieves the man he hits of whatever surplus wind he has in his lungs. Long hair is the fad here and that on the heads of the Pennsylvania team, if shorn, would fill a mattress… The ball would be handed [Knipe] and that huge bunch of moss on the top of his head would go butting through the line for rapid gains. Finally, with the ball at the ten-yard line, he went through left tackle and end for a touchdown, and Thayer kicked goal”—Chicago Daily Tribune

1892  Nov 14  “Garfield university’s eleven won a game of foot ball Saturday afternoon from Lewis academy by a score of 34 to 0. The game was closely contested at times but the superiority of the Garfield eleven is team work and weight was noticeable. The [prep] academy players complain bitterly of the treatment they received, declaring that foul plays characterized the university’s game and were overlooked [by] the too lenient referee and umpire. The boys say they got very much the worst of it in all the decisions. They claim to have suffered a great deal from foul tackles”—Wichita Beacon KS

1892  Dec 19  “Ten or fifteen thousand people went to the [Cal-Berkeley] football game on Saturday and appeared to enjoy it hugely. It was a new sensation, for there is rather more excitement in football than in baseball. … The team which can make the strongest rush generally wins, on the Napoleonic principle that fortune is on the side of the heaviest battalions. … For the idea of the modern football captain is to fling such a force upon the holder of the ball that he shall be knocked down, and probably knocked senseless, then to carry off the ball without meeting with the like experience from the opposite captain”—San Francisco Call

1893  Jan 27  “John. L. Herget, better known as ‘Young Mitchell,’ the famous San Francisco boxer, was a spectator in the [California] Senate yesterday. He is doing some quiet lobbying against the bill which proposes to prohibit glove contests and other sports that are liable to produce bodily injury. … The bill, he says, will prohibit football and other similar games, if it becomes law”—Sacramento Record-Union CA

1893  Oct 22  During the coming week [Cal-Berkeley] Coach Heffelfinger will strive to remedy the great defect of the team at present—high tackling. Work on the tackling-bag will be in order. This bag is a plush-covered arrangement, with soft interior, and is about the height of a man. Suspended by rope and pulley in the gymnasium it will be put into motion and the men be practices in diving at it on the fly as it were”—San Francisco Call

1893  Nov 8  “One week from Saturday the Kansas State University and the University of Nebraska teams will butt heads at Lincoln”—Topeka Daily Capital KS

1893  Nov 27  A Brooklyn football referee for schools and colleges writes that “boys usually claim a foul tackle if a player is caught about the neck. No umpire in this section was ever known to give twenty-five yards penalty under the rule, which probably forbids only choking direct by grasping a player’s throat with the hand. An arm thrown around the neck from in front or one side produces no throttling [call] that should be forbidden. Who ever heard of a player being disqualified for ‘unnecessary roughness?’ The line between disabling a player and killing him is only a line in width, and has been too often passed. Here the fault lies with the umpires, not the rules”—New York Sun

1893  Dec 1  “There is a great deal of interest in army and navy circles [of Washington] over the coming football contest between the cadets of West Point and those of Annapolis tomorrow. Anxious mothers, sisters, sweethearts and some fathers have sent letters to both Secretary of War Lamont and Secretary of the Navy  Herbert beseeching them to prevent the game”—Allentown Leader PA

1893  Dec 3  “The boys at the [St. Paul] Central high school are in mourning, and it is all on account of the attitude of Prof. J.N. Greer, the principal, who opposes football playing on the ground that it is attended with too much brutality. In speaking of the subject yesterday he said: ‘I am thoroughly disgusted with football as it is at present played. The game resembles a prize fight in which there are eleven men on a side instead of two as in the genuine fight. It is every year growing worse, and the people of the city can rest assured that next year I will use every effort within my power to prevent the organization of a team among the Central high school boys, if the game continues to grow in roughness.’ … It is probable that the subject will receive an airing before long at the hands of the board of education”—Saint Paul Globe MN

1893  Dec 3  “The [Pittsburgh] police authorities have declared against football playing under the present rules, and say tonight that in future no such degrading and brutal exhibitions as has been witnessed on the football field during the past season would be permitted in this city. They say further that they have information that the authorities in other cities will take similar action”—Chicago Inter Ocean

1893  Dec 10  “I think there should be two umpires instead of one—one at each end of the line. This is from personal experience. With this addition of officials there would be no possible excuse for questionable work. Foul tackling is universally allowed at present. I have not seen a foul tackle given against a team this year”—W.D. Osgood, University of Pennsylvania player, in New York World

1893  Dec 19  “Football, as at present played, is at least fifteen years old, and it is only within the past three months that we have had all this fuss about the danger of the game. Doubtless boys have been hurt at it from the day it was first played, as they are liable to get hurt at almost any game in which they engage—unless it be croquet, as we have suggested recently. … This question of football is a matter of family government rather than the public’s business. If the parents are willing for the son to play football and take chances, it is none of the public’s affair. After the player passes 21 years, it is nobody’s but his own”—Charlotte Observer

1894  Jan 3  “L.F. Deland of Boston, who is an expert counselor to businessmen, was the inventor of the ‘flying wedge’ in football, which has caused so much havoc among college teams. Mr. Deland never played a game of football in his life”—newspapers report

1894  Jan 6  “The game of football at the city school Monday drew a big crowd. The game was quite interesting to those who understood it, but for the outsider he could size it up as a ‘butting game’ “—San Bernardino Weekly Courier CA

1894  Jan 30  “The football reform movement at last begins to assume a tangible shape. … The University Athletic Club has decided at the request of Yale and Princeton, the remnants of the Intercollegiate Football Association, to shoulder the take of preparing the new rules, or rather taking steps to see that they are prepared. In order that this may be done the plan which has frequently been outlined will in all probability be adopted, and that is to appoint a committee of five football experts, who will gather in opinions and suggestions of other experts, and from these select the best from which to draw up the new rules”—New York Evening World

1894  February  U.S. President Grover Cleveland calls a White House summit on football, joined by his cabinet members to hear player injuries and more issues involving the teams at the Naval Academy and West Point. “[Navy] Surgeon Harvey made the report, and it showed that twenty-seven [Annapolis] men playing football received thirty-seven injuries; while 198 men exercising in the riding hall received twenty-six injuries in the same period—three months. The 101 men exercising in the gymnasium in the same period received ten injuries. The time lost by students on account of injuries was divided in this way: Through football, 106 days; through riding, seventy-one days; through gymnasium work, fifty-eight days. … Gen. John Schofield said football ‘requires some essential modifications. The required modification will be difficult to enforce,’ he continued, ‘for the reason that the objectionable features are those which contribute most to success in a contested game. They are those features which are most dangerous to life and limb, and may be said to most resemble military operations. They are more or less objectionable on that account. While it is undoubtedly true that experience in actual war is the best possible military training, modern civilization does not permit the making of war simply for the purpose of training an army’ ”—Salt Lake Tribune [1897 Nov 28]

1894  Feb 2  “There is some consternation among lacrosse and football players [in Canada] from the fact the insurance companies are disposed to refuse applicants who have been injured at any time in their athletic career by a blow on the head”—Manitoba Morning Free Press

1894  Feb 21  “Professor [Woodrow] Wilson [of Princeton] made the familiar plea that [football] developed moral qualities… We think the defenders of the game as now played would do well to omit the ‘moral qualities’ argument. It is really a little too much”—New York Evening Post

1894  Feb 27  “[War and Navy] Secretaries Lamont and Herbert have decided that there shall be no contests at football between cadets of Annapolis and West Point. This action is taken because of a conviction that the inter-academic matches are a detriment to discipline and to the studies of the cadets”—Columbus Republic IN

1894  March 26  “A surgeon visited [West Point Military Academy] several weeks ago for the purpose of gathering statistics to show that football, as it is now played, is a dangerous sport. In his statement, published in a medical magazine, he gives the percentage of accidents due to football as being twenty-six times as great as in riding, and fifty times as great as in gymnasium exercises. He concludes by saying that, in his opinion, football is a needlessly dangerous sport. It is evident that the doctor does not understand… [the injuries] amounted to nothing more than a slight inconvenience. The statistics as published do not give a correct idea of the casualties from football play at West Point”—New York Times

1894  May 8  “Walter Camp has finished his investigation into the dangers of football. He has sent over 1,200 letters to players all over the country, including principals of preparatory schools and physical directors of universities, and has received in answer replies from over 1,100 persons. In nearly every case the answer made is that the game is not considered brutal, although it is admitted to be rough. Principals of fitting schools place themselves on record as stating that with the proposed changes the game will be an ideal form of American sport. The statistics received establish the fact that only a small proportion of players received permanent injuries, and that in an overwhelming number of cases the hurts were simple bruises or sprains. Most of the sprains were not obtained from contact with players, but were owing to uneven ground”—New York Tribune

1894  May 30  “The foot ball rules have been revised and the game is now deemed much safer. However, people who are on the lookout for new drawing room amusements for the children need not expect to adopt foot ball just yet unless the furniture is insured”—Fort Scott Daily Monitor KS

1894  Oct 13  “Principal Frederick Partington of the Staten Island Academy sent a circular letter on Monday last to the parents of the male students denouncing football as a brutal, rough sport, and asking the parents to do all their power to arrest the growth of interest in the game among their sons. Principal Partington declines to assume any responsibility for the students who engage in the games. The letter caused no end of talk among the parents, students, trustees, and stockholders of the school. Those who have expressed their views are against any interference with the sport. Principal Partington, it is said, is a very good instructor, but he knows nothing of the merits, or demerits, of football. … One of the students on the team said to a reporter yesterday that no attention had been paid to Principal Partington’s letter, and that none of the parents of the members of the eleven had shown any signs of complying with the principal’s request”—New York Sun

1894  Dec 3  “The whole matter is one of business, not confined to universities, but more strikingly illustrated in the preparatory schools. It is notorious that the schools excelling in athletics, especially football, attract the largest number of scholars. Hence an encouragement of the games by the teachers. I could cite many instances. Only last week one of the masters of a leading Boston classical school rebuked a strong boy for not playing football, although he was out of condition and had been forbidden by his father to enter the game. Lessons are subordinate to athletics, and examinations are made easy for him who upholds the prowess of the baseball nine or the football team”—William Lloyd Garrison, Jr., social reformer, in letter to the editor, New York Evening News

1894  Dec 7  “In sentencing two youths to pay a small fine for engaging in a fight at a football game, [Washington municipal] Judge Miller took occasion yesterday to make some spicy comments on that knock-down-and-drag-out sport. ‘There seems to be a spirit of fight manifested throughout these contests,’ he said. ‘People get hurt and killed and much malice is shown. Everything seems to be done by force. If the games are to be conducted in the future as in the past then players should go out into the woods [like illicit pugilists]’”—Washington Times DC

1894  Dec 9  “To all the State Legislatures: Pass laws prohibiting football, or repeal the existing laws prohibiting prize-fighting”—St. Louis Globe-Democrat

1894  Dec 13  “The captivating game of [American] football has recently received such a severe blow in the east that there is danger of its doom being speedily sealed. The press in the eastern States is making a heavy drive at it—especially intercollegiate football. The change of rules since last year, abolishing ‘the flying wedge’ and other forms of mass play subject to abuse, was expected to result in less rough playing and fewer casualties this season. The expectation has not been realized. … And the game is seriously threatened. For it is impossible to ascribe the violence of the contest to any special kind of tactics. Last year the flying wedge and momentum plays were made the scapegoat for all the accidents of football. The public were easily deceived in that matter, even those who were the bitterest critics of the game, and when the playing rules were revised last winter, with momentum plays prohibited, the critics at once claimed a great victory for milder football. Such was the irony of fate that the most violent contest seen in years [Yale-Harvard Thanksgiving game] was played under those revised rules, and, moreover, with the chairman of the revision committee [Walter Camp] as umpire. Another journal referring to the same game says, it was undoubtedly the worst exhibition of recklessness and brutality that has been publicly made since the days of the Roman gladiators”—Winnipeg Tribune of Canada

1894  Dec 17  “Is football essential to manly sports? Certainly not for physical culture; for our gymnasiums and athletic clubs afford every facility. We have baseball, cricket, and polo; bicycling, boating, and swimming, running, fishing, and hunting; all of these offer delightful recreation… It is a lack of real moral manliness on the part of the governing powers. There is a mania and rivalry for large numbers on the college rolls which makes presidents timid and under a compromising policy. It is a betrayal of a holy trust”—Rev. J.J. Tobias, Episcopalian, in Chicago Daily Tribune

1894  Dec 18  “I think President Eliot’s attitude in some respects a very unfortunate one for the College [Harvard]. His opposition to Athletics and his efforts to Germanize the methods of teaching work real harm. The main product we want to turn out of our colleges is men. Incidentally let them be professors, chemists, writers, anything you please, but let them be men first of all, and they can’t be turned out if we don’t have the instructors themselves men, and not bloodless students merely”—Theodore Roosevelt, Harvard alumnus, football booster, federal official and outdoors writer, in personal correspondence

1895  Feb 14  “What matters a few broken bones to the glories of football as an intercollegiate sport? Is there a boy in college that would not gladly risk a broken bone for the honor and glory of being on one of the great teams? I say I am the father of three boys. I do not know whether they are going to make athletes in college or not, but I will say right here that if I thought any one of them would weigh a possible broken bone against the glory of being chosen to play on Harvard’s football eleven, I would disinherit him!”—Theodore Roosevelt, U.S. Civil Service commissioner, ardent Harvard grid fan since a freshman student at Cambridge in 1876, in newspapers

1895  Feb 21  “Harvard men have talked about nothing else today except the action of the Harvard faculty last night. T. Jefferson Coolidge, a member of the Harvard overseers, said that he was personally opposed to this movement to abolish the game of football. Col. William A. Bancroft, Mayor of Cambridge and also a Harvard overseer, also intimated to-day that he would not support the faculty. But he would like to see the game limited to youths of twenty [and older] and would also have the gate money abolished”—New York World

1895  Feb 27  “A brutal game is no great feeder of the intellect and is not the sure way to literary honors. President Eliot, of Harvard, denounces the game as played. This leads Civil Service Reformer, Roosevelt, a regular foot ball crank, if not a foot ball savage, [to extol the sport]… Roosevelt is a corker. Has he brains enough to be reformer of any sort?”—Wilmington Messenger NC

1895  April 12  “The Harvard overseers [soon to appoint Roosevelt], as had been anticipated, refused to sustain the faculty yesterday in their anti-football decree, and gave the game a lease of life for at least another year”—Boston Post

1895  Sept 26  “Many friends of foot ball would resent having their favorite sport classed with pugilism, which is termed ‘degrading and barbarous.’ The admirers of pugilism have nothing good to say of foot ball. If knocking men down is barbarous in the prize ring, why not in a foot ball game, where hitting below the belt and butting are the rule and not the exception? … foot ball games are a terror to the community. The Pittsburgh Comet publishes a list of casualties in foot ball and prize fighting for the last five years. Foot ball games have caused 133 deaths, fractured 281 legs, broken 294 heads, broken 75 arms and 117 bones, maimed for life 212 persons and caused 377 other injuries. In the same length of time prize fighting has killed 3 persons and broken 5 bones”—Greenville Record-Argus PA

1895  Oct 15  “Line up, boys. Line up, quick. Better let us sell you your football toggery. No danger when you get our armor on. Have you been in this athletic department? Come in, look around, whether you want to buy or not. Football goods, golf goods, boxing and fencing goods, and pretty much anything you can ask for in the way of gymnasium paraphernalia. Probably the most comprehensive stock of its kind in the city, and from 15 to 25 per cent under the others’ prices”—Parker, Bridget & Co., advertisement, Washington Times DC

1895  Oct 17  “The Berkeley School football team [of Manhattan] played a match game at Berkeley Oval, Fordham Heights, yesterday afternoon with a team from Betts Academy of Stamford, Conn. During the game Frederick Mynders, eighteen years old, Captain of the Betts team, was caught in a scrimmage and seriously injured internally. … He was trying to rush the ball through centre when he was downed. Mynders, instead of holding his head down and butting the crowd in front of him, held his head bolt upright. When the crowd downed him his head was thrown backward and his body was twisted in the scrimmage”—New York Times

1895  Oct 19  “Henry Dobson was run into by the ‘flying wedge’ of the Eastern High School football team, and, as I am told, was unconscious nearly two hours. It is a wonder that he was not killed, and it seems to me that football rushes should be prohibited on the common playground”—Dr. H.A. Dobson, letter to editor, Washington Times DC

1895  Oct 19  “While the whole country is congratulating the Governors of Texas and Arkansas for their valiant stand against incursions of prize fighters and their friends it might be well for someone to suggest to other governors that it would save life and limb and promote public decency if extra sessions of the legislature were called to enact laws prohibiting football. It is long years since any such brutality has been exhibited in the prize ring as that which attends almost every game of football… due not to accident, but to sheer, brutal intention”—Washington Evening Times DC, opinion page

1895  Oct 19  “When the misfortunes of last year on the gridiron were fresh in the minds of the people it was freely predicted that football was done for in this vicinity. That prediction has fallen. There was probably never as many football teams in this locality as there are this season. There is the Columbia Athletic, the Potomac, the Gallaudet, the Orient, the teams of the various high schools, the Kendall Green, the Georgetown teams, the business college, the colored high school team, the Shamrocks and a half dozen or more other teams, all in full blast, and others coming on. There was never more interest taken in the game than there is at present. Fortunately nothing up to this hour has happened to put a damper on the sport. All of the boys and many of the men, and not a few of the gentler sex are bound up in it, and it is to be hoped the season will go through pleasantly and without casualties of a serious kind”—Washington Evening Times DC, sports section

1895  Nov 3  “Lieutenant Leonard Mr. Prince, Second Infantry, U.S.A., died at the [Chicago] Presbyterian Hospital yesterday from injuries received in the famous army and navy football game at Annapolis in 1892”—Charlotte Observer

1895  Nov 15  “As to the dangers of the game, let me make some suggestions. Many lives are lost among bathers. Should bathing be abolished? People are constantly thrown out of buggies, limbs broken and lives lost. Should buggy-riding be abolished? Two Sunday school scholars were killed by their teacher? Should Sunday schools be abolished? Children fall out of trees. Shall tree climbing be stopped, etc., etc. That there is little real danger in football is proved by the fact that the game goes on in all the colleges, and many of the schools, towns, villages and cities every day for many weeks, tens of thousands of players, and in proportion to the numbers engaged the serious accidents few”—Anonymous “prominent gentleman,” in Raleigh Observer NC

1895  Nov 22  “The Yale men wore more headgear and harness than has ever been seen in this city. The backs wore leather helmets with ear protectors and rubber nose masks, so that their friends were utterly unable to recognize them from the grand stand”—New York Post

1895  Nov 29  “If Moss, [local school] full back, would duck his head like Puck Dixon when he makes his rush through the center, there are but very few elevens that he could not go through. When Moss starts through the center, he holds himself erect and as a result twenty-one men pile on him. … If he ducked his head and made his rush he would go through the line like a shot as soon as he got on to it. … Puck Dixon as a half back is all right. He is better than any billy goat at butting”—Arkansas City Daily Traveler AR

1895  Nov 29  “The crusade against football which was inaugurated last year has proved a complete failure and everyone might as well realize that fact. The people of this advanced day seem to like reminder of the gladiatorial combats of medieval ages and the fiercer they are the more the populace howls in glee. Who is there now who has strength enough to tear the chrysanthemum-headed youths from their pedestals of glory and stem the tide of favor which runs so strongly towards football! Not one! The anti-football man seems to be… desolate and deserted”—Columbus Evening Dispatch OH

1895  Dec 1  “Traumatic insanity” is caused by brain lesions of head impacts and jarring, “a fracture of the mysterious network of filaments whose continuity is as essential to normal mental activity as is the continuity of a wire charged with electricity in order to the transmission of the electric fluid. A lesion may be compared to a melted fuse in an electric lighting system. Lesions of the brain are necessarily obscure, because invisible. The skull is an impenetrable covering. Where death occurs, as the sequel of insanity, an autopsy, if made, often reveals a large cerebral abscess, involving extensive tracts of the brain. In other post-mortem examinations the lesion is so minute as not to be discoverable without the aid of the microscope”—Frederick Howard Wines, theologian, hospital chaplain and prisons expert, writing for newspapers

1895  Dec 5  “What are the tendencies of the present ‘game’ of football? What elements of character does it have a strong tendency to develop and strengthen? What propensities and passions does it nourish and encourage? … We believe our board of education should [prohibit football]. Of course, they cannot control the actions of individual players when the schools are not in session; but they can absolutely control the conduct and relations of teachers in their employ with reference to this game. They can also control all organizations and associations among the pupils as such. In other words, they can free the schools of the city from the disgrace of countenancing and encouraging this species of pugilism”—Belle Plaine News KS

1895  Dec 22  “A college president in this State says it is idle to ‘kick’ against football; that the game is here to stay, and that even the second class colleges have teams. ‘Don’t fight the game,’ he added, ‘it is no use’ “—Charlotte Observer

1896  March 6  “It is a deplorable fact that football has spread to the public schools of the various states, and it is to be feared that ere long the standard of character and good behavior in these schools will not be much above that in the average college and preparatory school. We don’t know why it is, but there seems to be something about the game of football that promotes rowdyism”—Brown County World KS

1896  March 27  “Every individual fellow owes a debt of gratitude to a man who has the qualities of mind and body to make the team and who plays for Harvard. He reflects honor on us all and holds the interests of all of us in his hands”—Theodore Roosevelt, Harvard athletics overseer, speaking to students and fellow alumni on campus in Cambridge

1896  Oct 18  “The football eleven of the Chicago College of Physicians and Surgeons played the college team to a tie today and the crowd saw probably the closest contested game ever witnessed in Beloit and one of the wickedest in the matter of slugging that was ever played anywhere. The doctors outweighed Beloit [College] and seemed to want to kill someone and do it quickly and so began slugging from the start and it was not long before the rough work was not confined to one side by any means. … As the game was drawing to a close Hansell, one of the doctors, who had put up a fine game as left half back, began to act queer and was taken off the field, when he became unconscious and lay in that condition for several hours, but is recovering now. Some think he suffered from concussion of the brain”—Chicago Daily Tribune

1896  Nov 1  “Baine, the Indian halfback, did great work for Kansas [University] until he was laid out by a fierce tackle early in the first half. After that he did not know what he was doing. He played out the first half and then retired, Crooks taking his place. Baine was in bad shape and needed medical attention. The doctors said he was in a bad way and feared concussion of the brain. He certainly looked like a very sick man when he left the field”—Kansas City Journal MO

1896  Nov 7  William Baine, concussed KU halfback, plays against Nebraska with head protection later described as an early anti-concussion “helmet.” Bert Kennedy, KU quarterback who became a Lawrence dentist, would later recall: “Blaine, a Sioux Indian youth we found at Haskell Institute, was our star. Despite the fact he had no more than a fourth grade education, we enrolled him in the school of law and kept him eligible. He suffered a slight concussion of the brain in practice before the Nebraska game and we fashioned a padded canvas headpiece to protect him. It was the first football helmet I ever saw. Blaine made K.U.’s first touchdown in the first half. We were trying to stall and I called a right end run merely to get the ball in the middle of the field. The Indian protested that his head ached and he couldn’t run. But he traveled 60 yards to a touchdown so fast the Nebraskans never laid a hand on him”—The Associated Press [1944 Oct 20]

1896  Nov 29  “There may be some kicking among the football players at the decision of the school board to discourage the game, but parents will generally endorse the board’s action. The frequent occurrence of fatal accidents in the game has caused a prejudice against football that can only be overcome by radical changes in the rules. Athletic sports should be encouraged, but this does not necessarily mean football; there are other games in which the boys will find plenty of amusement and ample exercise”—Sedalia Democrat MO

1896  Dec 1  “I believe it is a most brutal sport, and I am not sure but that it is a matter demanding legal restraint. … If the same sporting element followed football games as follows prize fighting, it would have been suppressed long ago. It is the gamblers and sports who support prize fighting that have brought public sentiment in opposition to it. In the case of football, a respectable part of society has countenanced it. College men play it, and the people receive it as legitimate sport. And, besides, the young ladies seem to look with special favor upon football heroes. I have no doubt in my mind that many a young man plays most vigorous football because he knows his lady friends are looking at him, and after the game he hopes to bask in the sunshine of their smiles”—Gov. Claude Matthews, Indiana, in Chicago Inter Ocean

1896  Dec 19  “Modern football players believe in protecting their heads. … The rubber nose mask, which covers the mouth as well, and the leather helmet are devices that seem almost indispensable. The helmet that is in use now not only covers the top of the head with a cap of hard leather, but protects the ears with two big muffs made of thick felt”—Chicago Eagle

1897  Jan 5  “An act of cruelty I would not permit for one moment, but I do very emphatically believe in boxing and football, and in all forms of rough, out-of-door, manly sports. … Somehow or other we must see that as men grow gentle and more honest, they do not grow weak or cowardly, and it will be a bad day for this Republic when we let the bad men monopolize the physical courage and rough energy of the community”—Theodore Roosevelt, New York City police commissioner, in New York Tribune

1897  Jan 23  “While the college Presidents are considering the matter of changing the rules of football so as to make the game less hazardous, the [Indiana] Legislature has taken the matter in hand and promises to do away with the game entirely in this State. Representative E.L. Patterson, a Franklin County doctor, today introduced a bill to that effect, and it was the first measure thus far proposed that has met with applause when its title was read. Dr. Patterson has witnessed many games, including the big annual events in the East, and makes the declaration that more men have been killed by football than by pugilism”—Chicago Daily Tribune

1897  Jan 30  “Several Harvard football players said recently in regard to the anti-football bills introduced in Indiana and Nebraska, that it was their opinion that such legislation could not be but the work of cranks. Arthur M. Beal, the quarterback, expressed his condemnation of the proposed legislation as being senseless and practically illegal”—Chicago Inter Ocean

1897  May 12  “College students and athletic associations in Michigan are considerably agitated over a pending measure in the Legislature of that State to prohibit football contests”—Angola Herald IN

1897  Oct 2  “The style of game for this [football] season will be varied somewhat but only in the details. Much of kicking will be done. Not only does it make the game a better one for the spectators, but it is a sure, safe game, and especially on a windy day is the winning game. The line work will be more open and easier to watch… doing away of mass plays”—Lincoln Courier NE

1897  Oct 19  “Ninety-nine out of every 100 patrons of the Harrodsburg graded school will say ‘Amen’ to Prof. Bell’s good judgment in prohibiting football on the school grounds, says the [Harrodsburg] Democrat”—Stanford Interior Journal KY

1897  Oct 20  “The clerical reformers have entered on a new crusade against football. And yet some of our divinity students have been the fiercest and sturdiest of football players while fitting themselves to fight the devil”—San Francisco Call

1897  Oct 27  “Andrew Hasche died in the Astoria Hospital [Tuesday]. His neck had been broken in a football game at Casino Beach, L.I., on Sunday afternoon. He was a finely built fellow of nineteen years… Hasche was taken to the Astoria Hospital and attended by Dr. James F. Trask and Dr. W. Baldwin Wayt—the latter being particularly interested in the case, as he was recently a member of the University of Virginia eleven and had seen two deaths on the football field. In the hospital Hasche was put to bed with sandbags ranged beside him to keep him in position, and particularly to prevent his head from rolling. The physicians said it was a hopeless task. … ‘It’s a pity,’ Dr. Wayt said. ‘The young man had a superb physique. I do not see how anybody can be blamed. It was the game. The post-mortem has not yet been held, but it will show undoubtedly that there was a fracture dislocation of the sixth cervical vertebra of the spine.’ … The unfortunate player was running with the ball, his head down and his neck extended… the exact position which would make a blow fatal”—New York World

1897  Nov 1  “Von Gammon, one of the players on the University of Georgia football team, died this morning from injuries received in a game… Gammon never regained consciousness after a scrimmage at the beginning of the second half. … His death has stirred prejudice against the game among the members of the State Legislature, which is now in session. A number of legislators expressed themselves today as bitterly opposed to the game, and it is probable that a bill will be passed in a few days making it a misdemeanor to engage in a game of football in this State”—Pittsburgh Daily Post

1897  Nov 9  “Alderman Platke, author of the theater hat ordinance, will introduce at a special meeting of the City Council, called for this afternoon, a measure to prohibit the playing of football anywhere within the limits of the city of Chicago. In speaking of his anti-football ordinance, Alderman Platke said: ‘I’d rather see a prize-fight any day than a game of football. It teaches school children to be brutal’ “—Oakland Tribune

1897  Nov 10  “The jury in the Costello-Winston case returned a verdict for the defendant. The action was brought by M. Costello of Duluth against P.B. Winston, the Minneapolis capitalist, to recover $50,000 damages. In a high school game at Duluth Mr. Costello’s son was thrown out of a flying wedge and permanently crippled. He contended that Mr. Winston’s son threw him out. The defense did not attempt to show that rough character of the game”—Humeston New Era IA

1897  Nov 14  “An ordinance prohibiting football was introduced in the [St. Louis] house of delegates by ex-Speaker Lloyd at the meeting of that body last night. Mr. Lloyd says the game, as played, is worse than prizefighting, and while he presents the measure by request, it is in accordance with his own views”—newspapers report

1897  Nov 16  “The governor of Arkansas strongly urges the president and trustees of the state university to prohibit football. When football or anything else gets too bad for Arkansas to endure, it is surely time to stop and think about it”—Lawrence Daily Journal KS

1897  Nov 19  “Statistics have been carefully kept by a Philadelphian since the last uproar against foot ball in 1894 and proved the absurdity of branding foot ball the most dangerous of sports and one to be abolished. Since April, 1894, he records the fatal accidents due to swimming at 1,350. Boating has the next place, with a list of 986, of which 354 occurred to followers of fishing. Of the men who would a-hunting go 645 have failed to return, and the past year alone charges up to the bicycle the death of 264 persons. Horseback riding claims 333; ice boating, 22; base ball, 6; tennis, 4, and golf, 2. Against these, foot ball, which by its immense patronage is proven to be the most popular game of the century, stands alone arraigned with a list of fatal accidents amounting in four season to 11”—Wilkes-Barre Record PA

1897  Nov 20  “A conservative medical journal, the Philadelphia Medical Record, makes a weighty deliverance against football. It is a high authority on medical matters, and what it says should have a great influence. … Says the Medical Record: ‘Short of actual death on the field, not much account is taken of the hundreds of young men who are oftentimes injured for life as the result of the rough-and-tumble methods of the match. The trainers explain the number of injuries by the lack of requisite physical preparation for the contest, but, in reality, the more the footballers are trained the more dangerous becomes the game. It is certainly time we should look the matter fairly in the face. If we want to develop pluck, courage, endurance and strength we can do so in more healthful and safer ways”—Pittsburgh Daily Post

1897  Nov 21 “In a football game between Hughes high school and Walnut Hills high school, Cincinnati, O., there was a riotous free fight. … This town is in a state of mind to-day against juvenile football and is likely to prohibit it altogether. … [A] grammar school has taken on the appearance of a miniature hospital. Several of the boys of the town have hobbled about for days and attended school only with the aid of crutches. Others have appeared with bandaged limbs, and scratches and bruises have been and are now a very common sight. What makes the aspect of affairs more serious is the knowledge that these boys in nearly every instance are from 10 to 15 years of age and not as yet out of the grammar grades”—Kansas City Journal KS

1897  Nov 21  “The agitation of the [Springfield] grammar school football question some time ago has resulted in making it very improbable that there will be any grammar school league next year. … One principal, Miss Harriet C. Emerson, of the Burrows school, has said definitely that her school boys will not be allowed to remain in the league. She has decided that the game is not suitable for grammar school boys, not only for the physical danger, but because of the mental distraction to the pupils in the match games and in the ill feeling that grows out of it”—Springfield Republican MA

1897  Nov 24  “Bicycling and Football—A St. Louis man killed himself yesterday, his mind having been affected, so it is stated, by injuries received in a bicycle accident. According to the notion of the anti-football zealots, this would afford sufficient excuse for the Legislature of Missouri to enact a law forbidding the use of wheels in this state”—Kansas City Star

1897  Dec 2  “The [Richmond] city union of the King’s Daughters will meet tomorrow to prepare a petition to the Legislature asking it to prepare a petition to the Legislature asking it to prohibit football in this state”—Richmond Dispatch VA

1897  Dec 4  “Of course the true spirit of football does not animate every boy… It is the same spirit that nerves the country boy to catch the wild colt, ride and master it; it is the same spirit that stirs the school fellow on the playground to take the side of the weak; it is the same spirit that prompts the trained swimmer to attempt the rescue of the drowning when the onlookers stand with blanched cheeks; it is one and the same spirit that gives us our leaders, whether in war or peace. … No boy should be allowed to play in any game with any constitutional defect or any inability, and even [if] sound, without being in condition; and even then, mere youths, immature and undeveloped, no matter what their skill and spirit, should not be allowed to contend with giants in strength and stature. According to age and weight they should be classed as light, middle and heavy weights, and this will be done, but that is not the work of any legislature; it is peculiarly and wholly the duty of the guardians of the boys, whether at home, school, college or university”—T.P. Branch, letter to Georgia governor, reprinted in Atlanta Constitution

1897  Dec 6  Ultimately no state will outlaw tackle football, although Georgia comes close in a bill that reaches the governor’s desk for signature. “Governor Atkinson has decided to veto the anti-football bill, and is preparing a statement to be sent to the Georgia Legislature explaining why he has decided to withhold his approval from it. … The bill was passed in the hat of prejudice against football caused by the killing of young Von Gammon, of the University of Georgia team on the gridiron last month, and the legislators felt that they were avenging his death by promptly providing against future accidents of a similar nature. It turns out that Von Gammon comes from a Spartan family and that neither his relatives nor his friends are seeking that sort of vengeance. It is his own mother who has induced the Governor to veto the bill. Mrs. Von Gammon, in a petition to the Governor, states that football was her son’s favorite game, and that if he could be consulted he would join in the request of his fellow students for the defeat of the bill. She calls the Governor’s attention to the fact that two of her son’s schoolmates, William Reynolds and Arthur Goetchins, recently met accidental deaths, one by falling over a precipice and one by falling downstairs. Mrs. Von Gammon asks if it is not as sensible for the Legislature to abolish precipices and stairways on account of these deaths as it is to abolish football because of the death of her son”—Baltimore Sun

1897  Dec 10  “No very drastic measures need to be taken to remove the principal ill of modern football, that of mass plays. … The element of danger can never be removed from the sport, no matter how the rules are altered, any more than that element can be taken away from polo, hunting, basket-ball and many other games, which are just as dangerous as football—provided the mass play is eliminated from the latter game. No contest where men run at full speed in-and-out in confined space can ever be otherwise than dangerous, so far as bumped heads and bodies bruised by collision are concerned”—Rochester Democrat and Chronicle NY

1897  Dec 15  “[Washington] Public School Trustee Wilson fired the first gun at football so far as it affects pupils under the jurisdiction of himself and his colleagues last night. He introduced a resolution at the regular meeting of the board, placing certain restrictions on the game as played by the local high school teams. … First—No boy shall become a member of any school football team against the wishes of his parent of guardian after notification to the principal of the school. Second—All contests shall be confined to teams of about total average weight. Third—Games shall be played only with teams connected with some educational institution. Fourth—Each team shall be supervised by some school official, to be designated by the school principal, who shall have absolute power to decide upon all questions of its membership, the proper clothing and physical condition of its members, and no match game shall be played without his authority”—Washington Times DC

1897  Dec 24  “Since legislation has been aimed at foot-ball, the [officials] of the game have met in convention and decided to adopt new rules, leaving out some of the butting-ram and thunder-and-lightning features, so that playing foot-ball in the future will not be much more dangerous than breaking wild Mexican broncos”—Crawfordville Gulf Coast Breeze FL

1897  Dec 31  “If the new football armor makes the game perfectly safe, the public will be sure to lose all interest in the sport”—Washington Star DC

1898  Jan 5  “A player is killed in a football game. There is plenty of law to cover the case. But nobody thinks of applying that law by arresting, indicting and trying somebody for manslaughter… It is absurd to pass a law prohibiting football only for the sake of preventing manslaughter and mayhem on the gridiron because, for the accomplishment of that object, such a law is entirely superfluous”—Rochester Democrat and Chronicle NY

1898  Jan 27  “Assistant Secretary of the Navy [Theodore] Roosevelt received the ovation that is always his when he comes before an audience of Harvard men. He spoke slowly and forcibly, as he always does, receiving generous applause throughout. He said: ‘I don’t suppose there is a man here among the graduates who does not have a feeling, no matter what part of the country he is in, of personal interest in Harvard athletics. … I am a great believer in athletics, a very great believer. I feel that the university should do more than merely develop intellect. Intellect is a good thing, but there is something better, and that is character, force, strength of will power to hold one’s self, to bear one’s self as a man among men, and athletics, no less than study, help to develop the character. …  I have not got the least objection to field sports with the element of personal contact in them. I trust that we shall develop men, and plenty of them, and when they buck up against the man opposite they will go through him and play for every ounce that is in them as gentlemen’ ”—Boston Daily Globe

1898  Nov 9  “A new helmet for football players has been placed upon the market and is pronounced complete by experts. … The new helmet completely protects the head and ears. The crown of it is made of tough sole leather, filled with air holes and lined with soft felt. It has stout earlaps of leather, with holes in them so that the wearer can bear the signals, and a strong elastic band, which buckles under the chin and keeps the new headgear firmly in place”—Logansport Pharos-Tribune IN

1898  Nov 12  “The board of education has decided to prohibit football playing on the school grounds”—Salina Daily Union KS

1899  April 10  “I wish to preach, not the doctrine of ignoble ease, but the doctrine of the strenuous life, the life of toil and effort, of labor and strife; to preach that highest form of success which comes, not to the man who desires mere easy peace, but to the man who does not shrink from danger, from hardship, or from bitter toil, and who out of these wins the splendid ultimate triumph”—Theodore Roosevelt, New York governor and press hero of the American “war” with Spain in Cuba, from his speech “The Strenuous Life

1899  June 29  “George Miller, son of J.S. Miller, living near Doniphan, was declared insane as a result of a blow received in a football game while he was playing with the Midland college [team] in Atchison a year and a half ago”—Columbus Weekly Advocate KS

1899  Oct 15  Popular music is banned at the University of Chicago while officials sanction head-knocking football as educational. At the game with Cornell: “The University of Chicago band played ‘There’ll Be a Hot Time in The Old Time Tonight’ and went un-rebuked, although that is a tabooed melody at the university, its moral tone not being considered altogether compatible with scholastic life. [Then running back] Slaker’s hooded head broke through the Cornell line for a short gain… Slaker’s battering-ram head was again sent hammering away at Cornell’s line and another touchdown counted”—Chicago Daily Tribune

1899  Oct 22  “The Elgin High School football team defeated the Lake Forest Academy team 27 to 0. During the game Trumbull, quarter back, of the Lake Forest team, received a blow on the head which caused temporary insanity. He raved several hours before he could be calmed. It is feared he suffered concussion of the brain”—Chicago Daily Tribune

1899  Oct 29  “How to Tackle Safely: Now about tackling. The reckless boy who is playing for the grand stand will often get his head just where the runner’s knee will strike it and there is a severe shock. The best way to learn tackling is with a dummy with head thrown to one side. That saves your head. The moment you have a grip on the runner pull him toward you with all your strength. That is the secret of good tackling. Another point is to go at your man without hesitation and in doing this you may have to overlook the rule about keeping the head to one side. The softest place to put it is in the other man’s stomach. That makes a pretty tackle, too”—F.C. Armstrong, MD and football coach of Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, writing for newspapers

1899  Nov 16  “James Franks, Captain and right half back of the Lewis grade school football eleven [in Englewood, Ill.], is in a critical condition, the result of injuries received in a gridiron struggle with the Normal park school team. … Frank has suffered greatly and has been kept continuously under the influence of opiates. The nature of his injury is such little food can be given him. … The accident has aroused considerable feeling among parents of the Englewood pupils antagonistic to football. … Parents are saying as a part of grade school training football is too severe. Miss Vreeland, teacher of the eighth grade, to which Frank belonged, will endeavor to stop the play among pupils of the Lewis school”—Chicago Daily Tribune

1899  Nov 24  “After spending several more days investigating the death of John Wright, right tackle of the football team of the Christian Brothers’ college, who was injured November 11, in a game with the St. Louis university eleven, the [city] coroner’s jury today returned the following verdict: ‘We, the jury, find that the game was played strictly according to Rugby rules; but we believe the game is dangerous, and should be prohibited’ ”—newspapers report

1899  Nov 26  “Bumping along down the field the [Princeton blockers’] orange and black striped legs flashed along, warding off the [Yale] blue legged runners perfectly, while the stocky [Princeton ball-carrier] Reiter, with a head armor that looked like a coal scuttle, kept going”—Chicago Daily Tribune

1899  Dec 9  “The Strenuous American Approaches: The days of the politician who depends upon the old, threadbare subterfuges are about numbered, and the athlete in statesmanship is about to leap into public favor. … Heretofore our so-called statesmen have relied almost exclusively upon their lung power for propulsion and maintenance. In the future we are to have the opportunity to contemplate and admire the public man who brings all his physical self into play. The man who calls to arms all sections of his anatomy when he engages in battle. … It made its appearance [in Congress] this week when the Hon. William Eaton Chandler introduced a bill providing for the increase of the efficiency of the West Point and Annapolis Academies by physical training instead of excessive mental education. Mr. Chandler’s bill provides that the higher mathematics and languages shall be succeeded to a certain degree by what he is pleased to term ‘the game of golf, bicycling, baseball, and football.’ … We have no doubt that Mr. Chandler will be magnanimous to concede that he was prompted to move in this direction by the achievements of the Hon. Theodore Roosevelt. The man who could don the uniform of a rough rider, mount a prancing steed, and perforate the atmosphere with [bullet] lead and shouts in such a forcible manner as to ride into the New York governorship and the affections of the book publishers is worthy of emulation”—Washington Post

1899  Dec 9  So-called government football is fully restored at Army and Navy academies while a federal “Indian School” in Pennsylvania, Carlisle Institute, rises as gridiron power. Carlisle is coached by affable, shifty Glenn “Pop” Warner, reputed for rules-skirting and head-ramming teams he builds of Native American men and boys. “When they go to Carlisle for the five-year course they do not know the difference between a football and a pumpkin, as their manager [Warner] expresses it. When the Indian team has a new player he is a real novice. … In view of the fact that the highest class in the Indian School is no further advanced than the first year of an ordinary high school, the Indians’ claim that the four-year-college playing limit should not have many arguments in its favor, for the status of the school is not above that of an ordinary preparatory institution where many future varsity players engage in football for four or five years before they enter college. During their six seasons the Indians have played about ten games a year with different colleges. … Dash and unity describe the Indians’ style of play. The linesmen tear forward the instant the ball is snapped, and seem trained to jump through and break up the opposing play before it is well started. Metoxen, the full-back, rated the greatest line bucker on an American gridiron this season, smashes forward head down, low and with terrific force”—San Francisco Chronicle

1899  Dec 21  “The full armored football player of to-day bears a striking resemblance to the knights of the middle ages in battle array, minus his spear and his sword. … The result of the great advance in the science of football has been to do away, first of all, with the dangers of the game. All the tricks that made football so dangerous a few years ago have either been discarded or have been prohibited. Teams all over the country are now playing the old-fashioned open game, with lots of punting and runs around the end of the line. This game, however, is harder than the game of a dozen years ago. Interference, diving tackles, line bucking and formation plays make the players more liable to cuts and bruises. For this reason, the armor of football has not been discarded. On the other hand, it has been added to from year to year. All sorts of devices have been tried to protect the players from hard knocks and bruises. … Every physical trainer has his own little kit of tools, medicines and bandages, which he applies according to his own ideas. Every big team is haunted by dozens of specialists with new devices for protecting the players, new kinds of foods for making boys strong, and every sort of mechanism that might have been useful in a tilting tournament”—New York Herald

Copyright ©2016 for historical arrangement by Matthew L. Chaney

Matt Chaney is a writer, researcher and consultant on public issues in sport, specializing in American football for three decades. Chaney, an MA in media studies, is a former college football player and coach whose books include Spiral of Denial: Muscle Doping in American Football, from his Four Walls Publishing in 2009Chaney’s study for graduate thesis, co-published with the University of Central Missouri in 2001, analyzed print sport-media coverage of anabolic substances in football from 1983-1999. Email him at mattchaney@fourwallspublishing.com or visit the website for more information.

‘Heads Up’ Theory, Football Helmets and Brain Disease, 1883-1962

Today’s football officials like NFL commissioner Roger Goodell tout their safety measures as new, including Heads Up “technique” for headless hitting—but historical news and medical literature tell a different story

Brain Injury in American Football: 130 Years of Knowledge and Denial

Part Three in a Series

By Matt Chaney, ChaneysBlog.com

Posted Wednesday, May 11, 2016

I. Introduction

II. 1883-1906: Anti-Butting Rule, ‘Head Up’ for Safer Football

III. 1909-1915: Open Game Spurs High Tackling, Call for ‘Heads Up’

IV. 1920s: ‘Punch Drunk’ Questions, An Answer by Martland

V. 1930s: CTE Evidence, Debate Cast Football as Causal Suspect

VI. 1940: Plastic Helmet Panacea, Doctors Coin CTE Term

VII. 1962: Reselling Anti-Concussion Helmets and Heads Up

This post is dedicated to Donnovan Hill, 18, who died today in his homestate California, a mighty young man

Controversy overtook American football again by 1960, reigniting debate and recommendations for the collision sport. A scourge of brain and spinal injuries threatened football’s standing, particularly at thousands of schools and youth leagues.

Football boasted an estimated 2.5 million players, including a million prepubescent kids. The American Medical Association wanted sideline doctors at games, and some member physicians labeled tackle football as inappropriate for children.

“We have itsy-bitsy leagues of all descriptions, and we don’t have to like them,” said Dr. Robert R. MacDonald, of Pittsburgh, speaking with Time magazine. “The overwhelming opinion among physicians is against contact sports for elementary and junior high school students.”

“Children are not little men,” said another doctor, unidentified, speaking at an AMA meeting in Washington, D.C. “Cutting down the field and changing the rules doesn’t make football a kid’s sport.”

Health writer Dr. William Brady condemned football for juveniles and insinuated most medical professionals stood by silently. “With almost no exception, physicians, orthopedic surgeons, and physical education instructors who are not afraid to be counted say football is a grown man’s game and not a game for growing boys,” Brady declared in his national newspaper column. “It is dangerous enough for college or university men.”

American football had withstood crisis before, including for “concussion” or traumatic brain injury,  TBI of varied description. But after World War II the public cringed over player collisions in hard-shell helmets, and scrutiny fell upon football’s growth sector of grade-school and “peewee” leagues. In 1956 the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended no tackle football for boys until high school.

Plastic helmets had been released commercially during the war, a technical collaboration between football and military that apparently changed collision risk on the gridiron. A review of football fatalities from 1947 to 1959 found prime causation shifting away from abdominal bleeding and infection to damages of the brain and neck.

Football was compelled to respond, along with associate enterprises of sports medicine and helmet manufacturing. This unofficial alliance shared profit synergy and motive to expand football, especially among Baby Boomer children, while trying to alleviate casualties and answer critics.

Football officials and associates—including many doctors, AMA members—acknowledged disability and death could never be eliminated, even for kids. But they promised “safer football” that reduced casualties to an unspecified minimum, and their ideas poured forth, disseminated by news media who questioned little for concept validity, reliability or feasibility.

The 1960s helmets would prevent concussion, finally, declared the “football experts.” Anti-TBI models had failed since 1899, starting with patent sole-leather, but now the experts touted polycarbonate plastic shells, rigid facemasks, interior liners and padded covers. They extolled space-age helmet gadgetry, transistor sensors to measure g-forces of headshots, for the all-out research mission of football safety.

Football organizers, coaches, game doctors and academics spoke of rule changes and headless hitting, based in “proper coaching” for safe blocking, tackling, and running. Helmet “spearing” and facemask butting were denounced, and in 1962 the college coaches association emphasized “heads up” form for players—anti-butting theory already applied in American football, unsuccessfully, for 79 years.

1883-1906: Anti-Butting Rule, ‘Head Up’ For Safer Football

American athletics expanded along with industry in the 19th century, booming after the Civil War, and sport casualties became a national health problem. Injuries to head and neck led every mainstream sport to ban “butting,” but in tackle football the policy was inapplicable among forward-colliding players.

Rules of American football, based on rugby, evolved to set a line of scrimmage between opposing teams, designate ball possession for one side at a time, and loss of possession for failure to advance five yards in three downs. Blocking lines formed, disallowed in rugby, and ramming became prevalent in American football, with injurious collisions reported routinely by newspapers, especially of the “rush line.”

In 1883 the athlete-managed Intercollegiate Football Association [IFA] outlawed butting, defined as Striking a man with the shoulder or head. Problems rose immediately, challenging chief rulemaker Walter Camp for his multi-interests of football—he also refereed games, coached the Yale team, wrote for publishers. America recognized Camp, a 24-year-old Yale graduate and former player, as preeminent authority of “foot ball.”

Referees like Camp could do little to enforce anti-butting in football’s daring runs and thrilling collisions demanded by crowds of spectators. Referees only made cursory calls against head-on strikes, citing the most flagrant violations, and the inconsistency ignited controversy when penalties affected victory or defeat.

Trouble struck late in a game of 1885, when Lehigh center Ross Pierce was ejected for butting a Lafayette player, leading to game forfeit. “Lehigh claimed that this was an unjust decision,” reported The Wilkes-Barre Times. ”The Lehigh faculty ordered the men off the field, whereupon the referee [W.C. Posey], as compelled by the rules, gave the game to Lafayette.”

Elsewhere, Yale was notorious as a butting team, and Coach Camp’s affinity for head-knocking play reflected in his performance as field referee. Camp conspicuously ignored the violation while refereeing a game of Harvard versus Princeton, which The New York Sun described as “a contest in butting and wrestling” highlighted by “battering ram” hits.

Terrible injuries piled up for American football, including for unrestrained “slugging,” fist punches. Concussion of the brain occurred nationwide, per press reports, along with deaths from cerebral and spinal damage, and rulemakers caught ridicule, particularly since most doubled as inept referees like Camp. The IFA committee promised strict rules enforcement in 1887, announcing addition of an umpire to help the referee in a game, and instructing team captains to police field behavior.

Officials analyzed collision contact in hope of eliminating dangerous “high tackling.” Coaches and football-friendly professors penned how-to layouts on safe tackling published in newspapers with illustrations. Players were instructed to strike with shoulder and chest while keeping head to one side, out of harm’s way. “Foul tackling” was defined as hits below the waist and above neckline. But nothing changed and rulemakers acted again, sanctioning blocking and lowering the legal tackle zone to above the knees. Coaches preached “low tackling” with “eyes open” to avoid head blows from churning thighs and feet.

Contact theory and policy could not alter the necessary, inherent ramming of football, and Camp absorbed flak over his officiating crew’s debacle at the 1888 Thanksgiving game between Wesleyan and the University of Pennsylvania.

“Only one man was disqualified,” observed The New York Tribune, “when there should have been a half dozen.” The New York Times, under its sarcastic headline “Not A Man Killed,” reported “both teams endeavored to find out which possessed the most force as battering rams, and they were ramming away most cheerfully when time was called at 4:45, just as it was growing too dark to see.”

Camp responded to the New York press, laying blame for the bloody contest onto players of Penn and Wesleyan, alleging they failed to “tackle properly.” His IFA rules committee huddled further, dropping the term “butting” from code in official printings of 1890, with the edition edited by Camp and published by his business associates of Spalding equipment company.

American football’s first rule specifying ramming was gone, and Camp proclaimed headshots legal except when a tackler draped a runner’s neck, “throttling” or choking him. Indeed, Camp’s Yale teams capitalized on attacking “like human pile-drivers,” stated a national story. Likewise, for college teams that Camp advised on California visits, “The head or skull of a contestant is quite frequently called into service,” reported The San Francisco Call.

Yale stood peerless for winning football and most recently for revolutionizing blocking in “holes,” sending men through the line to clear way for explosive ball-carriers. Yale players were proficient in head-butting defenders to advance up-field, raved journalists and game insiders. “Yale’s rush line was too strong for Princeton. It was like a battering ram,” newspapers reported of the 1890 game on Thanksgiving.

Brain casualties were acceptable for Camp, but likewise for all football officials and fans, or the game could not exist. Newspapers of the Gay Nineties commonly reported concussion of the brain in football, among descriptions of TBI incidents from New York to the Hawaiian Islands. Besides “knockout,” publicized symptoms of players included headache, memory loss, nausea, balance dysfunction, personality change and mood swings.

Medical specialists treated TBI casualties of early football for all degrees of severity, down to diagnosing “slight concussion” through clinical criteria recognized for decades. “Cerebral concussion with persistent symptoms was described by Boyer in 1822, Astley Cooper in 1827, and Dupuytren in 1839,” observed Dr. Randolph W. Evans in 1994, reviewing the literature timeline.

Physicians of the 1890s could recognize TBI in football players, acute symptoms such as amnesia and violent behavior, but there existed no validated treatment nor reliable injury management. Conservative approach dictated rest and isolation for concussed football players, and for some cases doctors urged retirement from the sport—medical opinion prone to dispute by coaches and trainers. Some doctors believed concussed football players could die of brain hemorrhage when returned to contact too quickly.

Moreover, given medicine’s experience with railroad accidents and warfare of industrial artillery, many experts believed brain disease could result from impacts and jarring of any source. Thus collision football posed obvious risk for cerebral trauma and disorder, those “nervous conditions” already known in the courts as “railway brain” and traumatic insanity. Pathologists utilizing microscopic autopsy found tiny lesions in brain tissue, “a fracture of the mysterious network of filaments… essential to normal mental activity,” prisons expert Frederick Howard Wines wrote in 1895. “A lesion may be compared to a melted fuse in an electric lighting system.”

Medical Record, a journal in Philadelphia, called for abolishing football “productive of the greatest variety of surgical injuries to every part of the body.” The journal editorialized about tone deafness of society for football casualties. “Short of actual death on the field, not much account is taken of the hundreds of young men who are oftentimes injured for life as the result of the rough-and-tumble methods of the match.”

The football-adoring public ignored medical literature and opinion to cheer the athletic bashing on fields. An Iowa newspaper hyped imagery of ramming heads—like future NFL television graphics, clashing helmets—for the opening of college football in 1895. “The Cornell (Mt. Vernon) College foot-ball team will be here next Saturday… to butt heads and tangle limbs and scramble for the ball with the U.I.U. team,” heralded The Fayette County Leader.

Football coaches, trainers, and team physicians surely grasped TBI danger but sought to sustain their lucrative sport, not end it for irremovable forward-colliding. And head-ramming typically influenced victory for which team did it better, so successful coaches beyond Yale taught this attack—especially when all of football counted on emerging headgear for neutralizing injury threat.

“There is no use in exposing a man’s head to bruises which the modern football harness largely prevents…,” noted The Chicago Daily Tribune, “the protection of nose guards, ear pads, and the various devices in use make him feel more secure from hurt.” The newspaper observed a “carefully harnessed” team at University of Chicago, the powerful Maroons of coach Amos Alonzo Stagg.

Stagg had starred as a “butting” player at Yale and the philosophy continued for teams he coached. Stagg said he taught the Maroons safe “low tackling” but they were slow to learn. Rather, Stagg’s players aimed “for a man’s head,” reported The Chicago Inter Ocean.

Glenn “Pop” Warner coached at the government Carlisle Institute in Pennsylvania, for young American Indians, and his teams thrived on trick plays and butting throughout the field. The reputation preceded Carlisle on a West Coast trip in 1899, with The San Francisco Chronicle’s reporting:

Dash and unity describe the Indians’ style of play. The backs all crouch like sprinters on the mark, and are off… The linesmen tear forward the instant the ball is snapped, and seem trained to jump through and break up the opposing play before it is well started. [Jonas] Metoxen, the full-back, rated the greatest line-bucker on an American gridiron this season, smashes forward head down, low and with terrific force…

Butting was no blissful indulgence for football officials, however, as predictable brain and spine casualties continued through “brutality” reform hyped by Camp from 1894 to 1897. The initial helmet models of rubber then leather already proved no remedy for TBI, so officials kept pushing theory of headless contact, promising to teach players.

“The best way to learn tackling is with a dummy with head thrown to one side; that saves your head,” commented Dr. F.C. Armstrong, coach of Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, for his how-to article in newspapers. But Armstrong acknowledged the game’s frenetic action could not be choreographed. Often the tackler had to halt his foe however necessary, “and in doing this you may have to overlook the rule about keeping the head to one side,” the coach advised. “The softest place to put it is in the other man’s stomach. That makes a pretty tackle, too.”

But within a few years Pratt Institute scrapped football because of the incorrigible violence, during football season of 1906. Administrators cited brain injury as particularly incompatible for the educational environment, for ethics and practical purposes.

Supposedly the game had been cleansed of brutality for “open play” rules instituted after presidential invention by Theodore Roosevelt, but Pratt officials disagreed. “Yes, we have dropped football,” J. Martin Voorhees, director of physical education at the Brooklyn college, told The Daily Eagle. “We find that the game has been brutalized to such an extent that a player has to be practically a prize fighter to endure the knocks.

“That was our experience at Princeton a few weeks ago. We were beaten 27 to 0, but it was not the defeat that came as hard as the breaking of bones and other knocks that were dealt out to us, and I want to say that it was not by unfair methods either, but by football as it is insisted upon today by those who framed the new rules.

“Why, we have today a boy who has concussion of the brain as the result of that contest,” Voorhees continued. “And he is not out of danger yet. That is only one of the cases. There are several others, and I hold the new rules are responsible. It was put up to the committee last night and we simply decided to abolish the game.”

1909-1915: Open Game Spurs High Tackling, Call for ‘Heads Up’

In years following the football reform led by Teddy Roosevelt, recorded injuries dwindled on the team at Harvard, his alma mater, but that was an exception.

Most outlets reported negligible results while ferocity of football collisions apparently heightened—and concussions of the brain increased—for the “open game.” The charged-up field of forward passes, outside runs and sweep blocks caused brutal smashups in freer space, for less “mass” formations to clog and slow traffic. “High tackling” was blamed for numerous casualties.

“The revised rules of the game have not fulfilled the hopes of their framers,” editorialized The Waterloo Press in Indiana, “the speed and combination plays have proved almost as hazardous.”

“Has Football Reform Failed?” posed The Harrisburg Courier of Pennsylvania, stating “not even the football rule makers can wipe out the bone breaking features of the game by substituting one kind of danger for another.” In Philadelphia, students of a medical college voted to ban the football program after a player died of brain hemorrhage. “SEASON JUST CLOSED MOST DISASTROUS IN HISTORY OF FOOTBALL: 29 MEN KILLED,” headlined The Topeka Daily Capital on Thanksgiving weekend in the Midwest, 1909.

A movement opposed boys football in high schools and “midget” leagues, led by doctors and medical journals, but the naysayers also included NCAA officials, college coaches, grid stars and university presidents. Some lawmakers moved to ban juvenile football in Indiana, New York City, Boston, West Orange, N.J., more places. Former President Roosevelt supported boys football but admitted reform had fallen short, saying most schools lacked supervision and he wished the game were “less homicidal.”

High schools in the nation’s capital banned hits above neckline and the forward pass: “For Safer Football,” headlined The Washington Herald. Nationwide, officials discussed eliminating kickoffs, barring quarterback runs, penalizing “flying” tackles and blocks. Coaches everywhere reemphasized shoulder tackling and blocking.

“Heads up” contact would protect players, declared The Asbury Park Press, reviving the familiar theory:

It is to be hoped that if football retains its hold upon the American heart that “butting” may be so modified as to preserve the college young man’s skull for future and perhaps more laudable uses. In any event “tackle” with heads up should be substituted for “tackle” with heads down in the football contest. Athletes may get along with broken noses and gradual elimination of front teeth but the skull is valuable and rules should be made to hold it intact if possible.

College rulemakers took another turn at their reform dance in 1912, without addressing headshots. Forward passing was fully sanctioned, legalized from anywhere behind the scrimmage line, for any length of throw, and the playing field was set at regulation 100 yards complemented by 10-yard “end zones” for touchdown receptions. The measures were taken for both player safety and spectator enjoyment, according to the NCAA committee.

Protective equipment was also advancing, officials declared. Illinois coach Bob Zuppke produced a new helmet “so designed that the protection comes at all points where a blow might wreak havoc,” newspapers stated.

But one NCAA committeeman questioned safer football, the official pledge since Roosevelt’s intervention. “I am in doubt as to whether the game is safer than it was in years past,” said Jonas Babbitt, rulemaker from Haverford College, “but public opinion seems to hold that it is safer.”

Football’s dark side continued to confront schools, doctors, police, courts and unfortunate families, especially for brain injury and disorder linked to the game. Psychosis engulfed a promising young man in eastern Pennsylvania, Raymond Yerger, for injuries believed to have begun in school football, according to newspapers of the period.

The well-liked Yerger, only child of Morris and Sallie Yerger, part of a larger local clan, excelled in athletics and academics at Allentown High. For Thanksgiving in 1910, Yerger led senior football players in organizing a train excursion to their final game at rival Reading. Two hundred AHS faithful paid $1.10 each for train fare, embarking on a holiday extravaganza to culminate that night with a dance back in Allentown.

At Reading the football contest was rough, and Allenville lost in both score and injury count. Several Allenville players were carried off, including star halfback Ray Yerger, suffering neural effects from a kick to the head. Yerger was diagnosed with “slight concussion” and returned home to Allentown, missing the dance but resurfacing a few nights later to play church basketball. Yerger graduated high school as an honors student, accepted a bookkeeping job, and continued playing sports other than football.

For a few years Yerger remained active in his community and church, and employed, although increasingly subject to mental “spells” and “aberrations,” as family and friends would later recall. A baseball beaning on his head aggravated symptoms around 1913. Yerger became morose, paranoid, reclusive, avoiding friends for suspicion they were “making fun” of him, he lamented to parents.

Then a severe episode turned violent for Yerger at home, scaring his mother and father who struggled themselves to make sense of son’s deterioration. Physically strong, mentally ill, the 22-year-old raged and tossed furniture, threatening to kill his father. Police arrived and placed him in custody. It was holiday season, four years since his football trauma at Reading.

Authorities committed Yerger to Rittersville state hospital for allegedly attempting murder of the father. Yerger reportedly underwent psychosurgery to “cure” his disease, and after one year in the facility he snuck to a bathroom and committed suicide, hanging himself with a towel. Young Raymond Yerger’s funeral was “largely attended” in Allentown, per a report, and he was buried at St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church, two weeks before Christmas of 1915. Family and friends would always blame football in the tragedy.

1920s: ‘Punch Drunk’ Questions, An Answer by Martland

During the First World War, U.S. military bases trained soldiers in football, indoctrinating thousands for the game beyond those with previous experience. A single camp might host dozens of football games in a day, and at war’s end soldiers came home eager for the civilian gridiron as players, coaches, trainers, doctors and boosters. “World War I provided the new football [passing attack] with a timely and powerful weapon to drive it into the hearts and minds of the American public,” observed historian John Sayle Watterson in 2000. Automobile proliferation, urbanization and partying also juiced game popularity.

Football permeated America in the 1920s, raising concrete stadiums in many communities and reaching every pocket of society. Teams were established in the remotest regions, enlisting boys for school and midget football, ever younger in age, and men to fill local rosters.

Football’s public health issue followed in kind, spreading along, affecting every level to grassroots. Issues of college football posed sexier headlines for newspapers, revelations of “professionalism” and academic corruption at major universities, but the game’s everyday problem remained violence and casualties of collisions. Publicized annual death tolls reached 20 again, however invalid the numbers, and rekindled debate.

“High tackling” haunted football for injuries to brain and neck, as since the 1880s, and Harvard leaders proposed to outlaw forward passing once again. More old ideas re-circulated. After the 1925 season a group of eastern coaches demanded anti-butting again be mandated, just finally enforced, and football experts took another look at field contact, promising safer colliding. Coaches and officials pushed “head up” theory for low tackling, again, but there was a new twist, talk of upright hitting with head held aside.

At least one newspaper scoffed, The Altoona Tribune, commenting on New Year’s Eve in Pennsylvania:

Tackling below the shoulder would be a very fine thing and very practical if runners could be forced to do their sprinting with head up and chest out. The sad part of it is that runners, like [“Galloping Ghost” Red Grange], run very low. If the Wheaton ice man is to be tossed at all, the tackler has little time or opportunity to pick a suitable spot of the Phantom around which to twine his arms. Officials believe that high tackling should be punishable to a 15-yard penalty.

Shortly thereafter, NCAA rulemakers refrained from acting on high tackling and head-up technique. Yet officials needed to find resolution somehow, because news on football TBI was getting worse, with discussion moving toward brain disease.

American football was awash in incidence of concussion or TBI suffered by players, as demonstrated by daily news, while treatment remained inconsistent and mysterious for lack of known, validated protocol. Medical convention, conservative approach, prescribed “the old clinical maxim that every case of concussion must be treated by a definite period of rest in bed, and the very slow and cautious resumption of active life,” said Dr. Wilfred Trotter, British surgeon of neurology, in 1924.

Dr. Morris Fishbein, editor of Journal of the American Medical Association [JAMA], noted football risk for concussion and emphasized specialized examination for suspected injury. Fishbein, writing for his national newspaper column in 1927, alerted readers to symptoms of broadly defined concussion, “such as dizziness, ringing in the ears, disturbance of vision, headache, drowsiness, pains in the eye, inability to sleep, convulsions or vomiting.”

But many doctors believed no serious injury occurred until loss of consciousness, an opinion parroted by football personnel, despite numerous player cases of severe TBI not involving knockouts. Football’s minimizing or downplaying cerebral disturbance was also conducive for returning players quickly to field contact. Brain trauma was merely cost of doing business in beloved head-ramming football, so teams stocked boxes of smelling salts, hired doctors when possible, and young athletes always lined up, willing combatants.

“No football player is afraid of getting knocked out. It’s too common an experience,” said Centre College star Sully Montgomery. “You can’t go through a season on the gridiron without being knocked senseless a couple of times.” Coaches were run over amid the fields of speeding bodies, too, like old battering ram Amos Alonzo Stagg, flattened while leading practice at the University of Chicago. Accidentally kayoed at age 64 by “a swift charging back,” Stagg returned next day for his job coaching the Maroons, 34 years running, newspapers reported.

Chronic mental disorder, meanwhile, became football’s larger question of the 1920s, the threat of permanent disease from impacts and jars. Boxing, pugilism, attracted glaring attention for medical allegations it caused brain damage, resulting in legal claims and defenses, but football was likewise suspected by people qualified to make the connection. At least one pair of researchers and a segment of NCAA coaches discussed possible neural disease among football players—before Dr. Harrison S. Martland released his milestone evidence of micro-hemorrhaging in brains of deceased boxers.

For years medical personnel had diagnosed disorder like traumatic insanity in football players, and “shell shock” since the World War. Doctors and football families linked suicide and crime to disease of brain trauma, testifying in cases of troubled players. “Punch drunk” or “slug nutty” commonly meant brain disorder in pugilists but the slang showed up elsewhere, around football in particular. A Brooklyn sportswriter described Syracuse linemen as “punch drunk and wavering” against Columbia in November of 1926, and famed columnist Grantland Rice ripped Harvard and Yale, football’s fading flagships, as “old timers who are now punch drunk.”

Drs. Michael Osnato and Vincent Giliberti discussed traumatic encephalitis in their 1927 article on post-concussion damage for Archives of Neurology & Psychiatry. The New York physicians concluded brain disease might manifest in “young men knocked out in football and other games,” announcing: “Our work shows that the structural factors in post-concussion neurosis have not received adequate attention.”

Awareness went mainstream in 1928, when Martland presented his findings of “punch drunk” in boxing and recommended investigation throughout contact sports for brain damage in athletes. The term sprang into popular lexicon, including for grist in comedy setups—“The Three Stooges [in] Punch Drunk!” News rhetoric from Washington relied on punch drunk allusions, discussing lawmakers and congressional bills paralyzed by politics.

Talk buzzed of punch-drunk football players, naturally, and apparently long had. “Notwithstanding that this condition has been known to boxing and football coaches for many years, it is only within the past year that the medical profession has seriously considered the matter,” wrote Dr. James W. Barton wrote for his syndicated newspaper column. Barton, a sport physician, continued:

As students we were taught that a “concussion” was just a shaking up of the brain. That it was as if you took the skull in your hands and gave the contents a “shake.” No injury followed it, because the bony case, the skull, was not injured. … Therefore we never gave concussion much thought, because, although there is a temporary loss of consciousness or a loss of memory, it soon clears away, and there is no apparent damage done.

However, Dr. H.S. Martland some months ago told us that in some of these cases the brain substance can be “bruised” just like other parts of the body, and this bruising results in the breaking of tiny blood vessels and discoloration just as in a bruise of the skin.

What is this knowledge going to mean to us?

It certainly does not mean that boxing, football or other sports should be abandoned, but where an athlete or a player in any kind of sport gets a bump, a blow, or a kick, and finds it results in a loss of memory, however short, he should keep away from that sport for a time, because it is the “repeated knocks,” coming at frequent intervals, that may finally unbalance the mind.

A doctor who refereed NCAA sports warned of “punch drunk” football players, speaking at a coaches gathering in Boston. Dr. Eddie O’Brien said:  “Every one of you high school football coaches should see to it that a doctor is on the field of play, ready to rule whether a lad hurt in a game should be removed or not. If the player is not steady on his legs and normal in his faculties, he should be removed from the game and given medical assistance until he has fully recovered from the blow that caused the trouble.”

The writer Damon Runyon remarked that many football players “wind up a little slug-nutty.” New York sports columnist W.O. McGeehan criticized a coach for returning a “punch drunk” player to action, when “the first thing he did was to toss a forward pass to one of the opponents.” Coach Knute Rockne joked in Collier’s about a “punch drunk” halfback at Notre Dame, unable to find his sideline after getting rocked in a game.

Legendary Irish player Jim Crowley, one of the Four Horsemen, spoke seriously in regard to traumatic brain injury. Crowley, head football coach at Michigan State, drew praise for limiting practice hits among his players during the week. “Give that same outfit three or four scrimmages and they’ll be punch drunk when a game comes around,” Crowley said.

Besides Coach Crowley and the referee-physician Dr. O’Brien, football produced no fresh thought for protecting the head and reducing TBI, despite casualty reports like fatalities grabbing spotlight, 29 deaths and higher in 1931. Helmets were brought up again as possible prevention, and so-called technique. Grantland Rice, the household name among columnists and a former Vanderbilt player, teamed with NFL star Benny Friedman to retread and promote “heads up” headless hitting.

Friedman blamed deaths on the players themselves, for “lacking of skill in blocking and tackling.” The Giants’ record-setting quarterback insisted players must finally accept and learn heads-up contact. “I have seen any number of tacklers and ball carriers drive in with their heads down instead of keeping their heads up,” Friedman said. “I have also seen considerable attempted blocking with the head and neck instead of shoulders or body.”

Rice, wordsmith of Four Horsemen grid myth, channeled Friedman’s “heads up” tips for millions of readers, writing in his syndicated column: Tackle with your head up… A ball carrier should keep the head up… Use shoulders, hips and body… know the proper way to block.

Yale coach and physician Dr. Marvin “Mal” Stevens endorsed head-up theory and shoulder tackling, but he banked on helmet tech to finally fulfill hope for stopping TBI in football. “It is well within the bounds of reason that within a short space of time football equipment can and will be materially improved, and we look forward confidently to the near future when vastly improved headgear will eliminate all serious head injuries,” Stevens co-wrote in his 1933 book, The Control of Football Injuries, with Yale surgeon Dr. Winthrop Morgan Phelps.

Yale’s MD coach would enter his own headgear in the ring, football’s everlasting helmet sweepstakes. Dr. Mal Stevens would develop his own prototype for the elusive anti-concussion helmet, and, in standard practice for coach inventors, test it on heads of his college players.

1930s: CTE Evidence, Debate Cast Football as Causal Suspect

New Jersey pathologist Dr. Harrison S. Martland committed to a prime scientific mission in the 1920s, for exposing an occupational hazard, but it was not brain damage in athletes. The unassuming Martland, coroner of Essex County across the Hudson from New York City, became internationally renowned for identifying radium poisoning in factory workers, hundreds of women. Martland documented and explained the toxic disease, leading to court settlements for the afflicted and industry regulation to save lives. Additionally, Martland was a pioneer of forensic medicine for crime-solving and helped found a school in the science at NYU.

Martland could not follow-up his 1928 “punch drunk” findings, leaving the disease state for others to quickly label traumatic encephalopathy, or TE. His method for full brain autopsy would not be replicated in the United States until the next century, unfortunately for head-injury victims like athletes, combat soldiers and battered women, generations to come.

The American sports of boxing and football did not embrace Martland research, ignoring two urgent research needs posed by the results: a) to determine prevalence of traumatic encephalopathy among deceased athletes, and b) to randomly measure cognitive deficits in living athletes through converging neuro-psychiatric assessment tools.

Boxing officials had already questioned existence of punch-drunk syndrome, for decades, and they responded strongly to Martland’s brain slides that spelled instant tempest for the sport. Prizefighting insiders claimed, led by heavyweight champs Jack Dempsey and Gene Tunney, that factors besides punches caused undeniable micro-hemorrhaging, later termed as tau deposition.  Insiders blamed child exploitation, poor training, “unscientific technique” and worn-out gloves for punch drunkenness, even falls to ring mats.

Boxing voices said low IQ could cause locomotor ataxia in boxers, or shuffling “fighter’s dance,” as could causal sins like alcohol, drugs, philandering—just not the sport itself. Seattle promoter Buddy Bishop declared bankers and bookkeepers faced same risk as boxers. “Dissipations and not punches bring a boxer to the ‘punch drunk’ stage,” Bishop said. “Bad liquor, later hours, unnatural habits and bad associates will make any person groggy in time. Boxers do not get ‘punch drunk’ from beatings.”

Football sidestepped epicenter of the TE debate and made no move toward disease studies of players. Many coaches and newsmen kept a humored perspective, joking about slug-nutty linemen, expressing nonchalance.

“These boys are getting punch-drunk from going up against bigger, tougher teams and so am I,” cracked Bob Zuppke, iconic coach and failed helmet inventor at University of Illinois. Washington columnist Shirley Povich practiced football-boxing hypocrisy dating to the 1880s, the act of condemning pugilism while extolling the gridiron; he depicted boxers as gladiatorial dupes but football players as swashbuckling, endearing “punch drunks.” And at Notre Dame, the football team’s ominous stockpiling of ammonia smelling salts for brain-blasted casualties got airy treatment in a wire report:

Irish Trainer Prepared For 1,440 “Knock Outs”

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP)—Eugene Young, Notre Dame trainer, is ready for a big football season.

Taught by experience, he has ordered a gross of boxes of inhalants, or 1,440 “smellers,” just about the quantity he needs to revive young gridders knocked unconscious on the gridiron. In the old days a bucket of water was all that was necessary.

But laughter had limits in the trustless Depression Era, including for the beloved gridiron institution. The game caught fallout over The Carnegie Report, corruption at colleges, and for player fatalities in schools and sandlots.

A special criticism materialized for traumatic brain injury and the question of disease potential in forward-colliding football. Medical experts, news writers and former players led a thorough public discussion, stamping the 1930s as another historic crisis for the game. Medical leaders were particularly versed in pertinent TBI literature, expert opinion and news information, perhaps in contrast to future personnel whose retro access would be restricted until electronic search of the 21st century.

Conventional doctors preceding World War Two, those unattached to sports medicine, deemed concussion or TBI of football unhealthy and potentially damaging. Specialists generally opposed rapid return to play for brain casualties in football, and some called for outlawing juvenile participation. A succession of MD newspaper columnists warned of football during the Thirties, such as Drs. William Brady, Morris Fishbein, Louis Berg, Logan Clendening and Irving S. Cutter.

Dr. Brady ripped juvenile play and enabler parents, along with characterizing schools as football churches that made pariahs of boys who resisted recruitment, indoctrination. And an anti-football administrator typically did nothing for fear of unemployment, Brady alleged. “Now, parents, all together: Down with high school football!” Brady proclaimed in his well-read column.

A key figure of football health debate was Dr. Fishbein, high-profile leader of the American Medical Association as national columnist and JAMA editor. Fishbein sounded the alert on concussion and potential damage of the collision game. “KEEP YOUR HELMET ON!” he preached to players, introducing a 1933 column for newspapers. Fishbein continued:

There have been far too many cases of concussion of the brain and even fracture of the skull in football to take a chance without adequate head protection. …

Most serious of all injuries are those affecting the brain and the skull. A concussion of the brain means that the brain tissue actually has been bruised, with possible small hemorrhages into the tissue.

The first sign of such injury is loss of memory for recent events. The least important sign is a slight dizziness. But coaches and trainers should not, however, be unimpressed when a player comes out of a sudden impact with another player merely slightly dizzy or dazed.

In a subsequent column, Dr. Fishbein observed: “Because the school or the team takes much of the responsibility for the football player, it should control the kind of medical attention that he receives. The man should not be permitted to consult the first charlatan at hand, but should be directed to proper medical care by those in charge of the team.”

Dr. Berg noted risk of brain disease in football and employed the medical term chronic encephalitis, or CE, for his column:

To many people the term “punch drunk” brings to mind a comic character weaving and boxing with an imaginary enemy the moment somebody sounds a bell behind him.

In truth it is an actual mental disorder—though not known scientifically under that name—brought on by repeated injuries to the blood vessels of the brain and the production of what is called chronic encephalitis.

It is a mistake to assume that this is a condition confined solely to ex-boxers. True the old-time fighter and in particular the preliminary boy, who risked his neck for a few dollars and the plaudits of the gallery, were the commonest exponents of this condition. But today one sees other victims of this disease due to punishment received about the head. Such a type is the football player who partakes in one game or one scrimmage too many. …

The mental symptoms of this disorder produced by minute hemorrhages in the brain, are a distortion of the faculties of attention, concentration and memory.

Dr. Clendening observed: “Punch drunk is an occupational disease. The victims have very marked personality changes… The condition is not confined to boxers, and may occur in football players or to anyone who receives a severe blow on the head.”

Medical literature and groups corroborated the MD columnists regarding brain injury, in communication often citing football.

“The increasing number of cases of trauma of the head [in society] presents a problem of major importance to all branches of the medical profession,” Drs. A.E. Bennett and H.B. Hunt wrote for Archives of Surgery journal in 1933, continuing:

There has been a marked therapeutic advance in the management of the severer types of acute injuries of the head in the past decade, owing to the increasing general knowledge of the diagnosis and treatment of cerebral edema and hemorrhage. Also, the surgical indications are fairly well agreed on by all authorities.

The milder degrees of cerebral trauma, which at the time of the accident are usually called cerebral concussion, representing types of injury to the brain without acutely increased intracranial pressure, with or without fracture of the skull, have not in our opinion received the study they deserve. In the past the results of treatment of this group of patients, in which there is a large number, have been unsatisfactory. A large percentage of the patients have residual complaints, and the question as to whether their complaints were on a psychogenic or an organic basis has not been clear.

Some of the patients show diffuse neurologic signs, mental symptoms, personality changes, palsies of the cranial nerves and bilateral findings, but no focal signs. These findings are not entirely attributable to cerebral edema, but are probably the result of multiple punctate hemorrhages throughout the brain tissue. This condition is a true type of traumatic encephalitis…

“Statistics show an appalling incidence of head trauma,” Drs. N.W. Winkelman and J.L. Eckel wrote for Archives of Neurology & Psychiatry in 1934, continuing:

The subject of the changes in the brain and the symptoms resulting from head injuries is coming to be most important in modern medicine. The courts are deluged with cases in which compensation and redress are sought because of claims of permanent sequelae as the result of alleged injuries to the brain. The subject is further complicated by the fact that neurologists and neurosurgeons are still at odds concerning the question of the organic or functional nature of many of the symptoms. The clinical evidences of brain trauma during the acute period require no lengthy descriptions.

Dr. Edward J. Carroll, Jr., who interviewed ring insiders for in his 1936 observational review of brain-injured boxers titled “Punch Drunk,” reported hearing of the condition among professional football players. Carroll wrote for American Journal of Medical Sciences:

There is a clinical syndrome of frequent occurrence among boxers, to which they refer as “punch-drunk,” “punchy,” “goofy,” “slap happy,” cutting paper dolls,” or “slug nutty.” Other terms might be applied, such as “traumatic dementia” or “traumatic encephalopathy,” but they are not nearly so appropriate and descriptive as the epithet “punch-drunk.” …

Although multiple punctate hemorrhages probably constitute the underlying pathologic change in punch-drunk, extensive degeneration might be explained even without reference to such vascular lesions. It is hardly possible that a blow which jars the brain sufficiently to cause loss of consciousness would not be followed by some tissue reaction, such as hyperemia and edema with effusion into the intracellular spaces, leading  to [metabolic] disturbances of nutrition and thus to impairment of function. An area with anatomic predilection to this type of injury is the midbrain. With a jar of the skull, the midbrain is forced against the sharp edge of the tentorium and bruised, resulting in edema and hyperemia. Following repeated insults to this region a gliosis may begin, and increase with each succeeding trauma. This scarring could result in a narrowing of the aqueduct, predisposing to the formation of an internal hydrocephalus with an increase in the intraventricular pressure and subsequent damage to the cortex.

Another explanation is the jarring of the brain by a blow results in the fracturing of cell processes. The unequal specific gravities of the gray and white matter give to them different degrees of acceleration in response to a force. This inequality of movement might cause a rupture of the neurons at the junction of the two tissues. The technical problems of demonstrating such minute lesions and differentiating them from artefacts leave this occurrence unproven.

Carroll’s study would stand seminal among the American literature on brain disease of sport and other trauma causes. He concluded:

Comment. It is probable that no head blow is taken with impunity, and that each knock-out causes definite and irreparable damage. If such trauma is repeated for a long enough period, it is inevitable that nerve cell insufficiency will develop ultimately, and the individual will become punch-drunk.

The cognizance and investigation of this condition by the medical profession would be a contribution to the neurologic and psychiatric study of traumatic disorders. But a higher end would be the education of the layman to the remote dangers incident to repeated minor head traumas. The occurrence of this type of degenerative brain change must be recognized and publicized rather than disregarded and discounted. It is especially important that athletes entering into competitions in which head injuries are frequent and knock-outs are common should realize that they are exposing themselves not only to immediate injury, but also to remote and more sinister effects.

Specialists of medical groups and journals logically correlated “punch drunk” with head-ramming football, particularly in Pennsylvania, where the state athletic commission screened for stricken boxers. “ ‘Traumatic encephalopathy’ is what the doctor would call it… Should not young men in boxing and football be watched more closely and be forbidden the sport at the first sign of punch-drunkenness?” posed Pittsburgh Medical Record editors. The Delaware County Medical Society intoned: “Young athletes, whether in boxing or football or whatever sport should be carefully guarded by their trainers against the cranium crunchers that lead to being punch drunk.”

News media, for their part, reported of football TBI and punch-drunk players at all levels of the game in the 1930s.

Hartford Courant sportswriters extended concern for a local Colgate graduate and grid star, Joe Bogdanski, urging him in print to forego professional football. “Joe’s fresh-faced, handsomely built, tawny-skinned with the glow of health, full of the vigor of youth,” they editorialized, “who wants to see him battered and ‘punch drunk’ like some of the best-known pro football players of today? We could mention a few names… but we won’t.” Bogdanski would not play pro football, going on instead to earn a law degree and serve as Chief Justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court.

Press accounts alleged that anonymous football players suffered brain disease like many boxers who were landing in courts and mental wards. The writer-artist Copeland C. Burg filed this 1934 analysis for The Chicago American:

CHICAGO, Oct. 6—Punch-drunk football players! Sure—there are lots of them.

Like punch-drunk prizefighters, they are goofy and wander around in the clouds most of the time.

But try and prove it!

We mean get some football coach or big player to talk about it for publication.

Nothing doing. When queried they look at you as though you were very punch-drunk yourself and walk away.

But off the record they will tell you plenty.

They will tell you that _________  _________, at one time one of the biggest backfield stars in America, is so punch drunk he goes around writing bum checks, forgetting important engagements and generally acting so strange and absent-minded that he has ruined his professional career. He’s punch-drunk.

They will tell that __________ _________, formerly a big eastern star, who thrilled the overflowing stands with long runs down the field, is about to be taken to an insane asylum. He’s harmless but more easily cared for at an institution than in the home of a relative. Another punch-drunk victim.

They will tell you strange stories about many great players and the central theme of these yarns is that the players did this and that because they got punch-drunk from blows received in football games.

In modern football, in addition to the bumps and swats received in authorized play, there is considerable old-fashioned, Marquis of Queensbury, punching and slugging as everyone knows.

High up in the stands a spectator can’t see much of these private boxing matches but players, coaches, and officials down on the field know that almost all games are marked by a score or more of good knockout punches, “sneaked” over during line plunges and other plays that give a chance to swat in the dark.

Kicking is another feature contributing to punch-drunk gridiron victims. Nearly every player gets kicked in the head by one of the enemy at least once or twice each season.

The writer talked to a former midwestern star about punch-drunk football players. This player was one of the best ever turned out in America. He admitted freely that many players were punch-drunk and never recovered from the effects of the blows they received on the gridiron. He named several big stars from leading colleges. He also named quite a few former college heroes, now professional football players.

Some of the yarns he told about those players were pretty wild.

In fact the writer was and is firmly convinced the man he was listening to was thoroughly punch-drunk himself.

In Georgia, The Albany Democrat-Herald declared athletes had but a shelf life in football and brain-battering sent many into premature decline, a brutal cause-and-effect scenario “apparent to laymen who have followed the game.” The editorial continued:

Football is a hard game. Those who play hardest at it are likely to be jarred into a condition similar to that which fighters and wrestlers undergo. They become what would be called in the ring “punch drunk.” This mental condition, together with the physical injuries which football players sustain, operate to slow men up as they become veterans. That is the probable explanation of a vast majority of anti-climaxed gridiron biographies.

Critics contended NCAA football should provide “scholarships,” medical coverage and pensions for players, given the profits for colleges and coaches. Scandal struck the University of North Carolina in 1937, revelations of illicit aid to football players, and The Daily Tar Heel editorialized against injuries and feigned amateurism, suggesting a professional club might be in order for campus. Editors co-wrote:

If we have to have football to let some boys work their way through school… abolish the “beating” they get in the game, and give them part of the $30,000 we collect in fees in the form of plain scholarships. The boys would have a much better chance to show themselves good students and worthy “persons as persons,” as the rules say, than they do now when you work them every day for five hours, take them out of school one sixth of the time… turn ‘em out in the end punch drunk or cracked up, and make ‘em lie about it, to boot. If you want to improve conditions, why don’t you set up a working hour-wage law for football, forbidding more than an hour-and-a-half practice every day. …

One more and probably the most honest suggestion: rent the stadium and the whole outfit to the alumni, let them put out a really first class ball club, professional and paid, under the name, if you will, of the UNC Alumni team. If the boys happen accidentally to want to take advantage of the educational opportunities here, splendid; let ‘em register with their preferred Dean.

News commentators kept hammering football as America approached its next great war. At autumn’s outset in 1939, a West Coast columnist remarked: “It is now football season and there will be about 12,000 college men playing this year for—for what? Getting knocked punch drunk to promote a billion-dollar business.”

The unattributed blurb, surfacing on an Opinion page in Van Nuys, perhaps was traceable to Oakland Tribune sports editor Art Cohn. Soon after, with football casualty reports piling up, Cohn panned the game’s “rotten racket in glamor and glorified insanity.” He wrote: “The football business cannot absolve itself… Football cannot even give its victims—or their bereaved—enough insurance to cover doctors’ bills and funeral expenses.”

1940: Plastic Helmet Panacea, Doctors Coin CTE Term

Football officials of the Thirties were not easily provoked by detractors whose complaints were muted amid cultural glorification of the game. The pro level was unorganized among circuits like the NFL and of marginal interest, anyway. The premier NCAA game was bureaucratic with leaders scattered at member schools, tough to corner individually on the macro issues, especially traumatic brain injury.

Many NCAA figures were coaches widely adored for winning, flanked by friendly media to defend them and the sport, such as counterattacking Frank Scully, a writer and former Columbia player with a leg amputation of injury infection. When Scully alleged college football was rife with brain disease, in his exposé published by Liberty magazine, ready scribes pounced to excoriate him as a vengeful liar.

The NCAA and coaches association stated nothing formally on the prospect of permanent brain damage for players. But officialdom finally gave ground over broadly defined concussion, conceding it was common problem for football, as conventional medicine had charged since the Victorian Era. “Concussion is a term which is used to describe a very definite injury,” observed football coach Dr. Mal Stevens, a forerunner of sports medicine, along with Yale surgeon Dr. Winthrop Phelps. The book co-authors continued:

It is the result of a blow on the head which is sufficiently hard to cause a period of temporary  disturbance [emphasis added] of the proper functioning of the brain. This is usually apparent either from a period of unconsciousness or may be seen in a period during which the player is dazed or unaware of what is going on. He may seem to continue to play normally but will not remember, afterwards, events which have occurred during a given period of time. This period of amnesia may last from a few minutes to a few hours. A mild concussion may often be determined by asking the player questions which require him to be closely in touch with his environment.

Stevens led official endorsement of sideline testing for concussion, a questions-based protocol appearing in the first NCAA medical handbook, 1933, then reputed to fully protect football players at programs like Yale. Stevens served one term as president of the American Football Coaches Association and chaired its injury committee longstanding, overseeing publication of recommendations for safer play following the 1937 season.

The AFCA list mostly recounted official talking points on brutality for 40 years, boilerplate football promises crafted by the late Walter Camp at olden Yale, including: preseason fitness examination for every player child and adult; quality facilities; protective equipment; constant injury monitoring by doctor and coach; proper training and technique; qualified instruction; and parental vigilance for player health. But the modern coaches posted progressive points, too, urging free injury care and heart screening for all players.

AFCA recommendation No. 6 addressed negligence of brain injury in football—extraordinarily for the time, profoundly for future context—while specifying a concussion threshold to avoid mortality in contact sport:

During the past seven years the practice has been too prevalent of allowing players to continue playing after a concussion. Again this year this is true. This can be checked at the time of the preseason medical examination by case history questions. A case in point is where no knowledge was had before the player’s death of a boy who suffered a previous concussion from a bicycle accident. Sports demanding personal contact should be eliminated after an individual has suffered one concussion.

No such health talk found way into NCAA football rules or other mandated policy through the Thirties. As in past crises, the committee tinkered with “unnecessary roughness” code to ban slapping and forearm strikes to the head, among modifications. Officials touted the “side” and “roll” tackles for safety, and coaching reemphasized that players must hit with head up and aside. Players were taught “scientific” falling and tumbling, how to tuck chins and roll on shoulders. And football officials promised safer helmets, as usual, touting a revolutionary technology.

Dr. Stevens saw moment to unveil his “concussion eliminator” helmet, pneumatic technology presumably improved from the faulty Spalding models in early century. Stevens, head football coach at NYU in 1939, tested the helmet on his players and reported “experiments have proved it highly successful.” The United Press parroted Stevens’ claim his model eliminated all TBI down to headaches, in a wire brief without noting independent validation. The Stevens helmet of thick rubber and air-cushions did not sell, however, particularly when plastic hard-shells were the rage.

Plastic helmets were football’s salvation, certain to stop brain injury in football, so went the popular assumption without scientific proof. John T. Riddell released his plastic models in 1940 with major press, emerging as the chosen football coach to reap helmet riches. State-of-the-art Riddell helmets adorned Northwestern players,  fully protecting them from head injury, according to the narrative. Soon he would join production forces with the U.S. military.

Nothing really changed, of course, for field danger that season. Football games and practices continued producing TBI incidents by the thousands, according to news reports available in electronic databases such as ProQuest and Newspapers.com. The year’s grid star was ramming fullback John Alec Kimbrough, Texas A&M, a spectacular “line ripper” of size and speed who amassed yardage in “his famed butting, diving, plunging and shouldering,” reported The Christian Science Monitor.

Also in 1940, a pair of psychiatrists coined the term chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. Drs. Karl M. Bowman and Abram Blau discussed CTE in a boxer’s case for their book chapter “Psychotic States Following Head and Brain Injury in Adults and Children.”

A year later Pearl Harbor was bombed, drawing the United States into World War Two, and horrific global conflict desensitized the American public for domestic issues like tackle football.

1962: Reselling Anti-Concussion Helmets and Heads Up

When Mal Stevens was a young head coach in college football, he dreamed of becoming rich. “If I had a million dollars,” Stevens would remark, “I’d buy me a professional football team and enjoy myself for the rest of my life by coaching it.”  Telling the story to a writer in 1960, Dr. Marvin A. “Mal” Stevens did not mention whether foil was his failure to engineer the golden anti-concussion football helmet. Besides, he still had not given up on the pneumatic model.

Dr. Stevens no longer coached football, having left the game following World War Two and his military service as orthopedic surgeon and medical adviser. In 1951 Stevens accepted the New York governor’s appointment to “help clean up boxing” by establishing a boxing medical board for the State Athletic Commission. Thus Stevens became recognized for leading American boxing’s campaign to attack and deny CTE findings back to Martland’s “punch drunk” study.

Stevens, the joint-and-bone specialist, living legend of sports medicine, still insisted concussion or traumatic brain injury was temporary, posing no risk of permanent damage. Citing his own brain studies of athletes, scoffing like so many of his colleagues in U.S. sport, Stevens dismissed neurological theory of repetitive, sub-concussive trauma as causal for disease.

“We just haven’t seen any punch-drunk fighters since I have been here, and we’ve been looking for them,” Stevens testified before New York legislators in 1962, adding his regret that “we don’t have boxing in every school and every town in the country.” Neurologist Dr. Abraham Rabiner, a boxing colleague of Stevens at the Albany hearings, testified that studies on repetitive blows and chronic encephalopathy amounted to junk science, “nonsense.”

Plastic football helmets had proven no panacea for preventing TBI, meanwhile, the addition of rigid facemasks notwithstanding. Riddell and other makers of hard headgear had succeeded in major sales over the decades since leathers, but danger of head-on brain injury was higher than ever in football—unnecessarily so, according to Dr. Stevens.

“The hard plastic helmets used today are worse than the ones we used 30 years ago. They ought to be outlawed,” Stevens commented in The Boston Globe. “Players can use their helmets as offensive weapons. The faceguards are worse.” Stevens believed his helmet of air-cushioned rubber had hope yet. “I don’t favor all this stuff that goes in front of the face,” he volunteered. “I think a player would be much better off with a well-fitted, soft and resilient helmet, without a faceguard. There’s been some experimentation with pneumatic helmets, but without much luck.”

Helmet rivalry aside, Stevens strongly advocated football and rejected revivalist criticism for juvenile participation, declaring the sport itself was not dangerous, only irresponsible individuals. “If you’re going to play the game, then you must accept the fact that there will be some injuries. But with proper supervision and good common sense, there is less risk in playing football than there is in driving to the game.”

He sounded like Walter Camp, revered “Father of Football” whom Stevens got to know as star Yale halfback in the early Twenties. During this 1962 interview Stevens repeated football’s time-trusted talking points, rhetoric as though fresh instead of rehash for gullible generations. The Boston student writers who interviewed Stevens, and Globe copy editors who laid out the Q&A page, headlined football as “Basically a Safe Game.”

They printed verbatim Stevens’ stock football lines about blocking and tackling, promising headless contact—often impossible in forward-colliding sport, particularly for modern bullet-head helmets.

“Teach the players to run with their heads up; block and tackle with their heads up,” Stevens said. “You can’t theorize on these things.”

Select References

The author stocks additional information in histories, medical literature and thousands of news texts,  among media, for this analysis. Also see ChaneysBlog news lines on Heads Up theory and football brain disease.

A Chicago. (1985, Nov. 18). A Chicago boy hurt. Chicago Inter Ocean, p.2.

A Conservative Medical. (1897, Nov. 20). ). [No headline or byline for stand-alone text in column.] Pittsburgh Daily Post, p.4.

A Few. (1892, Nov. 15). A few “pointers” on rugby foot ball. Iowa City Daily Citizen IA, p.3.

A Fifteen-Year-Old. (1891, Sept. 24). [No headline or byline for stand-alone text in column.] Salina Daily Republican KS, p.3.

A Game. (1892, Jan. 24). A one-sided game. San Francisco Chronicle, p.17.

A Headgear. (1915, Sept. 4). A new headgear. Fort Wayne Daily News IN, p.9.

A Lady. (1889, Nov. 9). A lady Admirer of high kicking. Wilkes-Barre Evening News PA, p.4

A Student. (1885, Nov. 12). A Harvard student fatally injured. Lebanon Daily News PA, p.1

Abramson, J. (1958, Dec. 1). Army beat Navy with muscle, and made a hard job of it. New York Herald Tribune, p.B2.

Action Against. (1926, March 20). Action against forward pass by rule committee. Alton Evening Telegraph IL, p.2.

“Ad” Insane. (1927, Sept. 6). “Ad” Wolgast, noted fighter, is insane. Bend Bulletin OR, p.1.

Al Drowns. (1930, July 7). Al Lassman of gridiron fame drowns. Logansport Pharos-Tribune IN, p.1.

Allentown Run. (1913, Feb. 2). Allentown High inter-class run. Allentown Democrat PA, p.6.

Amherst Plays. (1891, Oct. 8). Amherst plays a tie. New York Sun, p.4.

Archbishop Bans. (1909, Nov. 4). Archbishop bans football. Sedalia Democrat MO, p.7.

Armor For. (1900, Nov. 11). Armor for football. Chicago Inter Ocean, p.45.

Army Cancel. (1909, Nov. 1). Army will cancel its football engagements. Washington Post, p.8.

Army Engineers. (1894, Dec. 1). Army Engineers’ season closed. New York Times, p.7.

As Seen. (1892, Dec. 4). As seen by Mr. Camp. San Francisco Call, p.8.

At Recent Meeting. (1903, April 7). [No headline or byline for stand-alone text in column.] San Francisco Chronicle, p.6.

Athlete Insane. (1914, Dec. 2). Athlete becomes insane: Result of injury received in football game. Philadelphia Evening Public Ledger, p.13.

Athletic Notes. (1888, Oct. 24). Athletic notes. Philadelphia Times, p.7.

Barker, H.W. (1931, Dec. 30). Coaches look for reason in grid fatalities. Miami Daily News-Record OK, p.5.

Barton, J.W. (1929, May 7). Meaning of “punch drunk” is given explanation by physician: Science proves brain injured by hard blows. San Bernardino County Sun CA, p.6.

Baseball Dangerous. (1938, Oct. 4). Baseball and polo dangerous. Bloomington Pantagraph IL, p.10.

Becker, J. (1962, April 3). Frank Gifford returning to Giant football wars. Hazelton Standard-Speaker PA, p.24.

Bennett, A.E., & Hunt, H.B. (1933, March). Traumatic encephalitis: Case reports of so-called cerebral concussion with encephalographic findings. Archives of Surgery, 26 (3), pp.397-406.

Bentley, J. (1939, July 2). I may be wrong. Lincoln Star NE, p.11.

Berg, L. (1936, Nov. 25). Something On Your Mind. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.14.

Berkeley. (1893, Oct. 3). Berkeley. San Francisco Chronicle, p.10.

Blaik, E.H. (1960, Sept. 9). Earl Blaik provides “pointers.” Ogden Standard-Examiner UT, Sports p.1.

Bliven, L.F. (1962, Nov. 27). Knockout ban urged to halt boxing deaths. Syracuse Post-Standard NY, pp.1-6.

Blood Clots. (1928, Nov. 18). Blood clots make fighter punch drunk. Baltimore Sun, p.LT12.

Bob Martin. (1928, April 24). Bob Martin, boxer, losing life’s battle. Mount Carmel Item PA, p.3.

Boston Ban. (1909, Nov. 27). Boston may ban football. Columbus Republic IN, p.1.

Bowman, K.M., & Blau, A. (1940). Psychotic states following head and brain injury in adults and children. In Brock, S., ed., Injuries of the Skull, Brain and Spinal Cord: Neuropsychiatric, Surgical and Medico-Legal Aspects. Williams & Wilkins: Baltimore, MD.

Boxers Union. (1938, Feb. 14). Boxers union studies “punch drunk” victims. Canonsburg Daily Notes PA, p.2.

Boxing Weight. (1938, June 24). Boxing weight limits lifted. Baltimore Sun, p.17.

Boy Bandit. (1930, June 22). Boy bandit gets five years for $10 store robbery. Anniston Star AL, p.6.

Boyle, R. (1983, April 11). Too many punches, too little concern. Sports Illustrated, pp.44-67.

Brady, D. (2004). A Preliminary Investigation of Active and Retired NFL Players’ Knowledge of Concussions. Union Institute and University: Cincinnati, OH.

Brady, W. (1929, Feb. 1). Personal health service. Hartford Courant CT, p.10.

Brady, W. (1929, July 7). Sunday health talks. Atlanta Constitution, p. E20.

Brady, W. (1929, Oct. 25). Personal health service. Hartford Courant CT, p.10.

Brady, W. (1930, Nov. 18). Health talks. Atlanta Constitution, p.6.

Brady, W. (1931, Dec. 31). Health talks. Atlanta Constitution, p.6.

Brady, W. (1952, Nov. 27). Child football games cause injury, strain. Los Angeles Times, p.B8.

Brady, W. (1961, July 9). Dr. Brady’s health service. Anderson Herald IN, p.4.

Brain Specialist. (1931, Jan. 8). Brain specialist on strange case. Sedalia Democrat MO, p.4.

Brewer, A. (1945, Sept. 6). What’s Brewin’: Tackling. Naugatuk Daily News CT, p.6.

Brickley, C. (1921, Oct. 27). Brickley, in second article on rudiments of football, treats the art of tackling. St. Louis Post-Dispatch, p.36.

Bugle Calling. (1914, Oct. 18). Bugle calling horses to post will sound at Latonia to-day. Cincinnati Enquirer, p.41.

Burg, C.C. (1934, Oct. 7). Many great football players finish their careers punch drunk. Harrisburg Sunday Courier PA, p.3.

Burnett, A. (1932, Oct. 30). Dr. Marvin A. (Mal) Stevens, head coach of the Yale University football team and president of the American Football Coaches Association. Washington Post, p.MS3.

Busch’s Life. (1888, April 25). Inquiry to save Busch’s life. Chicago Inter Ocean, p.7.

Cal Poly. (1960, Sept. 23). Cal Poly slates new examinations after grid death. Reno Evening Gazette NV, p.6.

California Penn. (1924, Dec. 25). California and Penn teams use similar tactics. Oakland Tribune, p.24.

Camp, W. (1890). Foot-Ball Rules and Referee’s Book. American Intercollegiate Association. A.G. Spalding & Brothers: New York.

Camp, W. (1891, Oct. 10). The best way to win. Indianapolis News, p.11.

Camp, W. (1891, Nov. 29). On defensive play. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.12.

Camp, W. (1919, Oct. 18). Walter Camp’s inside football. Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, p.12

Camp, W., & DeLand, L.F. (1896). Foot Ball. Houghton,Mifflin and Company: Boston, New York.

Captain Out. (1893, Nov. 28). Harvard’s captain is out. Chicago Inter Ocean, p.8.

Carlson, C. (1961, Sept. 20). Doctor has scorn for bans on sports. Kansas City Times, p.9.

Carr, C.M. (1932, Nov. 15). Varsity squad put through fast session getting ready for Duke. Chapel Hill Daily Tar Heel NC, p.3.

Carroll, E.J. (1936). Punch drunk. American Journal of Medical Sciences, 191 (5), pp.706-712.

Changing Rules. (1925, Dec. 31). Changing grid rules. Altoona Tribune PA, p.8.

Chasing Pigskin. (1901, Sept. 30). Chasing the pigskin. Wilkes-Barre Evening News PA, p.5.

Chicago Medical. (1882, May 2). Chicago Medical Society. Chicago Daily Tribune, p.3.

City Football. (1909, Dec. 9). City school football dead. New York Sun, p.1.

Clendening, L. (1931, May 31). ‘Punch drunk’ state caused by head injury. Kingsport Times IN, p.7.

Clendening, L. (1936, June 9). Diet and health. Mason City Globe-Gazette IA., p.12.

Coach Heisman. (1903, Dec. 23). Coach Heisman asks changes. Atlanta Constitution, p.3.

Coaches Hint. (1961, Oct. 25). Coaches hint factor on grid deaths. Indiana Evening Gazette IN, p.22.

Coaches Propose. (1961, Oct. 13). Coaches propose safety study to reduce football fatalities. New York Times, p.46.

Coaches Safer. (1962, Jan. 11). Coaches’ unit outlines program at making football safer. Appleton Post-Crescent WI, p.C1.

Coaches See. (1935, Nov. 13). Coaches see lack of supervision as cause of deaths. Reading Times PA, p.13.

Cohn, A. (1936, Dec. 12). Cohn-ning tower. Oakland Tribune, p.9.

Cohn, A. (1939, Nov. 4). And that’s what they call ‘courage.’ Oakland Tribune, p.10.

College Boys. (1885, Nov. 2). College boys playing football. Wilkes-Barre Times PA, p.1.

College Foot-Ball. (1888, Dec. 1). College foot-ball. Chicago Inter Ocean, p.2.

Collingdale Leather. (1960, Jan. 15). Collingdale may shift to leather. Delaware Daily Times PA, p.16.

Comment Sports. (1909, Dec. 27). Comment on sports: Reform in football. New York Tribune, p.5.

Condones Habits. (1903, Feb. 12). Condones bad habits. Oakland Tribune, p.3.

Connett, W.C. (1906, Aug. 16). The roving forward; quarterback kick. St. Louis Post-Dispatch, p.14.

Crawford, F.W. (1944, Oct. 20). Cornhuskers and Jayhawkers in renewal of feud. Muscatine Journal and News Tribune IA, p.8.

Cunningham, B. (1939, December). Football not for my son. Cosmopolitan.

Currie, G. (1928, Oct. 14). Yale upsets Georgia while N.Y.U. and Columbia win. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.33.

Currie, G. (1928, Nov. 5). Would an Oberlander have brought victory to Dartmouth? Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.36.

Currie, G. (1932, Jan. 3). Year to see football in hands of men bent on reforming it. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.43.

Cutter, I.S. (1936, Sept. 24). Today’s health talk. Washington Post, p.XII.

Daley, A. (1960, Nov. 17). Sports of The Times. Warner County Observer PA, p.17.

Daley, G. (1936, Sept. 6). Sport talk. New York Herald Tribune, p.B2.

Daly, C.D. (1920, Oct. 10). Good team work depends on correct position play. Boston Daily Globe, p.F6.

Davis, P.H. (1911). Football: The American Intercollegiate Game. Charles Scribner’s Sons: New York.

Days Numbered. (1909, Nov. 16). Days of flying tackle are numbered; cause of many fatalities. New Castle Herald PA, p.5.

Deals Blow. (1905, Nov. 7). Deals a blow to football: Jury that investigates the death of young player says game is demoralizing. San Francisco Call, p.7.

Death Tackler. (1897, Oct. 27). Death was the tackler. New York World, p.5.

Decker Brothers. (1940, Oct. 1). Sporting tops war interest, guns increase. Mason City Globe-Gazette, p.42.

Definition Sought. (1937, Feb. 28). Definition sought for ‘punch drunk’ in court battle. Atlanta Constitution, p.2B.

Detroit Teaches. (1933, Oct. 4). Detroit teaches players to tackle high. Tyrone Daily Herald PA, p.7.

Dietzel, P.F. (1962, Sept. 7). Good, solid tackles give many thrills. Stroudsburg Pocono Record PA, p.13.

Dillingham, J.B. (1937, Sept. 30). Frank Scully knows bed-pans but doesn’t know football players. Columbia Daily Spectator NY, p.2.

Dispute Game. (1885, Nov. 1). Dispute over a foot-ball game. Philadelphia Times, p.2.

Doctor Advocates. (1938, March 2). Doctor advocates abolition of boxing as college sport. Corsicana Daily Sun TX, p.8.

Doctor Favors. (1961, Nov. 4). Doctor favors dropping face masks from football helmets. Appleton Post-Crescent WI, p.8.

Doctors Condemn. (1962, Oct. 3). Doctors condemn helmet blocks. Odessa American TX, p.36.

Doctors Sport. (1960, Dec. 12). Doctors on sport. Time, 76 (24), pp.72,75.

Dr. Martland. (1954, May 2). Dr. Martland dies; radium pathologist. New York Herald Tribune, p.66.

Dr. Stevens. (1932, Oct. 30). Dr. Marvin A. (Mal) Stevens, head coach of the Yale University football team. Washington Post, p.MS3.

Eastern Officials. (1925, Dec. 28). Eastern football officials to seek revision of rules. Springfield Leader MO, p.6.

Eckersall, W. (1922, Sept. 12). Tackling art needs coaches’ attention. Chicago Daily Tribune, p.22.

Edgren, R. (1919, June 13). Champion weighs 252 pounds after grueling workout. St. Louis Post-Dispatch MO, p.21.

Effie’s Effusions. (1928, Jan. 24). Effie’s effusions. Wilkes-Barre Evening News PA, p.19.

Erichsen, J.E. (1866). Injuries of the Nervous System: On Railway and Other Injuries of the Nervous System. In Brand, R.A., ed. (2007, May) Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research, 458, pp.47-51.

Evans, R.W. (1994). The postconcussion syndrome: 130 years of controversy. Seminars in Neurology, 14, pp.32-39.

Excerpts Letters. (1937, Sept. 12). Excerpts from our letters. Washington Post, p.B9.

Explaining Failure. (1937, Oct. 17). Explaining failure of boxers’ memories. Baltimore Sun, p.SH10.

Fair Harvard. (1888, Nov. 18). Fair Harvard is humbled. Chicago Inter Ocean, p.2.

Fauver, E., Thorndike, A., & Raycroft, J.E. (1933, July). National Collegiate Athletic Association Medical Handbook for Schools and Colleges. Princeton University Press: Princeton, NJ.

Fight Game. (1927, July 24). Fight game beneficial to boxers, asserts Brombe. Hartford Courant CT, p.5B.

Fighters Not. (1932, June 5). Fighters are not alone in being ‘punch drunk.’ Hartford Courant CT, p.C5.

Fighting For. (1928, May 17). Fighting for his life. Roseburg News-Review OR, p.10.

First Death. (1924, Sept. 12). First football death recorded. Bismarck Tribune ND, p.8.

Fishbein, M. (1927, Aug. 29). Your health. Reading Times PA, p.6.

Fishbein, M. (1928, Oct. 25). Brain often injured by punches in prize ring. Franklin News-Herald PA, p.9.

Fishbein, M. (1933, Oct. 10). Six rules for safety—medical authorities on athletics set down requirements to guard against injuries in fall sports. Bradford Evening Daily Record PA, p.2.

Fishbein, M. (1933, Oct. 19). Daily hints on health. Manitowac Herald-Times WI, p.5.

Fishbein, M. (1934, Sept. 23). Guard gridsters against injuries from bruises. Brownsville Herald TX, p.4.

Fishbein, M. (1939, Sept. 21). Coaches should watch for concussion, tape ankles, knees of grid players. Manitowoc Herald-Times WI, p.4.

Fishbein, M. (1940, Feb. 21). Internal effect of head blow is a puzzle to medical profession. Wilkes-Barre Evening News PA, p.10.

Fodder Box. (1932, Nov. 27). Fodder for sports from the press box. Bluefield Daily Telegraph WV, p.9.

Foot Ball. (1886, Dec. 5). Foot ball. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.1.

Foot Ball. (1887, Nov. 13). Foot-ball. Chicago Daily Tribune, p.14.

Foot Ball. (1888, Dec. 2). Foot-ball. Chicago Inter Ocean, p.2.

Foot Ball. (1890, Dec. 3). Foot-ball vs. prize-fighting. St. Louis Post-Dispatch, p.10.

Foot Ball. (1895, Sept. 26). Foot ball and prize fighting, Greenville Record-Argus PA, p.4.

Foot Ball. (1901, Nov. 14). Foot-ball. Philadelphia Times, p.12.

Foot-Ball’s Victim. (1896, Nov. 19). Foot-ball’s victim. Lawrence Weekly World KS, p.5.

Football. (1902, Oct. 30). Football. Vancouver Daily World, British Columbia, Canada.

Football. (1910, Sept. 17). Football. Coshocton Daily Age OH, p.7.

Football Armor. (1897, Oct. 3). Football armor: Changes in the devices for players this year. Chicago Daily Tribune, p.38.

Football Armor. (1899, Dec. 21). Football armor. Marion Crittenden Press KY, p.6.

Football Changed. (1888, May 7). Football rules changed. New York Times, p.1.

Football Crippler. (1939, Nov. 9). Football is a crippler. Whitewright Sun TX, p.4.

Football Dangerous. (1908, Oct. 28). Football dangerous, as record shows. Salt Lake Tribune, p.11.

Football Death. (1895, Dec. 5). Football causes death. Belle Plaine News KS, p.2.

Football Factor. (1911, Jan. 31). Football factor for evil. Syracuse Post-Standard NY, p.10.

Football Fight. (1905, Feb. 2). Football is a fight, says President Eliot. New York Times, p.6.

Football Games. (1892, March 6). Football games: Plenty of blood spilled at Central Park. San Francisco Chronicle, p.17.

Football Headgear. (1903, Aug. 17). Foot ball players head gear. Mount Carmel Daily News PA, p.1.

Football Hurt. (1901, Sept. 28). Football player hurt at Stanford. San Francisco Chronicle, p.4.

Football Injuries. (1894, May 8). Football injuries. New York Tribune, p.4.

Football Injury. (1915, Dec. 6). Football injury may have been responsible: Raymond E. Yerger, former high school athlete, a suicide in state hospital. Allentown Democrat PA, p.5.

Football Killed. (1914, Oct. 13). Football player killed. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.14.

Football List. (1926, Dec. 9). Football list deaths smaller. Whitewright Sun TX, p.6.

Football Menace. (1910, Jan. 12). Football menace is diving tackle, says expert. Monongahela Daily Republican PA, p.3.

Football Notes. (1893, Nov. 8). Football notes. Topeka Daily Capital KS, p.4.

Football Rules. (1912, Sept. 23). Football rules for 1912. Greensboro Daily News NC, p.2.

Football Squad. (1913, Oct. 9). Football squad has first workout of season. Winston-Salem Journal NC, p.7.

For Safer. (1910, Jan. 26). For safer football. Washington Herald DC, p.8.

Forced Quit. (1909, Nov. 18). Forced to quit school. Newport Miner WA, p.8.

Fordham Star. (1931, Dec. 3). Fordham star dies of hurts and sets sports-loving fans wondering of aftermath. Danville Bee VA, p.8.

Former Star. (1928, Nov. 30). Former Yale star beats up his wife. Helena Independent Record MT, p.1.

Fraley, O. (1961, Oct. 30). Manufacturer defends plastic grid helmet. Redlands Daily Facts CA, p.9.

Frank, N. (1934, Dec. 29). It just occurred to me. Harrisburg Telegraph PA, p.8.

Frank Scully. (1937, Sept. 30). Frank Scully gives inside dope. Wilkes-Barre Evening News PA, p.28.

Friedman Safety. (1934, April 27). Friedman for safety. New York Times, p.28.

Geary, M.J. (1892, Dec. 4). Seen by a novice. San Francisco Call, p.8.

Gemmell, R. (1939, March 31). Sport sparks. Oregon Statesman, p.17.

Georgia Tech. (1929, Jan. 2). Georgia Tech wins national title by defeating California: Was Riegels punch-drunk when he made that weird run? Portsmouth Daily Times OH, p.12.

Getty, F. (1928, April 14). Sportsmatter. Klamath News OR, p.2.

Goals Touchdowns. (1890, Nov. 2). Goals and touchdowns. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.8.

Gold Triumphs. (1911, Dec. 1). Gold and black triumphs over Sewanee purple. Nashville Tennessean and Nashville American, p.1.

Goss Coach. (1904, Oct. 10). Goss to coach. Minneapolis Journal, p.14.

Got Craze. (1914, Dec. 9). Got murder craze from gridiron kick. Greenwood Daily Journal SC, p.5.

Gould, A. (1930, Jan. 28). Sports slants. Miami Daily News-Record OK, p.5.

Government Study. (1936, April 27). Government to make study of punch drunks [London]. Big Spring Daily Herald TX, p.8

Government Waste. (1936, May 26). Government waste held ‘punch-drunk.’ Ogden Standard-Examiner UT, p.10.

Graves, E. (1921, Oct. 2). The line’s the thing, says Maj. Graves. Boston Daily Globe, p.E5.

Grid News. (1933, Oct. 17). Grid news and views from B.H.S. Blytheville Courier News AR, p.6.

Grid Elbow. (1962, Jan. 8). Grid elbow big weapon. Brandon Sun, Manitoba, Canada, p.9.

Gridder Recovering. (1919, Oct. 2). Gridder recovering. Pittsburgh Daily Post, p.14.

Gridder Saved. (1942, April 21). Gridder saved by plastic helmet. New Philadelphia Daily Times OH, p.5.

Gridiron Gossip. (1906, Sept. 30). Gridiron gossip. Washington Post, p.3.

Griffen, C.R. (1933, Jan. 31). Daily cross-word puzzle. New York Herald Tribune, p.31.

Grist Mill. (1934, Dec. 19). Grist From The sports mill. Hartford Courant CT, p.16.

Guardian For. (1917, April 3). Guardian for Wolgast. Wichita Beacon KS, p.7.

Guidry, B. (1960, Aug. 7). Racing helmets on Hobbs gridiron? Hobbs Daily News-Sun NM, p.7.

Hailey, A. (1939, Sept. 10). Boxing leaders plan knockout blows against fight game’s evils. Washington Post, p.B7.

Hailey, F. (1934, Dec. 28). Challenge to reduce football casualties issued by professor. Salem Daily Capital Journal OR, p.9.

Hand, J. (1955, June 10). New York physician calls other sports tougher than boxing. Escanaba Daily Press MI, p.12.

Harness Football. (1900, Nov. 12). Harness in football, Fort Wayne Daily News IN, p.8.

Harrison, E.A. (2014, May). The first concussion crisis: Head injury and evidence in early American football. American Journal of Public Health, 104 (5), pp.822-33.

Harry Forbes. (Nov. 4, 1919). Harry Forbes says healer will help him. Bloomington Pantagraph IL, p.15.

Harvard Expected. (1928, Nov. 24). Harvard expected to take important game in New England today. Coshocton Tribune OH, p.6.

Harvard Jolted. (1911, Nov. 12). Harvard is jolted by the Carlisle Indians. Pittsburgh Daily Post, p.18.

Harvard Student. (1885, Nov. 12). A Harvard student fatally injured. Lebanon Daily News PA, p.1.

Harvard Students. (1895, Feb. 21). Harvard students angry. New York World, p.6.

Harvard’s Team. (1892, Nov. 20). Harvard’s football team beaten six to nothing. New York Herald, p.1.

Head Blocking. (1962, Oct. 24). Head blocking under scrutiny. Beckley Post-Herald WV, p.2.

Head-On Collision. (1933, Sept. 28). Head-on collision results in grid death in East. Fresno Bee Republican CA, p.30.

Headgear Report. (1962, May 22). Headgear report is made public. Gettysburg Times PA, p.5.

Health Hygiene. (1936, Nov. 9). Health and hygiene: Football and head injuries. Sault Marie Evening News MI, p.4.

Henry, B. (1924, Nov. 2). California Bears rout Trojans in sensational battle. Los Angeles Times, p.A1.

Herald Class. (1935, Aug. 11). Herald Tribune football class to hear Little explain defense: Columbia coach to lecture on unique style of line play, blocking, tackling. New York Herald Tribune, p.B5.

Hilton, M. (1958, Nov. 4). Protest jumping on University Trojan coach [LTE]. Waco News-Herald TX, p.4.

Hitting Line. (1923, Sept. 13). Football lessons, hitting the line. Decatur Herald IL, p.16.

Hollingworth, F. (1963, April 11). Sports merry-go-round: Doctors argue on boxing! Long Beach Independent CA, p.39.

Homicidal From. (1914, Dec. 6). Homicidal from football. Washington Post, p.19.

How Played. (1887, Nov. 25). How it is played. Fitchburg Sentinel MA, p.4.

How Won. (1891, Nov. 27). How the game was won. New York Times, p.2.

Hughes, E. (1931, Oct. 18). Those ‘punch drunk’ scrimmagers. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.31.

Hughes, E. (1936, March 27). Punch-drunks. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.28.

Hughes, E. (1937, April 12). “On account of repeated beatings.” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.18.

Humble Cornell. (1899, Oct. 15). Humble Cornell’s pride. Chicago Daily Tribune.

Hurt Memory. (1900, Nov. 13). Hurt at football, lost memory. Pittsburgh Daily Post, p.6.

Husband Slays. (1933, Sept. 25). Husband slays wife. Kingsport Times TN, p.3.

Hyman, H.T. (1961, Jan. 3). The doctor talks about: Head injury. Troy Record NY, p.6.

Indiana Drill. (1910, June 9). Indiana drill shows new football rough. Indianapolis News, p.12.

Indiana News. (1917, Jan. 31). Indiana news in brief. Indianapolis News, p.15.

Indians Good. (1895, Nov. 29). Indians play good football. New York Times, p.6.

Indians Practice. (1899, Dec. 13). Indians practice on Folsom Street field. San Francisco Chronicle, p.14.

Ingram, B. (1935, Oct. 30). As I was saying. El Paso Herald-Post TX.

Injured Gridder. (1937, Oct. 26). Injured gridder to play. Fresno Bee CA, p.10.

Inquiry Save. (1888, April 25). Inquiry to save Busch’s life. Chicago Inter Ocean, p.7.

Inter Collegiate. (1887, March 27). Inter-college foot-ball. Philadelphia Times, p.2.

Intercollegiate Foot-Ball. (1889, March 21). Intercollegiate foot-ball. Chicago Inter Ocean, p.2.

Interest Football. (1889, Nov. 30). Interest in foot-ball. Chicago Inter Ocean, p.4.

Investigation Proves. (1909, Dec. 26). Investigation proves injuries in football have been exaggerated. Chicago Inter Ocean.

Iola Theatre. (1934, Aug. 2). The Three Stooges “Punch Drunk” [advertisement]. Iola Register KS, p.8.

Irish Prepared. (1933, Sept. 1). Irish trainer prepared for 1,440 “knock outs.” Rushville Republican IN, p.3.

Is Football? (1894, Dec. 13). Is football too brutal to play? Winnipeg Tribune, Manitoba, Canada, p.2.

It Was. (1889, Nov. 29). It was a hard fought contest. Chicago Daily Tribune, p.2.

It’s Dementia. (1938, Jan. 16). It’s ‘dementia pugilistica’ and not ‘punch drunk.’ New York Times, p.67.

Jab, J. (1911, April 14). Fistic foibles. Pittsburgh Press, p.27.

JAMA. (1906, Jan. 13). Surgical aspects of football [editorial]. Journal of the American Medical Association, 46 (2), pp.122-23.

Johnston, A. (1887, October). The American game of football. The Century Illustrated Magazine Monthly Magazine, 34 (6).

Keane, A.W. (1931, July 11). Calling ’em right. Hartford Courant CT, p.12.

Keane, A.W. (1934, Jan. 26). Calling ’em right. Hartford Courant CT, p.16.

Keane, A.W. (1938, June 1). Calling ’em right. Hartford Courant CT, p.11.

Kegg, J.S. (1962, Feb. 6). Tapping the sports Kegg. Cumberland Evening Times MD, p.10.

Kemble, R.P. (1937, Feb. 10). Odds and ends. Mount Carmel Item PA, p.2.

Kicking Foot Ball. (1892, Oct. 24). Kicking the foot ball. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.8.

Kiernan, J. (1933, Feb. 12). Sport of the times. New York Times, p.54.

Kilbane, J. (1939, July 16). “Let’s make them right.” Los Angeles Times, p.13.

Knute Knows. (1930, Dec. 23). Knute knows best. Hamilton Journal News OH, p.6.

Laid Rest. (1915, Dec. 10). Laid to rest. Allentown Leader PA, p.6.

Lake Forest. (1899, Oct. 22). Lake Forest player is injured. Chicago Daily Tribune, p.22.

Latest Football. (1940, Oct. 16). Latest in football fashion [photo cutline]. Chapel Hill Daily Tar Heel NC, p.3.

Laugh At. (1894, Feb. 10). Laugh at the anti-football bill. New York World, p.6.

Lee, B. (1945, Dec. 1). Will malice toward none. Hartford Courant CT, p.9.

Lewis, G.M. (1965). The American Intercollegiate Football Spectacle, 1869-1917. University of Maryland: College Park.

Like Knights. (1937, Oct. 25). Like knights of old. Mount Carmel Item PA, p.5.

Linthicum, J.A. (1932, Aug. 7). Ring and rasslin’ racket. Baltimore Sun, p.S5.

Little Mike. (1909, Nov. 7). Little Mike Walker is one of the smallest coaches, and likewise one of the quietest. St. Louis Post-Dispatch, p.2S.

Local Football. (1920, Nov. 20). Local football team will have hard week. Richmond Times-Dispatch, p.3.

Local Wise. (1895, Oct. 3). Local and other-wise. Fayette County Leader IA, p.8.

Locals Walk. (1917, Sept. 30). Locals walk away from Tuscola High, 37 to 13. Decatur Herald IL, p.8

Lockwood, P.E. (1926, Nov. 26). Hanson’s field day is Lions’ doomsday. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.26.

Lost Points. (1892, Oct. 30). Lost by two points. Chicago Daily Tribune, p.6.

Magazines. (1885, Aug. 13). Magazines. Washington National Tribune DC, p.8.

Mal Stevens. (1951, Nov. 17). Mal Stevens to head N.Y. boxing board. Decatur Herald IL, p.4.

Mal Stevens. (1962, Sept. 9). Mal Stevens sees night football boosting injuries: It’s basically a safe game. Boston Globe, p.A44.

Many Changes. (1910, Jan. 9). Many changes suggested in football rules by former college players. Pittsburgh Daily Post, p.17.

Maroons Arrive. (1898, Oct. 31). Maroons arrive today. Chicago Daily Tribune, p.4.

Marsh, I.T. (1952, Nov. 21). College viewpoint. New York Herald Tribune, p.24.

Martland, H.S. (1928, Oct. 13). Punch drunk. Journal of the American Medical Association, 91 (15), pp.1103-07.

Martland Retires. (1953, Nov. 26). ‘Medical Sherlock Holmes’: Martland, radiation expert, retires as Essex examiner. New York Herald Tribune, p.16.

McCormack, P. (1960, Aug. 21). Medics decry athletics. Los Angeles Times, p.K10.

McGeehan, W.O. (1929, Jan. 29). The strenuous game. New York Herald Tribune, p.25.

McGeehan, W.O. (1929, Nov. 26). And so it goes. New York Herald Tribune, p.38.

McGeehan, W.O. (1932, Aug. 23). Down the line. New York Herald Tribune, p.19.

McGill, R. (1932, Feb. 16). Break of the day! Atlanta Constitution, p.10.

McIntyre, G.R. (1932, Nov. 10). Chaff’n chatterR. Appleton Post-Crescent WI, p.13.

Medical Notes. (1887, April 7). Medical notes. Abilene Weekly Reflector KS, p.6.

Memorable Day. (1910, June 22). Memorable day for Allentown H.S. graduates. Allentown Democrat PA, pp.1-7.

Menke, F.C. (1926, Oct. 26). Will to win gets outstanding call on football field. Charleston Gazette WV, p.8.

Mental Test. (1939, Dec. 28). Boxing solon suspends 81 fighters: Mental test may bar punch drunk fighters. Wilkes-Barre Evening News PA, p.18.

Mentally Deranged. (1914, Dec. 1). Mentally deranged result of injury. Allentown Leader PA, p.1.

Metzger, S. (1925, Oct. 5). Football secrets. Boston Daily Globe, p.6.

Metzger, S. (1925, Oct. 31). Football secrets. Boston Daily Globe, p.12.

Midshipmen Wilson. (1909, Nov. 1). Midshipmen Wilson dying from football injuries. Atlanta Constitution, p.6.

Might Bowl. (1960, Nov. 8). Might have Bowl here. Lubbock Avalanche-Journal TX, p.27.

Millard, H. (1935, Oct. 9). Bait and bugs. Decatur Daily Review IL, p.20.

Mitten Pastime. (1924, Nov. 4). Mitten pastime in tangled mess. Lincoln Star NE, p.10.

Montenigro, P.H., Corp, D.T., Stein, T.D., Cantu, R.C., & Stern, R.A. (2015, March). Chronic traumatic encephalopathy: Historical origins and current perspective. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 11, pp.309-30.

Mooney, J. (1959, May 27). Sports mirror. Salt Lake Tribune, p.13.

Morrison, T. (1961, Jan. 8). On the sidelines. Idaho State Journal, p.11.

Mr. Walter Camp. (1890, Nov. 29). [No headline or byline for stand-alone text in column.] Winnipeg Tribune, Manitoba, Canada, p.4.

Mulling Athletics. (1937, Nov. 18). Mulling over athletics. Chapel Hill Daily Tar Heel NC, p.2.

Murray, T. (1958, Oct. 22). Gulf Coast sports. La Marque Times TX, p.8.

New Armor. (1903, Aug. 10). New football armor. York Daily PA, p.4.

New Blocking. (1958, Sept. 14). New blocking rule may result in raft of shoulder injuries. Terre Haute Tribune IN, p.34.

New Football. (1903, Aug. 8). New football devices. St. Louis Post-Dispatch, p.29.

New Gridiron. (1912, Feb. 18). New gridiron game is just Yale’s kind. Anaconda Standard MT, p.23.

New Helmet. (1943, July 2). New helmet is much better. Cumberland News MD, p.4.

New Rules. (1887, Oct. 29). New foot-ball rules. St. Louis Post-Dispatch, p.8.

New Rules. (1910, April 9). New football rules make safer game. Winfield Daily Press KS, p.7.

News Day. (1939, Sept. 28). News of the day. Van Nuys News CA, p.6.

Nichols, E.H., & Smith, H.B. (1906, Jan. 4). The physical aspect of American football. Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, 154 (1), pp.1-8.

No Mollycoddles. (1907, Feb. 24). No mollycoddles, says Roosevelt. New York Times, p.1.

No More. (1883, Nov. 23). No more football at Harvard. New York Times, p.1.

Notes From. (1939, Nov. 7). Notes from a football pressbox. Logansport Pharos-Tribune IN, p.2.

O’Brien, J. (1938, Dec. 1). Canonsburg cannonades. Canonsburg Daily Notes PA, p.8.

Of Interest. (1893, Aug. 10). Of interest to athletes. Leavenworth Weekly Times KS, p.5.

Office Wife. (1938, Dec. 18). ‘Office wife’ was punch drunk when she slew. Atlanta Constitution, p.16A.

Official Doctor. (1929, Feb. 8). Official urges doctor on every gridiron. New York Times, p.25.

Old Harvard. (1898, Jan. 27). Old Harvard’s place. Boston Daily Globe, p.1.

Old Nassau. (1893, Nov. 5). Old Nassau won. New York World, p.12.

Old No. 39. (1940, Nov. 20). Old No. 39 has one more official ‘run’ to make. Christian Science Monitor, p.15.

O’Hara, B. (1908, Jan. 12). Lightweights in limelight now. Detroit Free Press, p.15.

On Field. (1890, Nov. 16). On the football field. New York Tribune, p.16.

On Gridiron. (1894, Nov. 11). On the gridiron. Salt Lake Herald UT, p.8.

On Screen. (1932, July 18). On the screen. New York Herald Tribune, p.8.

Oriard, M. (1993). Reading Football: How the Popular Press Created an American Spectacle. University of North Carolina Press: Chapel Hill, NC.

Oriard, M. (2001). King Football: Sport & Spectacle in the Golden Age of Radio & Newsreels, Movies & Magazines, The Weekly & The Daily Press. University of North Carolina Press: Chapel Hill, NC.

Osnato, M. (1929, May 14-17). The Role of Trauma in Various Neuropsychiatric Conditions. Presentation for American Psychiatric Association, Atlanta, GA.

Osnato, M., & Giliberti, V. (1927, March). Postconcussion neurosis-traumatic encephalitis: A conception of postconcussion phenomena. Archives and Neurology & Psychiatry, 18 (2), pp.181-214.

Osteopath Tells. (1915, Jan. 30). Osteopath tells of clouded minds cleared by relieving nerve pressure. Fort Scott Daily Monitor KS, p.8.

Paragraphic Punches. (1897, Nov. 24). Paragraphic punches. Chicago Inter Ocean, p.6.

Paragraphs Films. (1936, May 31). Paragraphs on Brooklyn films. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.41.

Parrot, H.E. (1931, Dec. 9). Poor conditioning cause of epidemic of football injuries, says trainer. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.25.

Parson-Boxer. (1929, Feb. 7). Parson-Boxer wanted to throw wife out of window: Punch-drunk. Portsmouth Daily Times OH, p.16.

Payne, C.H. (1893, Jan. 11). The morals of intercollegiate games. Raleigh Christian Advocate NC, p.1.

Pearce, J.M.S. (2008, February). Observations on concussion: A review. European Neurology, 59 (3-4), pp.113-119.

Peck, T. (1936, Oct. 31). Michigan will meet Illinois. Escanaba Daily Press MI, p.16.

Pennsylvania Favors. (1893, Dec. 10). Pennsylvania favors a change. New York World, p.12.

Pennsylvania Legislature. (1897, Feb. 26). Pennsylvania legislature. New Bethlehem Vindicator PA, p.8.

People Events. (1895, Feb. 14). People and events. Chicago Inter Ocean, p.6.

Perry, L. (1929, Feb. 18). For the game’s sake. Altoona Mirror PA, p.15.

Pigskin Pickings. (1933, Oct. 13). Pigskin pickings. San Bernardino County Sun CA, p.18.

Pitcher Morris. (1887, Oct. 16). Pitcher Morris severely injured. Chicago Daily Tribune, p.13.

Plastic Helmet. (1940, Nov. 3). Plastic football helmet used by Northwestern. Kingsport Times TN, p.7.

Plumb, R.K. (1960, June 22). Neurosurgeons study knockout physiology. New York Times, p.38.

Polakoff, J. (1935, Oct. 24). Polley’s chatter. Scranton Republican PA, p.16.

Post Mortems. (1932, Dec. 28). Post mortems. Washington Post, p.11.

Povich, S. (1937, Jan. 11). This morning… with Shirley Povich. Washington Post, p.14.

Povich, S. (1937, Oct. 20). At the free lunch for overgrown kids. Washington Post, p.19.

Pratt Drops. (1906, Oct. 26). Pratt drops football because of danger. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.1.

Present Rules. (1926, Jan. 2). Present football rules are satisfactory in opinion of the Football Coaches Ass’n. Bryan Eagle TX, p.3.

President’s Day. (1907, Feb. 24). President’s busy day in Boston and in Cambridge. Boston Daily Globe, p.1.

Press Box. (1926, Nov. 10). The press box. Bluefield Daily Telegraph WV.

Princeton Re-Enforced. (1893, Nov. 20). Princeton is well re-enforced. Chicago Inter Ocean, p.4.

Princeton Wins. (1886, Nov. 14). Princeton wins again. New York Sun, p.2.

Princeton’s Opening. (1889, Oct. 6). Philadelphia Times, p.3.

Princeton’s Protest. (1887, Nov. 18). Princeton’s foot-ball protest. Philadelphia Times, p.1.

Pringle Over. (1898, Nov. 25). Pringle went over line for a touchdown for the University of California. San Francisco Call, p.2.

Proceedings AFCA. (1937, Dec. 29). Proceedings of the Seventeenth Annual Meeting of the American Football Coaches Association. AFCA.

Protesting Football. (1893, Dec. 1). Protesting against football. Allentown Leader PA, p.4.

Punch Drunk. (1928, Oct. 22). ‘Punch drunk’ may apply in other sports. Bismarck Tribune ND, p.1.

Punch Drunk. (1937, April 26). Punch drunk. Anniston Star AL, p.4.

Punch-Drunk Boxer. (1937, June 5). Punch-drunk boxer compensation claim fails. Sydney Morning Herald, Australia.

Punch-Drunk Football. (1937, Sept. 29). Punch-drunk football stars! Atlanta Constitution, p.8.

Punch-Drunk Forger. (1932, July 12). Punch-drunk forger gets parole here. Belvidere Republican-Northwestern IL, p.6.

Punch Drunkenness. (1928, Oct. 19). Punch drunkenness is found outside the boxing profession. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.31.

Punch Drunkenness. (1957, Feb. 19). Punch drunkenness can cripple boxers for life. Oxnard Press-Courier CA, p.11.

Rah! Rah! (1889, Nov. 29). Rah! Rah! Rah! Rah! Cincinnati Enquirer, p.2.

Ralph Missing. (1892, Jan. 1). Ralph H. Warren missing. New York Sun, p.2.

Reading Kick. (1914, Dec. 3). Reading High kick blamed for crazy of Allentown. Reading Times PA, p.1.

Reddy, B. (1949, Aug. 25). Keeping posted. Syracuse Post-Standard NY, p.12.

Redskins Bothered. (1937, Dec. 11). Redskins bothered by wintry blasts. New York Times, p.13.

Reform Football. (1909, Jan. 16). Reform in football. New York Tribune, p.10.

Reformed Foot-Ball. (1894, Oct. 30). Reformed foot-ball. Rochester Democrat and Chronicle NY, p.6.

Reichert, J.L., Glasscock, E.L., Logan, G.B., Maksim, G., Moody, E.E., Shaffer, T.E., Stuart, H.C., & Yankauer, A. (1956, October). Report: Committee on school health: Competitive athletics: A statement of policy [American Academy of Pediatrics]. Pediatrics, 18 (4), pp.672-76.

Rice, G. (1926, Nov. 15). Notre Dame, Navy, Brown, Stanford, Lafayette, NYU, Alabama leading unbeaten elevens. New York Herald Tribune, p.19.

Rice, G. (1931, Dec. 5). Grantland Rice’s sport light. Lincoln Evening Journal NE, p.8.

Rice, G. (1937, May 26). If kid has any knack, boxing is career, Leonard tells Rice. Baltimore Sun, p.19.

Richards, E.L. (1894, October). The football situation. Popular Science Monthly, 45, pp.721-33.

Richardson, W.D. (1940, Oct. 23). LaManna and Frank to see action for N.Y.U. on Saturday. New York Times, p.29.

Rigid Exams. (1962, Jan. 11). Rigid exams urged for grid players. Ogden Standard-Examiner UT, p.24.

Ring Official. (1936, Sept. 17). Ring official once fought as a pro. Washington Post, p.X19.

Ripley, R.L. (1919, Aug. 25). Gameness is usually associated with boxing. Houston Post, p.7.

Rising Deaths. (1961, Oct. 13). Rising grid deaths cause concern. Kansas City Times, p.30.

Roosevelt Crusade. (1905, Oct. 10). Roosevelt in new crusade. Chicago Tribune, p.1.

Roosevelt Robe. (1910, May 27). Roosevelt in red robe. Baltimore Sun, p.2.

Rules Exercise. (1891, May 3). Rules of exercise. Pittsburgh Dispatch, p.10.

Rules Manly. (1883, Nov. 24). Rules for a manly sport. New York Times, p.4.

Runyon, D. (1929, Nov. 7). Runyon says. Harrisburg Evening News PA, p.28.

Russell, D. (1962, Feb. 1). Rustlin’ sports: Trainers meeting will get attention. Albuquerque Journal, p.15.

Ryan, A.J. (1962, Sept. 2). Let’s stop football tragedies. The Week magazine, Salt Lake Tribune, p.95.

Safer Football. (1906, Nov. 27). Safer football. Hutchinson News KS, p.2.

Safer Football. (1909, Dec. 22). Safer football aim of experts. Bismarck Tribune ND, p.10.

Says Dangerous. (1906, July 3). Says athletics are dangerous to life. Indianapolis News, p.10.

Says Insane. (1928, March 13). Says he was insane when he killed wife. Wilkes-Barre Evening News PA, p.21.

Savage, H.J., Bentley, H.W., McGovern, J.T., & Smiley, D.F. (1929). American College Athletics: Bulletin Number Twenty-Three. Carnegie Foundation: New York.

Saxton Case. (1962, Feb. 8). Saxton case dismissed. New York Times, p.20.

Schneider, R.C., Reifel, E., Crisler, H.O., & Oosterbaan, B.G. (1961, Aug. 12). Serious and fatal football injuries involving the head and spinal cord. Journal of the American Medical Association, 177 (6), pp.362-67.

Schuylkill Victory. (1928, Oct. 15). Schuylkill victory not as impressive as score indicates. Reading Times PA, p.13.

Scraps. (1887, Dec. 2). “Scraps.” Indianapolis News, p.2.

Scrimmages Harmful. (1931, Oct. 17). Scrimmages harmful to team, Michigan State coach asserts. New York Times, p.18.

Scully Claims. (1937, Sept. 29). Scully claims that football changes players into ‘stumble backs,’ half-wits. Columbia Daily Spectator NY, p.3.

Season Close. (1909, Nov. 27). Season just closed most disastrous in history of football; 29 men killed. Topeka Daily Capital KS, p.1.

Sembower, J.F. (1961, Nov. 22) Players “wired” for sound probe cause of grid hurts. Circleville Herald OH, p.15.

Sheldon Ban. (1910, Jan. 22). Sheldon would put ban on high school game. Indianapolis News, p.8.

Shell-Shock Misnomer. (1931, Aug. 10). Shell-shock misnomer. Valparaiso Vidette-Messenger IN, p.4.

Shock Battle. (1915, June 8). Shock of battle causes rare ills. Bremen Enquirer IN, p.4.

Sidney Blackmer. (1920, May 30). Sidney Blackmer trains for stage as he did when playing football, he says. New York Tribune, p.B1.

Sideline Slants. (1937, Oct. 5). Sideline slants. Stanford Daily CA, p.3.

Sixty-Two Safer. (1905, Dec. 29). Sixty-two colleges for safer football. Harrisburg Daily Independent PA, p.4.

Smith, D.K. (1963, April 9). No butting. Ames Daily Tribune IA, p.9.

Smith, R. (1957, Dec. 25). Red Smith. New York Herald Tribune, p.B1.

Some Ex-Fighters. (1930, Aug. 11). Some ex-fighters on Easy Street. Daily Boston Globe, p.9.

Sport Comments. (1934, Jan. 5). Sport comments. De Kalb Daily Chronicle IL, p.6.

Sport Tips. (1938, Sept. 21). Sport tips. Frederick News MD, p.6.

Sporting News. (1901, Feb. 4). Sporting news in general. Oshkosh Daily Northwestern WI, p.3.

Sports Air. (1887, Nov. 27). Sports in the open air. New York Tribune, p.2.

St. John’s Prepping. (1933, Oct. 25). St. John’s is prepping for Hopkins game. Hagerstown Daily Mail MD, p.7.

Starnes, R. (1961, Nov. 24). Richard Starnes says: Football has its tragedies. Delaware County Times PA, p.4.

Steelton Wins. (1904, Oct. 31). Steelton wins by one point. Harrisburg Telegraph PA, p.6.

Steps Suggested. (1961, Oct. 14). Steps for curbing accidents suggested. Corpus Christi Caller TX, p.21.

Stevens, M.A., & Phelps, W.M. (1933). The Control of Football Injuries. A.S. Barnes and Company: New York.

Stop Tragedies. (1931, Dec. 10). Stop these football tragedies! Canandaigua Daily Messenger NY, p.10.

Strong Words. (1905, Nov. 27). Strong words from U. of C. Chicago Tribune, p.2.

Stroop, J.R. (1935). Studies of interference in serial verbal reactions. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 18, pp.643-62.

Students Stop. (1909, Nov. 2). Students stop all athletics. Scranton Truth PA, p.9.

Suicide Story. (1905, Dec. 1). Suicide story an absurdity, Clark says. Minneapolis Journal, p.14.

Surgeons Score. (1906, Jan. 6). Surgeons score gridiron sport. Greensboro Daily Industrial News NC, p.3.

Sustains Injury. (1914, Nov. 24). Sustains curious football injury. Escanaba Morning Press MI, p.5.

Swords Gloves. (1930, May 30). Swords and gloves. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.16.

Sylvester, H. (1935, Sept. 8). Sporting chances. New York Herald Tribune, p.SM16.

Tackling Rule. (1908, Nov. 7). Tackling not now a matter of strict rule. St. Louis Post-Dispatch, p.6.

Taube, M. (1940, Nov. 3). Gridiron success is achieved by faithful practice of fundamentals. Hartford Courant CT, p.D3.

Tech Suggests. (1909, Nov. 23). Tech suggest rule changes. Atlanta Constitution, p.10.

Telander, R. (1989). The Hundred Yard lie: The Corruption of College Football and What We Can Do to Stop It. Simon and Schuster: New York.

Tells Insanity. (1909, Nov. 27). Tells of insanity in Ellis family. Daily Arkansas Gazette, p.1.

The Bag. (1893, Sept. 23). The tackling bag. San Francisco Chronicle, p.9.

The Century. (1887, Sept. 27). The Century for October. Easton Star-Democrat PA, p.3.

The Cumnock. (1890, Nov. 2). The Cumnock nose mask. New York Times, p.2.

The Deadly. (1902, Dec. 13). The deadly pigskin. Atlanta Constitution, p.6.

The Faults. (1893, Nov. 27). The faults at football. New York Sun, p.6.

The Foot Ball Rules. (1894, May 30). [No headline or byline for stand-alone text in column.] Fort Scott Daily Monitor KS, p.2.

The Footballs. (1888, Nov. 29). The footballs. New York Evening World, p.1.

The Game. (1892, Dec. 19). The football game. San Francisco Morning Call, p.4.

The Growth. (1894, Oct. 28). The growth of football. New York Sun, p.20.

The New. (1906, Oct. 12). The new football. New York Times, p.8.

The News. (1894, Jan. 6). The news in brief. San Bernardino Weekly Courier CA, p.6.

The Toll. (1912, Jan. 13). Winnipeg Tribune, Manitoba, Canada, p.4.

The Sport. (1889, Nov. 19). The sport of the season. Wilkes-Barre Evening News PA, p.2.

Theodore Hurt. (1905, Nov. 19). Theodore hurt in game: President’s son carried from the field unable to stir. Washington Post, p.3.

They Can’t. (1894, Dec. 28). The can’t slug now. Chicago Daily Tribune, p.1.

This Game. (1895, Nov. 2). This game will show. Chicago Inter Ocean, p.4.

Tigers Win. (1899, Nov. 26). Tigers win great game. Chicago Daily Tribune, p.17.

To Reform. (1897, Dec. 10). To reform the game of football. Rochester Democrat and Chronicle NY, p.23.

To Make. (1894, Jan. 2). To make football less brutal. Kansas City Gazette KS, p.3.

Training For. (1899, Oct. 29). Training for football. Detroit Free Press, p.C3.

Transit Company. (1912, Aug. 31). Transit Company employees’ outing. Allentown Democrat PA, p.1.

Trevor, G. (1925, Feb. 4). Centre College’s famous tackle may yet wear Dempsey’s crown. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.19.

Trotter, W. (1924, May 10). On certain minor injuries of the brain. British Medical Journal, 1 (3306), pp.816-19.

Tunney Backs. (1937, Feb. 5). Tunney backs school boxing. Baltimore Sun, p.16.

Two Football Players. (1909, Oct. 11). [No headline or byline for stand-alone text in column.] Asbury Park Press NJ, p.4.

UM Surgeon. (1961, May 3). U-M surgeon suggests four changes in football helmets. Traverse City Record-Eagle MI, p.18.

Uncle Sam. (1941, July 31). Uncle Sam adopts sort of helmets used by gridders. Uniontown Evening Standard PA, p.10.

Van Dellen, T.R. (1963, Feb. 2). Boxing is not worth misery. Lake Charles American-Press LA, p.11.

Vicious Aggies. (1940, Nov. 17). Vicious Aggies gridmen trample Rice with power. Hartford Courant CT, p.C5.

Vidmar, R. (1939, Nov. 19). Down in front. New York Herald Tribune, p.B8.

Vital Changes. (1912, Feb. 14). Vital changes in football code. Honolulu Evening Bulletin, p.9.

Walsh, G. (1961, Nov. 6). 18 football deaths: Is it the helmet? Sports Illustrated, 15 (21) , pp.24-25.

Walter Camp. (1894, Jan. 20). Walter Camp favors new rules. Chicago Inter Ocean, p.6.

Walton, G. L. (1883, October 11). Possible cerebral origin of the symptoms usually classed under “railway brain.” Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, 109 (15), pp.337-42.

War Pathologist. (1916, Oct. 6). War not near end, says pathologist, back in U.S. Indianapolis Star, p.7.

Warburg, J.R. (1932, Nov. 15). Talk about bridge. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.19.

Was Injured. (1900, Dec. 1). Was seriously injured. Philadelphia Times, p.5.

Watterson, J.S. (2000). College Football: History, Spectacle, Controversy. Johns Hopkins University Press: Baltimore.

Weak Defense. (1898, Oct. 23). Weak in defense. Chicago Daily Tribune, p.30.

Wesleyan Last. (1888, Nov. 30). Wesleyan comes last. New York Tribune, p.8.

Wesleyan Rear. (1888, Nov. 30). Wesleyan in the rear. New York Times, p.8.

Wesleyan Wins. (1887, Nov. 25). Wesleyan wins: A very rough game in which Pennsylvania is defeated. Saint Paul Globe, p.1.

Wesleyan Wins. (1889, Nov. 29). Wesleyan wins. Lebanon Daily News PA, p.1.

Westwick’s Sport. (1955, Aug. 9). Westwick’s in the realm of sport. Ottawa Journal, Ontario, Canada, p.16.

Weyand, A.M.(1926). American Football. D. Appleton and Company: New York.

Where Killed. (1909, Nov. 2). Where the man—not the beast—is killed. Atlanta Constitution, p.6.

Why Fall. (1934, Nov. 6). Why stars fall. Albany Democrat-Herald GA, p.4.

Will Play. (1910, Nov. 10). Will play old rivals. Allentown Democrat PA, p.8.

Wines, F.H. (1895, Dec. 1). Cure for madness. New Orleans Times-Picayune, p.27.

Winkelman, N.W., & Eckel, J.L. (1934, May). Brain trauma: Histopathology during the early stages. Archives of Neurology & Psychiatry, 31 (5), pp.956-986.

Wisconsin Favorite. (1928, Nov. 24). Wisconsin is favorite. Bismarck Tribune ND, p.4.

Wolgast Guardian. (1917, April 3). Guardian for Wolgast. Wichita Beagle KS, p.7.

Yale End. (1904, Oct. 9). Yale loses end rush McMahon. Chicago Daily Tribune, p.3.

Yale Harvard. (1890, Nov. 18). Pittsburgh Daily Post, p.6.

Yale Hero. (1901, Nov. 26). Yale hero taken home. Chicago Daily Tribune, p.6.

Yale Princeton. (1892, Nov. 23). Yale vs. Princeton. New Castle News PA, p.1.

Yale’s Turn. (1887, Nov. 20). Yale’s turn to yell. Chicago Inter Ocean, p.1.

Young Boxers. (1932, Sept. 21). Young boxers exploited for gain become punch drunk wrecks. Boston Globe, p.23.

Young, S. (1942, Sept. 16). Canadian sport snapshots. Winnipeg Tribune, Manitoba, Canada, p.17.

Your Health. (1936, July 6). Your health. Monongahela Daily Republican PA, p.2.

Youth Football. (1959, Aug. 30). Youth football out. San Bernardino County Sun CA, p.56.

Zero Score. (1894, Oct. 28). Zero was the score. San Francisco Chronicle, p.17.

Copyright ©2016 for historical arrangement by Matthew L. Chaney

Matt Chaney is a writer, researcher and consultant on public issues in sport, specializing in American football for three decades. Chaney, an MA in media studies, is a former college football player and coach whose books include Spiral of Denial: Muscle Doping in American Footballself-published in 2009Chaney’s study for graduate thesis, co-published with the University of Central Missouri in 2001, analyzed print sport-media coverage of anabolic substances in football from 1983-1999. Email him at mattchaney@fourwallspublishing.com or visit the website for more information.

News Line: ‘Heads Up’ Football and Policy, 1883-1936

By Matt Chaney

Posted Monday, April 11, 2016, ChaneysBlog.com

Copyright ©2016 for historical arrangement by Matthew L. Chaney

Dates in column denote print publication, not necessarily dates of events

1882 May  athlete-managed “football associations” at four eastern universities—Yale, Harvard, Princeton and Columbia—establish the Intercollegiate Football Association [IFA]… the evolving tackle sport is based on English rugby, but American rules set a line of scrimmage between opposing teams, ball possession for one side at a time, and loss of possession for failure to advance five yards in three downs… consequently,  linemen and backs form “interference” or blocking schemes, disallowed in rugby, to lead ball-carriers… ramming becomes prevalent in American football with injurious collisions reported routinely by newspapers, especially of the “rush line”

1882 Nov. 10  an IFA rule establishes that two warnings for “foul tackling” in a game disqualifies a player  newspapers report

1883 Nov. 23  IFA rules ban “butting,” defined as “striking a man with the shoulder or head,” along with “hacking, throttling, tripping up, tackling below the hips or striking with closed fists” reports The New York Tribune

1883 Nov. 24  The New York Times declares anti-butting policy helps  “safeguard” football, and the newspaper touts thrills of the forward-colliding sport, “established as firmly as baseball at many colleges”

1884 Oct. 5  offensive blocking is illegal yet increasingly important in American football, openly practiced by teams and reported in the press, because of “scrimmage” and possession… in one game, Princeton’s “rush line did their work in tackling and blocking well” against Rutgers reports The New York Times

1884 Oct. 7  Dr. Dudley A. Sargent, Harvard sports MD and pioneer of “physical education” curriculum in America, begins regular checks of football players and other athletes

1884 Oct. 7  one “foul” act disqualifies a player from a game under new IFA rules newspapers report

1884 Oct. 25  Princeton introduces the multiple-blocker “V Trick” formation against Penn, “the original wedge and forerunner of the mass play”—and illegal by existing rules observes historian Parke Davis, in Football: The American Intercollegiate Game [1911]

1885 Feb. 22  reacting to public criticism of “objectionable rough features,” IFA rulemakers revise code with an aim to prevent injury

Brooklyn Daily Eagle NY

The Intercollegiate Association, at the recent convention held February 7, made a decided advance movement in the way of improving their playing rules, the result of which will be to eliminate most of the objectionable rough features which elicited such opposition on the part of the Harvard Faculty last Fall. In the first place the revised code provides for the prompt and effective punishment of all such violation of manly play as “throttling,” the use of a a player’s fists, or avoidable rough play, by the infliction of this penalty of a score of two points to be given the opposing side when a player is disqualified for such offenses.  … The association admitted the football clubs of the Pennsylvania and the Wesleyan University, so that this Fall four competitors will enter the field, Harvard having been counted out by the faculty.

1885 Nov. 1  the anti-butting rule is enforced in controversial fashion when Lehigh and Lafayette universities are locked in a scoreless game at Bethlehem, PA… Lehigh centre Ross Pierce is disqualified late in the game “for running into a Lafayette player,” and school faculty berate the lone referee, W.C. Posey… Lehigh players claim Pierce’s hit was unintentional and faculty remove the team from the field in protest, so Posey declares forfeit victory for Lafayette newspapers report

1885 Nov. 12  Harvard fullback H.E. Peabody “bunted his head into a rusher’s hip, causing concussion of the brain” newspapers report

1885 Nov. 15  public appeal persists for college football’s return to its soccer roots, an open game of kicking and passing… critics deplore “unnecessary roughness” of the tackle format, where “a football is used as the medium for a series of wrestling encounters” observes The Brooklyn Daily Eagle

1885 Nov. 18  Walter Camp, the youthful Yale sports icon with expanding interests, directs IFA rule-making while serving as graduate coach of Bulldogs football, America’s premier team… when a Yale player suffers traumatic brain injury [TBI] in practice, flattened by collision, program leaders decline comment for the press

Chicago Inter Ocean IL

NEW HAVEN, Conn., Nov. 17−While practicing this afternoon W.R. Crawford, Yale ’86, of Chicago, halfback on the university foot-ball eleven, collided with Bishop, one of the freshmen eleven, and was knocked insensible. The two players came together with fearful force, and Crawford was knocked off his feet, landing heavily on his back and head. He was removed to his room and medical aid summoned. The students [and Camp] are reticent about the affair, but it is learned that he remained unconscious for about two hours. [Crawford] is reported tonight as being all right. The freshman was not hurt.

1886 Oct. 11  “Yale football men harden themselves by butting their heads against trees and fences… the game of football is the best friend of the surgeon and physician, and its arrival is hailed by them with great joy”—New York Morning Journal

1886 Oct. 24  Walter Camp, widely publicized as America’s foremost “expert” and policymaker at age 27, capitalizes on a related venture as sportswriter for the popular press and book publishers… Camp serves as “athletic editor” for Outing magazine, with a new book titled Foot-Ball and How to Play It  reports The Philadelphia Times

1886 Nov. 14  rulemaker Camp also serves as referee for college football games, but he doesn’t enforce the anti-butting violation in a bloody contest between Harvard and Princeton newspapers report

New York Sun NY

The average weight of the Princeton team was 168 pounds to 161 pounds for Harvard. Princeton’s rush line had an average weight of 172 pounds against 165 pounds for Harvard’s rushers. … The element of weight is an important one in a football team in this Rugby game, because despite its title, the feet are used but very little in kicking the ball. It is a contest in butting and wrestling, in shouldering one’s way through an opposing knot of brawny men, and by main force of strength and weight overcoming whatever human obstacle may present itself. …
Walter Camp of Yale was referee. He wore a pair of rubber leggings to protect himself from the mud, and pranced about after the struggling rushers. … Harvard kicked off, and an aggressive campaign was opened promptly. Port of Harvard took the ball in his embrace and started with it toward Princeton’s goal, when Rusher Cook of Princeton tackled him. The men went down together as if shot by the same bullet, and then… the rushers of both sides stretched across the field and sparred for every advantage. …
Ames of Princeton recovered it [ball], and with a rush carried it over into Harvard’s field. He ran well but there were hindrances in his course, and when he was tackled about the neck by a Harvard man he turned a violent somersault and came down all in a heap. …
[Princeton] Rusher Cowan got the ball and started off like a mad bull with it. He ran down half a dozen tacklers and was finally knocked off his own feet. Irvine got the ball and carried it on toward Harvard’s goal, and finally passed it to Ames who, in his rush, collided with a sturdy player and was tossed into the air, coming down wrong end [head] first.  …
The remainder of the first inning, though without result in the score, was full of events. It was a series of splendid rushers and fearless tackles, desperate scrimmages and shrewd manipulation of the ball. … Time was called during a scrimmage and the men repaired to their dressing house for a rest of ten minutes, after three-quarters of an hour of hard play. The men sat about, breathing hard and nursing bruised limbs and swollen lips.

The second inning of three-quarters of an hour did not affect the score, but it was exciting… Ames caught his chin in some way on Burgess’s shoulder with a jar that shook his whole frame and laid him out at full length. … there was a lively scrimmage in which Fletcher of Harvard got a blow in the eye that for a moment filled his whole vision. It laid him out, and he was led off the field. Dudley took his place as quarter back, and the play went on until in a scrimmage [Princeton fullback] Savage fell and twisted his ankle, and the game was stopped until he recovered his balance. He continued his play pluckily, and later in the game he was knocked-down and stepped on in the face, so that he was no longer handsome… Cowan, Savage and Price got the ball in turn and tried to rush it, and Price, in his efforts to forward the sport, ducked and butted a Harvard man with the force of a battering ram.

1886 Oct. 25  a Dickinson College football player dies of falling headfirst, “thrown backwards with great force,” during a game against Swarthmore in Carlisle, PA newspapers report

1886 Nov. 25  Yale and Princeton stars brawl in the championship game of football, “slugging… and even butting with the heads”  reports The New York Sun

1886 Dec. 5  the violence of American football provokes many news writers

Brooklyn Daily Eagle NY

The so-called game of football in vogue among our American colleges has this season been fruitful of most severe personal injuries to the players and in one instance marked by the death of an injured player. But this is not all. In most of the series of matches for the intercollegiate championship slugging of the most vulgar kind has been a conspicuous feature, more players in those contests having been disqualified by the referees for fighting than ever before known since the association was organized. It remained for the last match of the college season, however, to cap the climax in this respect, and the Town of Princeton, the center of what is supposed to be college refinement and the best educational influences of New Jersey, was the scene of the display of low, vulgar brutality and rowdyism which marked the occasion of the match between the fighting and wrestling teams of Yale and Princeton.

1887 March 4  “A college student at Santa Rosa named McReynolds, while playing football last Saturday, was knocked insensible by a companion and remained in that condition for half an hour. He has concussion of the brain”—San Francisco Chronicle

1887 March 27  IFA leaders acknowledge inadequate prevention of football violence, “expressing that… referees should more strictly enforce the rules in future than in the past and pledging the captains of the teams to use their strongest personal influence to prevent their men holding in the rush line, slugging and all other objectionable features of the game” newspapers report

1887 Sept. 27  Princeton professor Alexander Johnston, a football fan, interprets “foul” and “fair” tackling in an article for Century magazine… illustrations depict both an illegal “high” tackle, around the neck, and an illegal “low” tackle, below the waist… a legal tackler strikes with shoulder and chest into midsection of a ball-carrier, placing his head across the body or to one side

1887 Oct. 10  football collisions continue unabated, with head-ramming reported in virtually every newspaper’s play-by-play accounts… IFA leaders, pressured by faculty and advisory committees, convene to address “brutal playing that has unfortunately marred the sport in the last five or six years”… officials promise “practicable and sensible measures” for remedying lack of rules enforcement

New York Tribune NY

… and so it is that too much has devolved on the referee. Outbursts of temper in play cannot be guarded against, for slight “spats” often occur in practice games. In a regular game there are twenty-two players nearly all of whom are at work all the time, and on the rush lines where fourteen big fellows are constantly blocking each other’s movements, it is not to be wondered at that hot-headed men in their great anxiety to do all within their power to win the game, occasionally lose their heads and try to “put a head” on the fellows opposite. [Adding a] second referee has long been needed and will undoubtedly improve the game.

1887 Oct. 29  “The change in the rules making two referees, or rather a referee and an umpire, gives [IFA officials] almost sole control over the players in the field. The referee is chosen by the captains of the competing teams, and his labors will be much reduced and rendered more pleasant by the presence of the umpire… captains will train their men to keep their tempers”—Yale Football Association, in a release from New Haven

1887 Nov. 13  players are disqualified for illegal tackling and blocking in the Harvard-Princeton game refereed by Walter Camp and umpired by Wyllys Terry, both of Yale newspapers report

1887 Nov. 18  fallout criticism targets the Camp-Terry officiating crew over a Princeton player’s ejection against Harvard… Princeton protests “that an unintentional foul tackle [emphasis added] was not a reason for disqualification under this year’s rules” newspapers report

1887 Nov. 20  five thousand fans enjoy ramming football as Yale defeats Princeton at the Polo Grounds in New York City… “football experts,” or coaches, credit the game as “most reputably played”… “The Yale rush line stood up like a stone wall, and the Princeton players tired themselves out butting blindly against it” newspapers report

1887 Nov. 25  “NEW YORK—Fully 20,000 people were on the polo grounds yesterday afternoon when the Harvard [and] Yale foot ball game began, and the number had swelled to 25,000 by the time the intermission was reached… As the contest progressed, clergymen and college professors forgot their dignity and joined the crowd in cheering their favorites, while the many ladies present waved their colors and found many ways for expressing their enthusiasm” newspapers report

1887 Dec. 2  Walter Camp is the chief foot-ball authority in the land” newspapers report

1888 spring  “interference” or blocking is finally sanctioned under IFA rules, along with “low tackling” above the knees… coaches now instruct tacklers to duck for thighs of a ball-carrier, aiming with head-up and eyes open, striking with shoulder and chest while placing head to a side… the IFA anti-butting rule remains in place, meanwhile, supposedly barring hits with shoulder and head newspapers report

1888 circa  “The history of college football in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries is a chronicle of rules constantly evolving in large part to outlaw tactics the old rules had inadvertently permitted”Michael Oriard, cultural analyst and former NFL player, in his Reading Football: How The Popular Press Created an American Spectacle [1994]

1888 June 2  Walter Camp quietly omits the term “butting” from the football rulebook published by his business associates at A.G. Spalding & Bros… confusion will continue regarding rules on football colliding, especially ramming above the neckline

1888 Nov. 18  Walter Camp referees the Princeton-Harvard game as head-ramming goes unchecked, particularly at the scrimmage line… “The powerful Tigers sprang at Harvard’s rush line and beat it out of shape. Cowan, Cook, Irvine, and George began to butt away at the Harvard rushers like human pile-drivers” newspapers report

1888 Nov. 30  referee-rulemaker Walter Camp is ridiculed for lax penalty enforcement in the violent game between Penn and Wesleyan on Thanksgiving, when numerous players suffered head wounds and/or brain trauma, among injuries… “both teams endeavored to find out which possessed the most force as battering rams, and they were ramming away most cheerfully when time was called, at 4:45, just as it was growing too dark to see” reports The New York Times

1888 Nov. 30  “Unfortunately there was considerable unfair playing and ‘slugging’ [between Penn and Wesleyan]. It is hard to say which side began it. Only one man was disqualified when there should have been half a dozen”New York Tribune

1888 Dec. 1  referee Camp, under fire for the Penn-Wesleyan game, blames players for failing to “tackle properly”… “The tackling, as Walter Camp says, was generally disadvantageous to the runner and often ‘laid him up’ ” newspapers report

1888 Dec. 2  the IFA revises definition of unnecessary roughness to include “kneeing” along with “hacking, throttling, butting, tripping, intentional tackling below the knees, and striking with closed hand” newspapers report

1889 March 21  football officials amend the penalty under Rule 27: “A player will be disqualified for hacking, striking with closed fist, or unnecessary roughness. For intentional tackling below the knees, butting, tripping and throttling, the other side gets twenty-five yards or free kick” reports The Boston Globe

1889 Oct. 6  fans jeer, teams protest the penalty calls for foul tackling and “off sides” in the Princeton-Lehigh game newspapers report

1889 Nov. 9  Mrs. Walter C. Camp, formerly Alice Graham Sumner, is a football “enthusiast” and the lone woman on game sidelines; she always reminds Yale players to “tackle low” newspapers report

1889 Nov. 19  football “experts” follow Camp’s cue into the popular press… newspapers and magazines enlist coaches, team captains and referees to write “expert” football commentary, game analysis, and how-to content

Wilkes-Barre Record PA

[Football] dangers have been woefully exaggerated, but the great dispensers of news now seem disposed to treat the subject more fairly. This is shown by the fact that the great dailies are now in trusting the reporting to those who know something about the rules and regulations−instance the report of the Harvard-Princeton game written in Sunday’s Herald by Walter C. Camp. The average New York reporter, judging from previous years, knows about as much of reporting football as a clergyman would know about writing up a prize fight. 

1889 Nov. 29  a “ladies” crowd for football watches college players suffer head injuries… Yale referee-rulemaker Walter Camp officiates the game in New York City

Lebanon Daily News PA

NEW YORK, Nov. 28.–Berkeley oval was covered with mud when the elevens of Wesleyan and the University of Pennsylvania faced each other for the football match. There was but a fair audience when the game opened. The victory when to the Wesleyan [team] with a score of 10 to 2. … Tracey Morris, of Princeton, was chosen umpire, and Walter Camp, of Yale, was referee… By [the second half] there were several hundred ladies watching the game. … Aundienried was badly hurt toward the close and Crane [of Wesleyan] was knocked insensible by a kick in the head. This delayed the game some, but both stuck to the field. There were the usual cut faces and bruises and the players were often blinded by the mud.

1889 Nov. 29  a college football player is disqualified for butting in a game at Chicago

Chicago Daily Tribune IL

Chicago started the ball off with the V [wedge], Crawford handling the ball. The wedge moved to the right for twenty yards before breaking… Harding, who had taken Rogers’ place at quarterback [for Chicago], took the ball from Lamb and made ten yards through the center. He tried again, and slipped around the end for five. Again he went through the center for four. The little man tucked his head down and charged his antagonists with the force of a battering-ram. Umpire Comfort disqualified him without cause, the charge being playing with unnecessary roughness. In view of the fact that Michigan’s big men were not over-nice there was considerable sarcasm along the lines.

1889 Nov. 30  anti-butting is generally considered to remain a rule of college football, unenforced

Chicago Inter Ocean IL

Though there is a rule against striking a rival with the fist the liberties in other directions are quite as hurtful and as much at variance with gentility. Shoving, thumping, butting, and the piling of half a dozen on one [player] in a scrimmage are permitted, and not infrequently some unfortunate is carried off the field badly damaged and put hors de combat for the balance of the game if he be not confined to his bed for a week.

1890 April 14  “Walter Camp of Yale, who has come to be regarded as the leading expert of college athletics, writes a very interesting article in the current number of the Illustrated American, showing how healthy sports have taken the place in colleges of rowdyism and riot” newspapers report

1890 September Walter Camp promotes school and collegiate football while blaming news publications and “ignorance” for game criticism, in editing the Foot-Ball Rules and Referee’s Book published by A.G. Spalding & Bros.

Introductory

Of all college sports foot-ball has proved most attractive to the spectators. It has suffered more rebuffs at the hands of the press than any other game, but these rebuffs were attributable to ignorance of the rules and customs, and as the sport became better known the adverse criticism decreased until it has now almost disappeared… No game has show such a remarkable vitality in the face of all opposition. It has steadily increased the number of its supporters, and it has no deserters. Every convert becomes an eager advocate of its merits, and although it is only fifteen years old in America, nearly every school and college has a team, and the principal varsity matches draw audiences of over fifteen thousand spectators.

Walter Camp

1890 Nov. 2  Harvard purchases a “tackling dummy” for teaching football players to strike low with head up and to a side, and captain Arthur Cumnock has designed protection for nose fracture, scourge injury of the sport

New York Times NY

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Nov. 1—Harvard football men are having experience in tackling indoors these days. A bag is rigged up in the Cary Building, and the men jump at it as though they were making a tackle on the filed. A stripe is painted around the bag, and if the player embraces the dummy above this stripe he makes a foul tackle. Not that it makes any particular difference to the bag, but in accordance with football rule the man must “tackle low.”

Another improvement studied out by Harvard is an instrument to protect the noses of the men. The rules provide that no mettle shall be worn, and the new nose guards get around the rules nicely, not being made of a metal substance. It is thought that the Harvard football noses will come out in great shape after the season is over, thanks to the improved Cumnock nose mask.

1890 Nov. 2  “Battered Heads and Broken Bones,” states a headline, for a game of ramming football players in New York City

Brooklyn Daily Eagle NY

… three or four hundred spectators, many of them of the fair sex, watched the Crescents and the Columbia college boys play foot ball. There was no reason to expect much of a game when the teams lined up for the first half. As the season advances it becomes more and more difficult to get twenty-two good men to play at one time, for after the first six weeks all the old timers are in the hospital. Columbia was obliged to put in six substitutes. … The play had no sooner been begun again when Terry made a run of ten or fifteen yards, getting the ball on a kick from Columbia. Then Terry butted his head through the opposing rush line for ten yards more… Columbia took up the butting tactics and Dillworth made eighteen yards by a series of rushes.

1890 Nov. 13  interpretations vary for “fair tackle,” such as a newspaper illustration’s depicting the defender ducking to hit with head up and to a side… “Fair tackling is seizing a player at some point between the shoulder and the hips. Above the former and below the latter is foul tackling, and the man who does it sees his side set back as a penalty” reports The New York Evening World

1890 Nov. 18  Walter Camp says no elite football team tackles “high” anymore, but a journalist scoffs in Week’s Sport magazine, declaring his own look at Yale ends revealed none “had any more idea of tackling low than he had of flying” newspapers report

1890 Nov. 28  Yale’s rush line was too strong for Princeton. It was like a battering ram. … star of the day was McClung. His work was something remarkable. His head was bandaged” newspapers report

1890 Nov. 29  football players cannot be broken of “high tackling” as controversy surrounds rule definition of a “foul tackle”… some writers contend head and neck shots are banned because the “fair tackle” zone spans from knees to neckline, but Walter Camp announces differently

Winnipeg Tribune Manitoba, Canada

Mr. Walter Camp, than whom no greater authority on football exists in the United States, has a timely contribution on the subject in December Outing. He says:
“There are only two ways by which a player lays himself open to the charge of foul tackling. By far the most common is going below the knees. There is no reason going below the knees. There is no reasonable excuse for a man’s doing this. Formerly, when the rules permitted no tackling below the hips there were many cases on every field, both in practice and in matches, where a man tackled at the waist and slipped down even with the best of intentions. The new ruling was brought in simply to avoid this and not visit upon the head of a man whose intentions were perfectly fair and honest a penalty which was originally intended to cover only something deliberately unfair. the man who tackles below the knees in the present day usually makes a deliberate dive for the calves or ankles, and, as that style of play is very apt to result in injury to the runner, the penalty has been made particularly severe.

“The second kind of foul tackling is that described as throttling. This, although often falsely called so, is in reality very infrequent. To throttle a man it is necessary either to close the fingers around his windpipe, or to get the forearm or wrist in a particular fashion under his chin and across his throat. To tackle a man by the head or neck is not in any way foul, and an umpire should always ask himself the question when a foul tackle of this nature is claimed, “Did the tackler shut off the man’s wind?” for a man who is being throttled cannot breathe. The side and back of the neck are so so protected by muscles that the front of the throat is the only place where one can reach the “throttling point.”

1890 Dec. 3  Butting, gouging and arm-twisting are inseparable from this fashionable sport”—Chicago Times

1891 March 21  football rulemakers establish penalty for mass blocking in “a wedge or a ‘V’ ” newspapers report

1891 May 3  tackle football is adopted by public schools of America, and an English physician of the famed Rugby School addresses “timid mothers” and doctors… Dr. Clement Dukes supports collision football, declaring serious injury isn’t common, but he cautions that public schools should match boys by size and physical maturity for play newspapers report

1891 Sept. 24  in Georgia, a 15-year-old boy “whose favorite sport was butting heads” is committed to a “lunatic asylum” for suffering “concussion of the brain” newspapers report

1891 Oct. 8  Amos Alonzo Stagg, famed athlete of “muscular moralism,” is player-coach for the football team at School of Christian Workers in Springfield…  Stagg stars for the Christians against Amherst College “by butting the line. His team shows careful training” reports The New York Sun

1891 Oct. 25  “EIGHT PLAYERS KNOCKED SENSELESS”—headline

Chicago Daily Tribune IL

CRAWFORDSVILLE, Ind., Oct. 24—(Special)—Wabash College defeated the football team of the State University last Saturday by the decisive score of 28 to 0, but today in the contest with Purdue University the Wabash team fared even worse. Most of the regular team were crippled and the big men from Purdue had a walkover, winning by a score of 44 to 0. Teeters of Purdue stepped on the head of Gentry of Wabash and cut his ear off with the sharp plate of his shoe. This led to a protest against the sharp plates of the Purdue men and the game was stopped while a blacksmith took them off. Eight men were disabled and knocked senseless before the game closed.

1891 Nov. 4  Yale wins 70-0 over the Crescent Athletic Club in Brooklyn… “the Crescents tried a ‘V’ with the human mountain, Robertson, as a battering ram. Hewlett slipped through for five yards, but the Yale men were down on him like a house of bricks, and Hewlett was carried off the field badly injured” reports The New York Tribune

1891 Nov. 27  Yale, the nation’s premier football team under coaching of Walter Camp, is reputed for head-ramming at the scrimmage line, like in the championship victory over Princeton: “Yale now made a terrific mass play, butting… through the centre by main force for ten yards” reports The New York Times

1891 Nov. 27  Two Chicago [University] men were ruled off for foul tackles, and altogether the team distinguished itself by disregard of the rules. Scarcely a member of the New York team [Cornell] escaped injury of some sort, and nearly every one of them closed the day with blood on his face” newspapers report

1891 Nov. 29 “high tackling” scares many football observers, for obvious risk to head and neck, and coaches largely dismiss it as ineffective defense… Walter Camp says high tackling can be appropriate, particularly amidst the interior line’s colliding and jostling that resemble rugby scrummage in “mass” formations

Brooklyn Daily Eagle NY

ON DEFENSIVE PLAY
Walter Camp Gives Some Points in Foot-Ball
Advantages of Line Tackling and Preventing Passes
[Tackling] should do two things. Firstly, it should absolutely check forward advance of the runner, and secondly, it should prevent his passing the ball. Any tackle which answers these requirements, and is legal under the rules, is a good tackle. The low tackle is the one usually recommended and the one called for continually by the dinning voice of the coach on all fields from September to December, but there are occasionally good tacklers who do not go low. As noted in the preceding article, a line tackle is often more advantageous when it is rather high, as it throws the runner backward rather than permitting him to topple over forward and thus gain ground. In the open no man should be allowed to make use of any tackle but the low one, and even where the line is close, if a man shows any tendency to go over the head, he should be relegated to the low tackling class and sent at the thighs only.

The second point… An instant bringing of the runner to the ground usually prevents his passing the ball, and therefore accomplishes both objects at the same time.

1892 Jan. 1  Princeton football star Frank Warren disappears in Washington, DC, and an aunt blames “troublesome” brain trauma lingering five weeks since his injury while captaining the team  in a championship loss to Yale

New York Sun NY

RALPH H. WARREN MISSING
A Student at Princeton and Recently a Captain of the Football Team
WASHINGTON, Dec. 31—Ralph H. Warren of New York city, at Princeton College junior and well-known football player, disappeared mysteriously yesterday morning from the house of George S. Frazer, 2013 Hillyer place, where he had been the guest since Monday of young Frazer, a college chum. Detectives have been steadily at work on the case without success. The only clue discovered yet is the statement that someone saw him wandering about yesterday out near the Zoological Gardens. Warren’s uncle, a Mr. Torrey, has come on from New York to take charge of the search.
Mr. Frazer said to-night to a SUN reporter that the only explanation of Warren’s strange disappearance was his discouragement at being behind in his college work, owing to the attention he had given to athletics.
He had also received some physical injuries. On Tuesday afternoon Warren had been ailing and in the evening he refrained from attending the Princeton Glee Club concert. He slept all the evening. At 7 o’clock in the morning he rose and left the house, saying he was going for a short walk.
He had eaten nothing and did not wear his overcoat. He had about $20 in his pocket. He was not familiar with the city. Mr. Frazer says that he knows that Warren was not addicted to the use of strong drink or tobacco.
He thinks the young man has suffered some physical collapse in some spot where no one observed him. His name had been posted in both the Metropolitan and University clubs here.
—–
Ralph H. Warren was the captain of the Princeton football team that made the great struggle against defeat by Yale on Thanksgiving Day. He was the best end rusher of the team, and played on the right end. He is 21 years old and belongs to the class of ’93. His is a graduate of Lawrenceville [NJ}, and it was there that he began playing football. He went to Princeton with an established reputation as a player. … In 1890 he was on the sick list. … He was considered too slow [recently], and after the last game Thanksgiving Day he resigned the captaincy and Philip King was elected in his place. He did not distinguish himself in his last game, but he played with vigor. He and Vincent both got bloody noses in that fray.
His father, Dorman T. Warren of 170 West Fifty-ninth street, received a telegram yesterday saying that on Wednesday morning his son had left the house in Washington about 7 o’clock to go out for a walk, complaining of dizziness and headache, and had not been heard from since. An aunt of young Warren’s said to a SUN reporter:
“Ralph received a severe blow on the head at the Thanksgiving game, which, while it didn’t prevent his playing, has left some troublesome effects such as loss of memory and dizziness. He always treated it as a joke, however, and refused to see a physician.”
The family have received dispatches which lead them to think his friends in Washington have some clue.

“His uncle is in Washington, looking for him,” said the aunt, “and we feel quite confident that this is only a temporary thing, that he will come to himself soon, and we hope to find him in a day or two.”

1892 Jan. 2  missing Princeton football player Frank Warren shows up at his family home in New York City, about 60 hours after leaving a friend’s house in Washington, DC… Warren will return to college studies in the future but not to playing football

Philadelphia Times PA

NEW YORK, January 1—The mystery surrounding the disappearance of Ralph H. Warren, the well-known Princeton College junior and foot-ball player, has been settled. The young man walked into his residence in this city at 6:30 this evening.
Warren was tired and no one was allowed to see him but his uncle Frederick Crosby, who said they hoped with rest and quiet he would come round all right. “Ralph,” said Mr. Crosby, “has made several voluntary statements. He said that he remembers leaving Mr. Frazer’s [on Dec. 30] to go for a short walk. He walked further than he intended. The next thing he remembers was his intention to start for Harper’s Ferry.”

“After saying this, ” said Mr. Crosby, “Ralph’s story is somewhat incoherent, and we could get nothing more from him, except that he went to Baltimore, where he stayed at a hotel two days.”

1892 Jan. 24  American football sweeps the West Coast, where lax rules enforcement is apparent in a game between Napa College and the Olympic Club in San Francisco… “There were several foul tackles made… by the local team, and the umpire would have done well to have called them to task for them more often” reports The Chronicle

1892 March 6  Bay Area schoolboys playing football “seemed to take special delight in butting into one another, and the player who could spill the most blood was considered the best player” reports The San Francisco Chronicle

1892 Oct. 16  “mass momentum” plays proliferate in football, led by Yale, which punishes the Manhattan Athletic Club on “steady butting through the center” reports The Brooklyn Daily Eagle

1892 Oct. 22  head-on collision of “terrific force” kills a football player attempting a tackle at park practice for the fledgling team at tiny Eastman College in New York

Poughkeepsie Eagle-News NY

JOSE PEREZ’S DEATH
Further Particulars by An Eye Witness of the Bad Accident
Richard Madden witnessed the fatal collision between football players at Eastman Park Thursday afternoon, which resulted in the death of the Spanish student Jose Perez. Mr. Madden, in an interview said:
“The game was between the first and second team of Eastman College. Perez was on the rush line of the first team. The lines were drawn up read to start, and the ball was passed to the first rusher, Mr. Nory, of Massachusetts. He started with it on a fast run to the left with head down. As he started, Perez, also with head down, made a lunge for him. Nory’s head struck Perez’s head with terrific force over the right eye, and the collision was heard some distance. Perez staggered and fell to the ground unconscious. Nory kept the ball and ran right into the crowd. I was not in the rush line, and seeing Perez on the ground I run up to him and found him unconscious. He was working his mouth as though something was in it. I examined and found he had a piece of chewing gum in his mouth, but I could not get it. By this time a crowd had arrived, and Perez was picked up and laid on some coats on a bank nearby. Somebody got some water and bathed his face and the terrible swelling over his eye, and he revived. Then he was raised to his feet and walked around a little, and he put his coat on. While he was doing so, someone said, ‘You are not going to play any more foot-ball,’ and Perez replied, ‘Do you think I am afraid of my life like you?’ Then he was placed in a carriage and taken away, and I learned this morning that he died last night.”
When he got to his boarding house on Noxon Street he seemed to be able to talk well, and told Mr. Seeley and wife that he was all right and would come out straight in the morning. What followed was told exclusively in the EAGLE Friday. Coroner Frost after investigating the case did not deem it necessary to hold an inquest. Perez was eighteen years old, and had been a student in Eastman College three months. His father and mother are wealthy, and reside in Spain. His brother is one of the proprietors of the Hotel Espanol, 114 West Fourteenth Street, New York. He came here Friday morning, and instructed Coroner Frost to properly care for the remains. They were placed in a handsome casket and taken to the Seeley boarding house. Eastman students will view them at 8:30 this morning, and a committee of Eastman students will convey them to New York on the 9:27 a.m. train.

Mrs. Seeley kindly extends an invitation to the friends of the deceased to call this morning at her house between the hours of 8 and 9 o’clock.

1892 Oct. 30  medical student A.A. Knipe stars as head-ramming fullback for Penn and grows long hair in hope of protection against traumatic brain injury… Knipe’s head goes “butting through the line for rapid gains” reports The Chicago Daily Tribune

1892 Nov. 16  for head protection, football players of Richmond College don “hooded caps of garnet and red, unseemly headgear” reports The Richmond Dispatch

1892 Nov.  20  Harvard debuts the “flying wedge,” a V-formation of 10 blockers massing against Yale… football critics decry the play as gratuitous brutality, but enthusiasts rave over “one of the prettiest ever seen” reports The New York World

1892 Dec. 1  doctors increasingly endorse football as a healthy, man-building exercise, but a skeptical news commentary notes grid casualties certainly grow medical market: “it is barely possible that the eminent medical authority has an eye to business in encouraging the rising generation [of youths] to cultivate the tackle and the flying wedge” cracks The New York Evening World

1892 Dec. 4  “The head or skull of a [football] contestant is quite frequently called into service,” observes scribe M.J. Geary in San Francisco, covering a game directed by coach Walter Camp, himself on winter visit from the East

San Francisco Call CA

I witnessed the great game of football yesterday at Central Park, and although my knowledge of the contest was limited, I enjoyed it. …
Why it is called football I cannot understand, as the feet cut but a very little figure in the game−that is, as far as the kicking of the ball is concerned.
The arms and hands are, however, kept constantly employed, and to my way of thinking they outclass the feet of a player in the work that is required.
The head or skull of a contestant is quite frequently called into service, as butting during scrimmages is not uncommon.
The only times I noticed when the nether limbs had to do service was when a player ran with the ball under his arm toward an opponent’s goal.
I considered that a good swift runner was then of valuable service to the team.
Kicking the ball was out of the question except when a good kick was in order.
Football, is however, a game that there is little child’s play attached to. The rough way in which players handle each other, and especially when they become tangled up in a heap, in what is called scrimmages, makes the game exciting and the boys like it. They bang against each other as if their very lives depended on the result.
In the struggle for supremacy players frequently get their knees skinned and their noses disfigured from a heavy collision with mother earth.
The excitement of the game is principally in the battle for possession of the leather when the players become bunched. The ball, which is then hidden from view, is held close to the earth by a player, on top of whom there is frequently half a dozen opponents.
The under man, although his nose may be buried half an inch deep in the soft earth and his mouth filled with clay, holds on to the leather with the temerity of a tiger until overpowered by the enemy. … the man with the ball has to use speedy judgment in ducking away from the grasp of an opponent. If he be an expert at the game he may run the gauntlet. …
In yesterday’s game I noticed several of the players wearing cricket-pads on their knees and rubbered protectors on their noses. I inquired of a member of the team what was the necessity of players wearing padding on their knees, and he answered it was purposely to protect the kneebone from injury. …
“How about that nose-protector?” I inquired.
“Oh, this is another grand invention, and it saves many a good player from distress. Some of the crack players of the East had to give up football owing to broken noses. Now a player who wears a delicate nasal appendage has no fear of injury, as the rubbered protector saves him from punishment.
“A man who is afraid to engage in a hot scrimmage with protectors on his knees and nose is not a fit person to be a member of a football club.
“You notice in that part of the game which is called ‘butting the center’ how the men bang against each other. I tell you that unless they had some protection there would be many players carried off the field.”
“As a means of protection to the skull, the crack players of the East allow their hair to grow wild and long, and when the day for the game comes they bundle it up in a coil in the fashion of a woman, on the backs of their heads, so as to protect the skull in case of heavy falls.”

M.J. Geary

1892 Dec. 19  “the idea of the modern football [tackler] is to fling such a force upon the holder of the ball that he shall be knocked down, and probably knocked senseless”—San Francisco Morning Call

1893 Jan. 2  head shots are routine of a bloody game among college players and others in St. Louis: “high tackling… begat a number of knockouts… jackets and trousers were plentifully smeared with gore” reports The Post-Dispatch

1893 Oct. 3  “high tackling” is a problem for the California university team at Berkeley, according to visiting coach William Heffelfinger, legendary Yale player… “Heff has his hands full in teaching the boys to tackle low” reports The San Francisco Chronicle

1893 Oct. 12  Acton, the big [Harvard] Crimson guard, played a superb game, making tremendous holes in the opposing line and butting into [blockers] in great style”New York World

1893 Oct. 13  “It Was A Good Game,” per this Indiana headline, for injuring professors in football

Elwood Free Press IN

CRAWFORDSVILLE, Oct. 9—The Terre Haute Y.M.C.A. football team played with Wabash [College] Saturday, the score standing 56 to 0 in favor of the latter. That the game was interesting is attested by these facts: Professor Barnes of Terre Haute was badly injured, principally in the knee, and was carried from the field; Professor Jamison fell on his head and was knocked senseless; Ira Wyncoop lost a tooth by being struck in the mouth and retaliated by kicking his antagonist in the ribs, and other trivial injuries inflicted.

1893 Nov. 20  a rubber headpiece “protects” Princeton running back C.S. Mackenzie in his return from TBI, after doctors sidelined him from football for a year newspapers report

1893 Nov. 24  gridiron crisis builds on public outrage for “brutal” action such as 10-man blocking wedges, but the game is endorsed by Harvard engineering dean Nathaniel Shaler, who says his friends die of boating and horse transportation, not football newspapers report

1893 Nov. 27  a Brooklyn football referee complains that rules are complex, contradictory, ambiguous—unenforceable—especially code governing field contact

New York Sun NY

THE FAULTS AT FOOTBALL
SOME TIMELY SUGGESTIONS FROM AN UMPIRE OF EXPERIENCE
Imperfections In the Rules the Cause of Much Trouble—The Mistakes of Umpires Pointed Out
TO THE EDITOR OF THE SUN—Sir:  In a majority of football games played this season in this vicinity there has been some disagreement concerning the rules of the game or some infringement on the rules that has been accepted as a matter of course. Comparison is natural with baseball rules and practice. Baseball has the most complex code used in any game, yet months go by every season without dispute as to the law, umpires judging facts only, while debates frequently arise about the meaning of football rules. In baseball there are no rules that are not enforced to the minutest letter. …
In about twenty games this fall in this vicinity repeated foul tackles have been made without a penalty being enforced. Walter Camp says that where a player tackles fair and his arms slip down, he must at once let go. Some players do; the majority do not, especially if they can hold by one arm above the knees—the other holding the ankles fast. Rugby players seem to get along without any rule concerning foul tackling. Tripping with the feet is not often seen; if done with the body, particularly the shoulders it appears to be all right. Throttling is forbidden, and boys usually claim a foul tackle if a player is caught about the neck. No umpire in this section was ever known to give twenty-five yards penalty under the rule, which probably forbids only choking direct by grasping a player’s throat with the hand. An arm thrown around the neck from in front or one side produces no throttling [call] that should be forbidden.
Who ever heard of a player being disqualified for “unnecessary roughness?” The line between disabling a player and killing him is only a line in width, and has been too often passed. Here the fault lies with the umpires, not the rules. … An umpire’s or captain’s only safety lies in knowing not only the substance of the rules, but their exact wording as well. …

A good umpire is hard to find. Long experience is needed, so that he may know where to look. Self-control, also, is desirable. Of course, it is necessary to have good judgment so as to know the difference between honest and fair, hard play and play intentionally rough. He must check rough play at the beginning, but not be so foolishly strict as to get the ill will of the players unnecessarily.

1893 Nov. 28  doctors diagnose a “slight concussion” for Harvard captain Bert Waters, suffered against Yale, and side-line him for the Thanksgiving game versus Pennsylvania, newspapers report

1893 Nov. 30  Princeton All-American quarterback Phil King, adored by fans for his long curly hair,  “claims that he can butt a stone wall without the least fear of fracturing his skull or causing concussion of the brain” reports The New York Times

1893 Dec. 2  “Hinkey, the Yale captain, was more severely injured than was at first thought [on Thanksgiving]… He was attended by a physician a good part of Thursday night, and he was at times delirious, believing that he was back again in the thick of the fight in that memorable struggle. Hinkey’s injury was caused by his head-and-head collision with [Princeton's] BlakeNew York Tribune

1893 Dec. 2  “A game in which some of the players are almost certain to be knocked senseless is a game in which some of them are very liable to be maimed for life or even to be killed outright. Both these contingencies have been realized during the football season now closing. … severe injuries is of the essence of the game… no game so extremely perilous should be permitted to be played” editorializes The New York Times

1893 Dec. 10  “Foul tackling is universally allowed at present,” says Penn player W.D. Osgood. “I have not seen a foul tackle given against a team this year”… Penn players want return to “open” play of kicking, passing reports The New York World

1893 Dec. 19  “This question of football is a matter of family government rather than the public’s business. If the parents are willing for the son to play football and take chances, it is none of the public’s affair. After the player passes 21 years, it is nobody’s but his own”—The Charlotte Observer NC

1893 Dec. 23  “Every effort should be made to minimize injury risk, but it is unmanly folly to try to do away with the sport [of football] because the risk exists”—Theodore Roosevelt, politician and outdoors writer, for Harper’s Weekly magazine

1894 year  the IFA disbands as the “Big Four” among eastern universities—Yale, Harvard, Princeton and Penn—assume rule-making authority for football in America

1894 Jan. 20  Walter Camp acknowledges that national protest against football “is having its effect”

Chicago Inter Ocean IL

“I am an earnest advocate of a change in the football rules,” [Camp] said yesterday. “There is no doubt that the game as played the last year or two has been attended with a great deal of danger to the players. The danger is not so great in the regular play, but when it is considered that the same tactics had to be met with day after day in the regular practice one can realize what a strain it has been on the players. In improving from the old Rugby game we have admitted the interference which is the element of danger in the game. The Englishmen look upon our style of playing with a great deal of abhorrence. Yet is is just that style that has commended the game to the American people and aroused such a great interest in it. … I expect to see the rules modified before next season. In fact, the University Athletic Club, of New York City, has intimated to the college boys that it will arrange, if its services are required, for a convention of the football teams to bring about the needed changes in the rules that will remove the so-called brutalizing character of the game.”

1894 Feb. 10  Massachusetts lawmakers consider measures that would ban boxing, football, cigarettes, and lewd theater posters newspapers report

1894 May 8  Walter Camp says football risks are overblown and uneven playing ground causes most injuries, based on his survey of former players

New York Tribune NY

New Haven, Conn., May 7 (Special)—Walter Camp has finished his investigation into the dangers of football. He has sent over 1,200 letters to players all over the country, including principals of preparatory schools and physical directors of universities, and has received in answer replies from over 1,100 persons. In nearly every case the answer made is that the game is not considered brutal, although it is admitted to be rough. Principals of fitting schools place themselves on record as stating that with the proposed changes the game will be an ideal form of American sport.

1894 May 30  “The foot-ball rules have been revised and the game is now deemed much safer. However, people who are on the lookout for new drawing-room amusements for the children need not expect to adopt foot-ball just yet unless the furniture is insured”Fort Scott Daily Monitor KS

1894 Oct. 28  head-on collision is a “frequent occurrence” in a football game for the California state university at Berkeley, with visiting Walter Camp serving as referee

San Francisco Chronicle CA

[Berkeley halfback] Hupp introduced the goat play—lowering his head and butting the daylights out of foolhardy youths who sought to tackle him. Twice was [opposing] Left Tackle Racine laid low by the battering ram of Hupp. The sprinting Berkeleyite is a small man, but when moving from place to place with the ball he travels with such velocity that it is a dangerous proceeding for the opposition to attempt to head him. In the second collision Racine was knocked out for several minutes.

1894 Oct. 28  “slugging, butting and holding were freely indulged” in a game between Long Island College and St. Francis reports The New York Press

1894 Oct. 30  “The record of slugging and accidents on the foot-ball field so far this season seems to indicate that the modifications of the playing rules have not made it any less brutal or less dangerous than it was last season. This may be because brutality and danger are so inherent in the very nature of foot-ball that it cannot be played without them. If that is proved to be the case, the only way to effectually reform the game is to reform it out of existence”—Rochester Democrat and Chronicle NY

1894 Nov. 11  “One of the disagreeable features of the game was the continual yelling of ‘Foul tackle’ by members of the High school team and their sympathizers on the side lines. It is to be hoped that this well be stopped, as it mars the beauty of the game, to have this perpetual cry of foul raised”Salt Lake Herald UT

1894 Nov. 18  football spectators witness repetitive TBI for a college star in the Midwest: “One peculiar feature of the game was [Wisconsin quarterback] Cahl Lyman’s forgetting the signals. He did the same thing at Chicago, and it is due to a concussion of the brain some time ago” reports The Saint Paul Globe

1894 Nov. 26  “concussion” casualties include stars of both Harvard and Yale in the most-publicized game of the season

Pittsburg Daily Headlight KS

SPRINGFIELD, Mass., Nov. 26—F.T. Murphy, the Yale left tackle who was carried from the field on account of injuries received during the game with Harvard Saturday afternoon, was found, when taken to the Springfield hospital, to have concussion of the brain. This, it is said, was due to the succession of mass plays directed against him by Harvard, though it is the opinion among the Yale men that he was slugged. When he left the field he was completely dazed and without control of his facial muscles. A trustee of the hospital says that the concussion is slight, and that Murphy will be removed to-day. Wrightington, of Harvard, whose collar bone was fractured, and Hallowell, also of Harvard, whose nose was broken, are suffering considerably.

1894 Nov. 30  football for the Army Engineers Battalion on Long Island boasts a winning football team, but the game renders men unfit to serve, according to the post surgeon reports The New York Times

1894 Dec. 3  the mother of Yale lineman Fred Murphy wanted him to quit football after suffering concussion of “butting” against Harvard

Kansas City Gazette KS

Our friend Fred T. Murphy of Junction city, Kansas, Yale’s right tackle, and two or three others, were knocked out but not seriously hurt… he was carried from the field bleeding and unconscious for thirty minutes, and his mother wrote him not to play again… butting charges by single players caused most of the hurts. [Murphy played in Yale's season finale versus Princeton on Dec. 1.]

1894 Dec. 13  football rule changes for supposed safety “easily deceived” the American public, opines The Winnipeg Tribune in Canada, where the college sport also thrives

1894 Dec. 17  Episcopal Rev. J.J. Tobias says football is lethal for “concussion,” charging host educators lack “real moral manliess” to abolish the blood sport reports The Chicago Daily Tribune

1894 Dec. 28  Indiana colleges wage “war against football,” excepting Notre Dame reports The Chicago Tribune

1895 Feb. 14  “I say I am the father of three boys. I do not know whether they are going to make athletes in college or not, but I will say right here that if I thought any one of them would weigh a possible broken bone against the glory of being chosen to play on Harvard’s football eleven, I would disinherit him!”—Teddy Roosevelt, the U.S. Civil Service commissioner and Harvard alumni, speaking to Crimson boosters in Washington

1895 Feb. 27 “Civil Service reformer Roosevelt [is] a regular foot-ball crank, if not a foot-ball savage… Has he brains enough to be reformer of any sort?”—Wilmington Messenger NC

1895 March 11  “I am utterly disgusted with the attitude of President Eliot and the Harvard faculty about football” Teddy Roosevelt writes to Walter Camp at Yale

1895 April 12  “Harvard overseers, as had been anticipated, refused to sustain [Eliot and] the faculty yesterday in their anti-football decree, and gave the game a lease of life for at least another year” reports The Boston Post

1895 Sept. 26  “broken head” casualties beset college football, “where hitting below the belt and butting are the rule and not the exception”—Greenville Record-Argus PA

1895 Oct. 3  an Iowa newspaper promotes imagery of head-ramming football players—like the clashing helmets of NFL TV graphics, 110 years later—for the season-opening game of local colleges: “The Cornell (Mt. Vernon) College foot-ball team will be here next Saturday… to butt heads and tangle limbs and scramble for the ball with the U.I.U. team”

1895 Oct. 17  a prep player running with head up is knocked backward and unconscious in New York City: “Mynders, instead of holding his head down and butting the crowd in front of him, held his head bolt upright. When the crowd downed him his head was thrown backward and his body was twisted in the scrimmage” reports The New York Times

1895 Nov. 10  the University of Chicago football team of coach Amos Alonzo Stagg—a rulemaker alongside Camp of Yale, Stagg’s alma mater—is known for “high tackling”… Stagg’s players “dive for a man’s head” reports The Chicago Inter Ocean

1895 Nov. 24  Yale star quarterback Sam Thorne wears a “head guard” in the championship game against Princeton, leading the Bulldogs to victory at the Polo Grounds in New York newspapers report

1895 Nov. 29  Carlisle Indian School players wear “nose guards, head guards, pads, and other football paraphernalia” reports The New York Times

1895 Nov. 29  schoolboy “Puck Dixon as a half-back is all right. He is better than any billy goat at butting… when he strikes the line with his head down” reports The Arkansas City Daily Traveler AR

1895 Dec. 1  neurologists determine that microscopic brain “lesion” of impacts and jars causes permanent damage, or “fracture of the mysterious network”… theologian Frederick Howard Wines, PhD, a prisons expert who served as Army chaplain in hospitals of the Civil War, reports on traumatic insanity caused by brain lesion of impacts, like “a melted fuse in an electric lighting system”

New Orleans Times-Picayune LA

In the mind of many, if not most, men of limited information and superficial thought, insanity, that worst of maladies, is an ensemble of certain obvious and familiar symptoms, partly physical, partly mental. Among these symptoms may be included delusions of various sorts, which give rise to gestures, facial contortions, odd speeches and actions, eccentricities in dress and behavior, which betray to little children in the streets, who are certainly not medical experts, the fact of madness, and they hoot the wretched victim for the pleasure of witnessing his ignoble rage. … Symptoms to [the physician] are symptoms, and nothing more. Back of the manifestations of the disease, he sees the disease itself, and can locate it. It is the brain. He suspects the presence in the brain of a “lesion,” as it is called; that is to say, a fracture of the mysterious network of filaments whose continuity is as essential to normal mental activity as is the continuity of a wire charged with electricity in order to the transmission of the electric fluid. A lesion may be compared to a melted fuse in an electric lighting system. … Where death occurs, as the sequel of insanity, an autopsy, if made, often reveals a large cerebral abscess, involving extensive tracts of the brain. In other post-mortem examinations the lesion is so minute as not to be discoverable without the aid of the microscope. In some instances, not even the microscope reveals the existence of any lesion, and it is permissible to suppose that the trouble is functional rather than organic, though it is not impossible that microscopes of great magnifying power would enable us to see what, without their aid, is beyond the range of our imperfect vision. … The causes of the brain lesions are varied, but in a very real sense they are always physical. What is termed “traumatic insanity” is due to an accident, such as a wound or a blow–falling from a building or a train, a gunshot wound, a blow with a club, a hammer or the fist, a stroke of lightning, and the like.

1895 Dec. 5  The Belle Plaine News in Kansas editorializes against football following a teen’s death from brain injury, declaring a ban can “free the schools of the city from the disgrace of countenancing and encouraging this species of pugilism”

1896 March 6  “It is a deplorable fact that football has spread to the public schools of the various states, and it is to be feared that ere long the standard of character and good behavior in these schools will not be much above that in the average college and preparatory school”—Brown County World KS

1896 Nov. 7  an anti-trauma football “helmet” is constructed for concussed running back William Baine at the University of Kansas, so he can play against rival Nebraska… suffering headaches, Baines scores the winning touchdown on a 60-yard run for KU

1896 Nov. 15  Walter Camp explains how the term “butting” was dropped from the rulebook years ago, in his new book, Foot Ball, co-authored with “flying wedge” designer L.F. DeLand… Camp contends that anti-butting remains a football policy, suggesting a prohibition of malicious intent for such hits, however arbitrary: “The present reading of the rule forbids ‘all unnecessary roughness and striking,’ and seems to cover the ground very satisfactorily” he writes

1897 Oct. 27  a dead football player had run head-down with neck extended when fatally struck, says an examining physician who blames the sport… the New York teen suffered a broken neck of a high tackle, spelling doom given the nil medical option for saving his life

New York World NY

DEATH WAS THE TACKLER
In a Football Game Young Andrew Hasche’s Neck Was Broken
SURVIVED FOR TWO DAYS
Andrew Hasche died in the Astoria Hospital yesterday. His neck had been broken in a football game at Casino Beach, L.I., on Sunday afternoon.
He was a finely built fellow of nineteen years, and lived with his parents at No.1568 Avenue A. A leading member of the Malcolm Athletic Club, a Yorkville organization, and a member of the football eleven, he went with the members of his club when they crossed the Astoria Ferry on Sunday to meet the Holy Cross Lyceum team, of Steinway. …
According to E. Lynch, one of the Malcolm players, Hasche had got by the opposing end and was running to the goal when one of the Holy Cross eleven made a high tackle. He landed on Hasche’s shoulders, throwing his head far down upon his breast. Almost at the same moment another player tackled Hasche low and all went down on the turf, many of the other players falling on them.
All got up—all but Hasche. His football days were over. He was paralyzed, unable to move,and soon he was unconscious. Three physicians were summoned but they shook their heads. …
Hasche was taken to the Astoria Hospital and attended by Dr. James F. Trask and Dr. W. Baldwin Wayt—the latter being particularly interested in the case, as he was recently a member of the University of Virginia eleven and had seen two deaths on the football field.
In the hospital Hasche was put to bed with sandbags ranged beside him to keep him in position, and particularly to prevent his head from rolling. The physicians said it was a hopeless task. … He lingered until 9 a.m. yesterday, when he died.
“It’s a pity,” Dr. Wayt said. “The young man had a superb physique. I do not see how anybody can be blamed. It was the game. The post-mortem has not yet been held, but it will show undoubtedly that there was a fracture dislocation of the sixth cervical vertebra of the spine. It was crushed, anyway, and probably torn. …

Dr. Wayt explained the accident. The unfortunate player was running with the ball, his head down and his neck extended—that is, it really invited the fate which followed by being in the exact position which would make a blow fatal.

1897 Nov. 20  the journal Medical Record condemns football as “ ‘productive of the greatest variety of surgical injuries to every part of the body,’ and that the effect of such injuries is life-long in a large proportion of cases. This is a phase of the [football] subject which is seldom regarded except by the medical profession” newspapers report

1897 Dec. 31  “If the new football armor makes the game perfectly safe, the public will be sure to lose all interest in the sport”Washington Star DC

1898 Oct. 31  football armor is the latest hope for protection, especially above neckline:  “There is no use in exposing a man’s head to bruises which the modern football harness largely prevents, and instead of making a man more fearful of injury the protection of nose guards, ear pads, and the various devices in use make him feel more secure from hurt” reports The Chicago Daily Tribune

1899 Oct. 29  a safe tackle means “head thrown to one side,” but the theory isn’t always successful in application, says a doctor who played football

Detroit Free Press MI

F.C. Armstrong was a crack athlete at the gymnasium at Stockholm, Sweden, before going to the University of Pennsylvania, where he played end and made a name for himself as a dangerous opponent. He is now a practicing physician in Brooklyn and spends all his unemployed time in coaching the boys at Pratt Institute. …
How to Tackle Safely

“Now about tackling. The reckless boy who is playing for the grand stand will often get his head just where the runner’s knee will strike it and there is a severe shock. The best way to learn tackling is with a dummy with head thrown to one side. That saves your head. The moment you have a grip on the runner pull him toward you with all your strength. That is the secret of good tackling. another point is to go at your man without hesitation and in doing this you may have to overlook the rule about keeping the head to one side. The softest place to put it is in the other man’s stomach. That makes a pretty tackle, too.”

1899 Dec. 13  coach Glenn “Pop” Warner is known for his head-ramming, rule-skirting teams at Carlisle Institute in Pennsylvania: “Metoxen, the full-back, rated the greatest line bucker on an American gridiron this season, smashes forward head down, low, and with terrific force” reports The San Francisco Chronicle

1899 Dec. 21  “Every [football] trainer has his own little kit of tools, medicines and bandages, which he applies according to his own ideas. Every big team is haunted by dozens of specialists with new devices for protecting the players”New York Herald

1900 Oct. 24  players employ sole-leather football helmets as weapons instead of protection, causing more head striking, say Yale coaches led by advisor Walter Camp

Topeka Daily Capital KS

New Haven, Conn., Oct. 23—Yale’s football coaches have become weary of having their star players banged up in scrimmages because of collisions with the heavy leather helmets which are now worn by nearly all the players, especially the end rushers. The ends dive headlong at the backs, and in every case leave a bad bruise on the body of thigh of the player they attack. Cook, Sharp and Hale, the three most powerful backs at Yale, are out of the game at present, largely because of injuries received in this way, and the coaches have just decided to abolish the headgear in the daily practice. The players will be allowed only the ear straps of former years. There is no rule forbidding other colleges to wear the leather helmets, but Yale men would favor a new football rule making it illegal to wear that article of football armor.

1900 Nov. 12 Princeton coaches, on the other hand, favor all kinds of helmets and harness. They argue that headpieces are necessary because the injuries to the head are generally of a far more lasting and serious nature than those received in other parts of the body”newspapers report

1901 Feb. 4  “It is a physical impossibility for two teams of vigorous young men to meet in fierce collision without resultant broken bones. As now conducted, battering ram tactics constitute the basis of [football]” observes a New York scribe

1901 Sept. 28  witnesses say a leather helmet protected one player in a collision at Stanford practice: “Both men were running low, and as Nourse launched forward for the tackle their heads met with a terrific concussion. Raitt escaped with a small injury, his skull being protected by a leather helmet, but Nourse was rendered unconscious by the blow” reports The San Francisco Chronicle

1901 Sept. 30  a football trainer says his helmet design at U. of Chicago prevents being “knocked groggy by a slight tap on top of the head” newspapers report

1901 Sept. 30  football’s “gladiatorial effects will be softened” by college coaches and trainers who study “running, tackling, and scientific possibilities of the game” newspapers report

1901 Oct. 10  “mentally unbalanced” high-school football player commits suicide after repetitive brain injury, Wisconsin

Topeka Daily Capital KS

Janesville, Wis., Oct. 9—Leon Ayers, one of the brightest and most popular students in high school, committed suicide at his room in the Y.M.C.A. building last night with chloroform. It is thought that he was mentally unbalanced, the result of a fall from scaffolding last summer and subsequent injuries in a football game a week ago. He was 19 years old, a member of the senior classes of its football team, and a singer in the First M.B. church choir. He expected to enter the Chicago Art Institute next spring, having great artistic talent.

1901 Nov. 6  college football players serve as test subjects for helmet “experiment and thought” of designer trainers and coaches newspapers report

1901 Nov. 26  concussed Yale quarterback Johnny De Saulles leaves Boston against doctors’ orders, two days after being knocked unconscious attempting a “flying tackle” at Harvard… the star was fetched from hospital by a Yale baseball player who returned him to campus in Connecticut… a subsequent report from New Haven declares “danger of permanent injury from cerebral concussion is over” without citing medical authority, and quotes Yale trainer Mike Murphy as saying De Saulles was actually injured by a chest blow… the story adds: “Walter Camp, the Yale graduate adviser, exhausted by the strain of the last few weeks, has gone with Anson Phelps Stokes Jr. to the latter’s Berkshire County residence at Lenox for a vacation” newspapers report

1902 Oct. 9  employing leather helmet, “the football player can plunge into the strongest defense without suffering injury to the head, at least from the impact” newspapers report

1902 Oct. 12  doctors  say a St. Louis man died of brain damage received in football six years previously newspapers report

1902 Nov. 30  Carlisle coach Glenn “Pop” Warner unleashes “flying interference” of multiple blockers that “crushes through his opponents’ end and tackle” newspapers report

1902 Dec. 13  JAMA declares that football can cause “cerebral injuries resulting in insanity,” or “permanent weaknesses” Atlanta Constitution reports

1903 March 29  football officials say new rules abolish mass plays and dangerous sole-leather headgear newspapers report

1903 April 7  “helmets have been used in mass plays as battering rams to butt down opponents” scribe reports

1903 July 18  JAMA: brain injury can “damage hidden and important structures” in victims, leading to “future trouble which is too often irreparable” Dr. W.H. Earles writes for the journal

1903 Aug. 13  Spalding opens marketing  blitz for its “pneumatic” air-cushioned helmet, perfectly timed because of insider help from lead rulemaker Walter Camp—the equipment company’s close associate at Yale… Camp has informed Spalding executives about rulemaker discussions on helmets for more than a year… having banned heavy leather equipment, Camp publicly endorses the Spalding helmet as safe and legal while newspapers publish the company’s press releases verbatim… Carlisle coach Pop Warner also benefits from the national publicity, for his leg guard co-marketed with Spalding

Danville Morning News PA

The rules committee… passed a rule that if head protectors were worn they should no longer be made of sole leather, papier mache or other hard and unyielding material, and all other devices for protectors must be so arranged and padded as, in the opinion of the umpire, to be without danger to other players.
To conform to this rule Spalding’s pneumatic head harness has been designed and it is certainly one of the greatest improvements in the players’ equipment. It is made of soft leather, fitting the head closely, and has a pneumatic crown sufficient to afford absolute protections. Ventilation is provided through heavy felt. Many trainers and players from leading colleges have examined this head harness and give it their unqualified approval.

Next in the importance to the pneumatic head harness, players will welcome the combined leg-knee-and-shin guard, made after a model submitted by Coach Warner, of the Carlisle Indian School, and highly endorsed by players and trainers who have examined it thoroughly.

1903 Aug. 10  helmet-engineering is the rage among football coaches, trainers and their associates in equipment manufacturing, with anti-concussion design as the golden goal… famed Yale trainer Mike Murphy says, “Every one of us interested in football is trying to solve the problem and get something pliable yet which will offer sufficient protection to the men” newspapers report

1903 Sept. 29  newspaper Sporting sections are replete with reports of football ramming and TBI casualties, especially on elite teams of intense coverage like Yale and Harvard… competent doctors can diagnose concussive conditions through known symptoms, but prognosis and proper treatment remain largely unknown; conservative medicine calls for rest… more doctors are side-lining football players, such as this case at the University of North Carolina: “Capt. [H.M.] Jones unfortunately is out of the game for at least ten days, on account of a head-on collision in a scrimmage a few days ago” reports The Wilmington Semi-Weekly Messenger 

1903 Oct. 12  doctor diagnoses two concussions on a high-school team in Kansas

Hutchinson News KS

Leavenworth, Kan., Oct. 12—George W. Russell, Harlan Lanter and Fred Hill, members of the Olathe High School foot-ball team, were injured in a game with the Leavenworth High School eleven this afternoon. Russell suffered a severe concussion of the brain and was unconscious three hours. Lanter suffered a badly sprained ankle and Hill suffered concussion of the brain. Russell and Lanter are here under the care of a physician, but Hill was able to return home.

1903 Oct. 18  Wisconsin rolls over Beloit College, 87 to 0, with “flying” blocking formations and head-ramming ball-carriers reports The Chicago Tribune

1903 Nov. 28  referees examine and remove the “big head-gear” of H.M. Jones, previously concussed UNC captain, during a game at Richmond reports The Wilmington Messenger

1903 Nov. 29  various media entities compile lists of football deaths, such as current report of 17 fatalities this season, but “many injuries never find their way into the newspapers, and on this account are never known to the public” notes The Atlanta Constitution

1903 Dec. 23  football referees struggle with rules enforcement for several reasons, beginning with a confusing set of bylaws… Georgia Tech coach J.W. Heisman says, “Simplify the penalties, cut down the number of varying penalties so they can be more easily classified” reports The Atlanta Constitution

1904 Oct. 18  non-tackle football is mandated at Zion City, IL, the Christian Catholic Apostolic community founded by John Alexander Dowie

Jacksonville Daily Journal IL

Zion City boys will be able to play football this year, not the rough murderous fray which the average college boy now dotes on, but a simple, gentle, graceful and non-dangerous game suitable to the quiet tastes of Dowie’s domain… The game will be open. On this point Editor Dowie has stolen a march on Walter Camp and other football sharks, who have worked for years to get daylight between the players. Mr. Dowie cut this Gordian knot in one grand sweep of his pen by abolishing tackles. Striking, holding, tripping and other ungentlemanly devices are also put among the discards. Iron and steel cleats follow in the wake of the tackles.

1905 Feb. 2  Harvard University president Charles W. Eliot, pioneer of higher education in America and popularly reviled as football’s arch enemy, says “enforcement of rules is impossible” with brain injury as a consequence

New York Times NY

After characterizing [football] conditions as “hateful,” President Eliot goes on to say that new tricks are always desirable as surprises, and that the weaker man is the legitimate prey of the stronger.

“One should always try,” he says, sarcastically, “to discover the weakest man in the opponent’s line, as, for example, the man most recently injured, and attack [target] him again and again. If a man, by repeated blows on the head and particularly on the jaw, has been visibly dazed he is the man to attack at the next onslaught. If in the last encounter a player has been obviously lamed in leg or arm or shoulder, the brunt of the early attack should fall on him.”

1905 Feb. 3  Harvard President Eliot argues that brain “concussion” of football can result in “permanent weakness, later trouble” newspapers report

1905 March 30  doctors diagnose brain damage for a football player injured in wreck of Purdue train, and he sues the railroad newspapers report

1905 Oct. 7  “Theodore, Jr., Laid Out” in football practice for Harvard freshmen headlines The Salt Lake Tribune

1905 Oct. 10  President Theodore Roosevelt says individual “unsportsmanlike” players besmirch football by targeting others for injury newspapers report

Chicago Tribune IL

Roosevelt In New Crusade
President Opens War on Brutality in College Athletics
Calls “Coaches” To His Aid
Yale, Harvard, and Princeton Football Men at the White House
WASHINGTON, D.C, Oct. 9 (Special)—Theodore Roosevelt, not as president of the United States, but as an American citizen and the father of a college boy who has just come out of a football game with a “slit eyebrow” and a “cauliflower ear,” has started a movement to put down brutality in football.
To aid him in his crusade he called to the White House today Walter C. Camp, general adviser of Yale athletics, William C. Reid, Jr., the Harvard coach, “Doc” Hildebrand, the Princeton coach, “Jack” Owsley, the Yale coach, Dr. E.H. Nichols, and John B. Fine. Secretary Root participated in the conference.
Plans War on Brutal Sport
To these men, who practically control the best part of college athletics in the east, President Roosevelt avowed his purpose to “inaugurate a movement having for its object absolutely clean sport and the eradication of professionalism, money making, and brutality from college games.”
The president has enjoyed a long acquaintance with the men with whom he talked today, and he talked with them in a practical, personal way of the reforms which he considers necessary in order to establish a higher standard of sport.
He suggested the adoption of drastic rules in an intercollegiate code, under which any college team guilty of brutality or unsportsmanlike conduct shall be excluded from participating in contests with other colleges.
Wants Clean, Manly Sport
There is no firmer believer in healthful sports than President Roosevelt. He is himself an athlete. He believes in athletics. The fact that his son, Theodore Jr., has just entered Harvard, and that he has other sons who will someday go to college, lends a personal interest to his action, besides general interest to advance college sports all over the country.
The president did most of the talking at the conference today, and what he said was practically a reiteration of the speech he made at Harvard last June. In the course of that speech he said:
“I believe in outdoor games and I do not mind in the least that they are rough games, or that those who take part in them are occasionally injured. I have no sympathy whatsoever with the overwrought sentimentality that would keep a young man in cotton wool, and I have a hearty contempt for him if he counts a broken arm or collarbone as of serious consequence [as such football injuries qualified medically in 1905] when balanced against the chance of showing that he possesses hardihood, physical address, and courage.” [Note the president himself chose not to play football at Harvard 29 years earlier.]
Contempt for Low Cunning
“But when these injuries are inflicted by others, either wantonly or of set design, we are confronted by the question, not of damage to one man’s body but of damage to the other man’s character.
“Brutality in playing a game should awaken the heartiest and most plainly shown contempt for the players guilty of it, especially if this brutality is coupled with a low cunning in committing it without getting caught by the umpire.
“I hope to see both graduate and undergraduate opinion come to scorn such a man as one guilty of base and dishonorable action, who has no place in the regard of gallant and upright men.”

The conference between the president and the athletes named began at luncheon, which occurred at 1:30, and did not end until shortly before 4 o’clock, when the guests left hurriedly to catch the train for New York. It is understood they will endeavor to have action taken along the lines of their talk with the president, but they declined to discuss the matter at the present time.

1905 Nov. 5  “NEW YORK, Nov. 4—(Exclusive Dispatch)—Butting through the line almost at will, Yale this afternoon crushed Columbia by the score of 53 to 0 in the first game of the season. The Blue and White men were no match for the New Haven giants”newspapers report

1905 Nov. 7  an inquest jury in San Jose declares tackle football inappropriate for schools because of inherent violence, with head-butting suspected in a teen’s death

San Francisco Call CA

DEALS A BLOW TO FOOTBALL
Jury That Investigates the Death of Young Player Says Game Is Demoralizing
BLAME IS NOT FIXED
Faculty at Santa Clara College Decides at Meeting to Do Away With the Sport
Special Dispatch to The Call
SAN JOSE, Nov. 6—That the deceased, Clarence Van Bokkelen, came to his death at the O’Connor Sanitarium on Race street Saturday night from an accident received while playing football on November 4 at Santa Clara, and we recommend that the trustees and faculties of the public schools use their efforts to discourage football playing, which is both dangerous and demoralizing in its effects.
Such is the verdict of the jury that inquired into the death of Clarence Van Bokkelen, who died from injuries received in the San Jose and Santa Clara High School football game. The verdict disposes of the rumors that there was a pre-concerted plan to cripple the Santa Clara player.
A dozen witnesses were examined by Coroner Kell and they all testified there was no unusual roughness and that his injuries were purely an accident.
Ernest Olson, a member of the San Jose team, testified that he tackled Van Bokkelen just before he collapsed. Van Bokkelen was running after the ball and Olson ran out to tackle him. Olson’s shoulder struck Van Bokkelen on the breast and he fell backward and when picked up was unconscious. Other testimony showed that Van Bokkelen was hurt in one of the first skirmishes of the game. It was evident that Van Bokkelen received a slight fracture of the skull in the first part and that the fall just before the game closed aggravated the injury.
Dr. J. U. Hall testified the injury was caused by a blow on the top of the head, which may have been received by Van Bokkelen by butting against one. Harold Gallup, for the Santa Clara team, said the game was a fair, clean one and the team was satisfied the injury was accidental.
Resolutions of sympathy for the Van Bokkelen family were adopted by the student bodies of both the San Jose and Santa Clara high schools to-day and the pupils of the last named school will wear mourning for thirty days.

The game of football that was arranged for Thursday Santa Clara College and the University of the Pacific has been called off by President Gleason of Santa Clara College. At a meeting of the faculty of Santa Clara College to-day it was determined to do away with football until it is possible to conscientiously allow the children, who have been confided to our care by loving parents, to enter into it without such fearful danger to life and limb.

1905 Nov. 21  “A tremendous war against football is waged… every year. But the fact remains that the game constantly grows in favor with the public. More teams are playing football this year than ever before. A greater number of spectators are witnessing the contests. Interest in the game continually increases”Topeka Daily Capital KS

1905 Dec. 12  high schools should not host football, say the university presidents of Stanford and Notre Dame newspapers report

1905 Dec. 12  “concussion of the brain, other injuries of collisions are now a regular part of football news”—Brooklyn Daily Eagle

1905 Dec. 28  “I find it impossible to believe that the committees, coaches, and umpires that have ruined the game are to be trusted with the reform,” says Harvard President Eliot. “The experts in the ruined game are not the persons I should select to advise about the selection or creation of a substitute”New York Times

1905 Dec. 29  “Sixty-Two Colleges for Safer Football”—headline marking genesis of the NCAA, Harrisburg Daily Independent PA

1906 Jan. 5  “concussion of the brain” turns college football players into failing students, drunks, criminals cracks “Mr. Next” in the popular syndicated satire of newspapers

1906 Jan. 6  a study by Harvard sports doctors finds “concussions of the brain are frequent” in football, with medical opinion divided regarding permanent disease newspapers report

1906 Jan. 7  spokesmen for the upstart “McCracken Conference” convening in New York—which will lead to formation of the National Collegiate Athletic Association—outline a football mission in concert with President Roosevelt’s recommendations, including a) establishing a national organization to administer amateur rules and policy; b) eliminating “foul play” and “unnecessary roughness” on the gridiron; c) controlling injuries to an undefined limit; and d) “opening up the game”… the group does not support abolishment: “We wish to have the game distinctly the American game… [without] those evils against which the public cries out,” a spokesman says. “As to eliminating the injuries, it is a question if any change in the rules will altogether do away with injuries. Football is football. It is not a parlor game and cannot be made into one” reports The Brooklyn Daily Eagle

1906 Jan. 10  Harvard sports MDs say excessive injuries are inherent of “war-like” football reports The Brooklyn Daily Eagle

1906 Jan. 13  JAMA  editorializes on the Harvard football study by team surgeons Dr. Edward H. Nichols and Dr. Homer B. Smith, published in Boston Medical and Surgical Journal  

Journal of The American Medical Association, Chicago

We may say at once that their conclusions [Nichols-Smith] are entirely against the game as judged from its medical standpoint. They say that the number, severity and permanence of the injuries which are received are very much greater than is generally credited or believed. They consider a large percentage of the injuries unavoidable, and state that constant medical supervision of the game is a necessity and not a luxury. … Perhaps the most serious feature of these accidents is the number of concussions reported. Only two games were played in the entire [Harvard] season in which a case of concussion of the brain did not occur. … When a condition like this develops as the result of an injury, the central nervous system has received a very severe shaking up.

1906 Jan. 15  Yale families resist football for sons, fearing “brain concussion” and spinal paralysis reports The Brooklyn Daily Eagle

1906 Feb. 26  fellow Yale alumni Walter Camp and William H. Taft, U.S. Secretary of War, blame “individual players and sensational journalists for football agitation” The AP reports

1906 Sept. 30  “High tackling has been found to be the most effective way of stopping forward passing”Washington Post

1906 Oct. 26  football is dropped at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, where officials cite poor reform and serious injuries, including a player’s suffering TBI symptoms for weeks following a concussion against Princeton

Brooklyn Daily Eagle NY

Dr. Voorhees, physical instructor of Pratt Institute when seen this morning was outspoken about the new rules and censured them severely.
“Yes, we have dropped football,” said the instructor. “We find that the game has been brutalized to such an extent that a player has to be practically a prize fighter to endure the knocks. I doubt if any of our best ‘scrappers’ could be induced to take a chance on the game as it is played today. The open play, with sturdy ends read for a tackle on any portion of the body, is a great menace.
“Pratt Institute has been playing the various freshmen teams of the colleges and heretofore has had an even chance. but this year freshman players are barred from the varsity teams with the result that big husky and experienced gridiron giants form the freshman teams.
“That was our experience at Princeton a few weeks ago. We were beaten 27 to 0, but it was not the defeat that came as hard as the breaking of bones and other knocks that were dealt out to us, and I want to say that it was not by unfair methods either, but by football as it is insisted upon today by those who framed the new rules.
“Why, we have today a boy who has concussion of the brain as the result of that contest. I will not say who he is, but that boy received a bump on the head, was unconscious for hours afterward, and had to be taken to the hospital at Princeton in very bad shape. And he is not out of danger yet. That is only one of the cases. There are several others, and I hold the new rules are responsible.

“It was put up to the committee last night and we simply decided to abolish the game.”

1906 Nov. 11  sports medicine thrives at the University of Wisconsin, where a “graduate physician” doubling as football coach says the open game is safe from TBI while any casualties have themselves to blame, along with parents

Baltimore Sun MD

“After watching the game closely so far this season,” says Dr. Huchins, coach at Wisconsin and a graduate physician, “I am convinced the new rules are beneficial to the players, for the reason that, though they tend to increase minor injuries, such as broken bones and strained tendons, the percentage of fatalities will be decreased greatly… By dropping the old style of line plunging the danger of fatalities is greatly decreased. In those plays, when a man was called on to smash into the opposing line, almost like butting his head against a stone wall, something had to give way, and the result too often was injury to the head or neck that was far more serious than broken bones or twisted knees… Of course, there have been some fatalities already this year, but I am confident that nine-tenths of the boys who have been killed should never have played the game at all, and would not have been permitted to do so had they had the examination to which a college man is subjected before he can play football. Such fatalities should not be permitted to weigh against the gridiron sport, for it is too often the fault of the parents, rather than the game, in permitting boys physically unable to stand such a sport to play it.”

1906 Nov. 25  many college presidents say the “open game makes football safer” newspapers report

1906 Nov. 27  Safer Football”—headline, Hutchinson News KS

1907 Feb. 24  President Teddy Roosevelt blames lack of rules enforcement in college football for sputtering reform, claiming that preparatory schools conduct safer football already

New York Times NY

“The preparatory schools are able to keep football clean and to develop the right spirit in the players without the slightest necessity, ever arising to so much as consider to the question of abolishing it. There is no excuse whatever for colleges failing to show the same capacity, and there is no real need for considering the question of the abolition of the game. If necessary, let the college authorities interfere to stop any excess or perversion, making their interference as little officious as possible, and yet as rigorous as is necessary to achieve the end. But there is no justification for stopping a thoroughly manly sport because it is sometimes abused, when the experience of every good preparatory school shows that the abuse is in no shape necessarily attendant upon the game.”

1907 Nov. 6  “Football is here to stay, and the thing to do is make it a safe game”—Fort Wayne Daily News IN

1907 Nov. 28  The revised rules of the game have not fulfilled the hopes of their framers. … the speed and combination plays have proved almost as hazardous” newspapers report

1907 Nov. 30  Kansas man sues railroad for concussion leaving him unable to “fully attend his business as farmer, banker and loan man” newspapers report

1908 Jan. 12  “fighter’s dance”—dysfunction caused by brain damage—is rumored to afflict an ex-champion boxer in Chicago newspapers report

1908 Sept. 16  doctor links suicide of his MD patient in Nebraska to a football concussion suffered 15 years before

 Nebraska State Journal NE

OMAHA, Neb., Sept. 15—Dr. Frederick T. Rustin, shot on the morning of September 2, intended to vote in November. One of the last things he did before his death was to register and say he would vote the democratic ticket straight. …
High medical authority brings out the theory that Dr. Rustin may have owed his moral and physical decadence to an accident sustained in a football game some fifteen years ago. At that time he was seriously injured, and there is a likelihood that a pressure on the brain was never removed, and hence his despondency and violent headaches which his intimates tell about.
Regarding the mental condition of Dr. Rustin, before he made his attempts to commit suicide by inoculating himself with disease germs, an interesting statement has been made by Dr. Edward W. Lee of New York City, who practiced in Omaha for fifteen years. He advance several reasons for the moral and physical collapse of Dr. Rustin.
“There is one thing,” said Dr. Lee, “which, from a psychological point of view, may help to explain his pitiful collapse in late years.

“When he was home in Omaha on vacation from college in 1893 or 1894, he was seriously injured in a football game. He sustained a concussion of the brain, and was unconscious for several hours I attended him, and afterward, as I recall it, he often suffered from the effects of the accident.”

1908 Sept. 30  “heavy headgear” will protect Yale player in return to field after his “slight concussion” newspapers report

1908 Nov. 7  “There is no one mode of tackling. Contingencies arise where the low diving tackle is as absurd as the neck or waist tackle. Moreover, often it is impossible for the tackler to choose… The use of the head and shoulders in tackling brings one of the more intricate and highly developed departments of this feature of the game”—football coach Edward B. Cochems, St. Louis University, writing for The Post Dispatch

1908 Nov. 8  “football rule makers substitute one kind of danger for another” by sanctioning the open game newspapers report

1908 Nov. 22 “[Concussion] seems a direct argument against the open game, as practically all of the brain injuries reported were received in running tackles, made prominent by the open game, in contrast to the close struggles in the mass plays of the past”—Chicago Tribune

1908 Dec. 8  Ohio father says son charged in armed holdup was rendered insane by repetitive TBI, most recently a concussion in football  newspapers report

1909 March 20  a  college football player in Illinois “has never fully regained his reason” four months after concussion reports The Decatur Herald

1909 Sept. 15  “several football coaches oppose brass-knuckle headgear in general use these days” newspapers report

1909 Oct. 11  football must institute “heads up” tackling, proclaims sportswriter

Asbury Park Press NJ

Two football players rushing together at top speed to tackle bumped heads in a game at Brooklyn. One skull was cracked and the victim will die. This is the logic of modern sport; it is essentially the logic of football since to tackle seems to be a question of skull solidities and even college skulls are not so much harder than the skulls of illiterates that they can stand a scientific butt without cracking. It is to be hoped that if football retains its hold upon the American heart that “butting” may be so modified as to preserve the college young man’s skull for future and perhaps more laudable uses. In any event “tackle” with heads up should be substituted for “tackle” with heads down in the football contest. Athletes may get along with broken noses and gradual elimination of front teeth but the skull is valuable and rules should be made to hold it intact if possible.

1909 Nov. 1  “flying tackle” paralyzes the Navy’s starting quarterback, who surgeons say will die newspapers report

1909 Nov. 2  “Current events radically indict the efficacy of the so-called reform in football”Atlanta Constitution

1909 Nov. 7  a high-school coach in St. Louis teaches boys to hit a tackling dummy with their heads up and out of harm’s way… “Throw your head to one side,” instructs coach Mike Walker, or “you’ll break your neck” reports The Post-Dispatch

1909 Nov. 19  Congress should intervene for football injuries and demand long-term study of college players editorializes the journal Medical Record

1909 Nov. 21  “in the flying tackle a man dives head foremost at a runner with the ball”Detroit Free Press

1909 Nov. 27  “Season Just Closed Most Disastrous In History of Football; 29 Men Killed”—headline, Topeka Daily Capital

1909 Nov. 28  mass plays and flying tackles must “be pruned down further still” by football rulemakers opines Pittsburgh sports editor

1909 Dec. 22  Safer Football Aim Of Experts”—headline, Bismarck Tribune ND

1909 Dec. 27  an unidentified former player says “heads up” form can be hazardous in colliding and notes defenseless receivers because of forward passing, writing: “I can say without reservation that a plunge into the line had less terrors than a flying tackle in the open” newspapers report

1910 Jan. 26  “For Safer Football; District High School Coaches Revise Playing Code”—headline, Washington Herald DC

1910 Jan. 26  tackling above neckline is banned by football high schools in the nation’s capital

Washington Herald DC

FOR SAFER FOOTBALL
District High School Coaches Revise Playing Code
CHANGES IN FOOTBALL RULES FRAMED BY LOCAL COACHES
*Every player must pass a physical examination before allowed to take part in a game.
*Divide the game into three periods, with two intermissions of ten minutes each. The length of intermission may be changed by mutual agreement.
*No player on any team having the ball shall use his hands to assist the runner.
*The offensive team shall have seven men known as linemen on the line of scrimmage at the moment the ball is put in play.
*The forward pass is restricted so that the ball cannot pass over the line of scrimmage.
*Crawling with the ball after a player is downed is judged as flagrant offense, and any violation shall be penalized by loss of fifteen yards.

*Tackling around the neck or above the shoulders will not be allowed. Violations call for a penalty of fifteen yards.

1910 Feb. 5  “It’s easier to make attacks upon the rules than to make the game safer”—A.A. Stagg, rulemaker and coach, speaking with reporters

1910 May 1  NCAA rulemakers blame high schools for “most injuries and fatalities” in football, recommending schoolboys have proper coaching, fair match-ups, and medical supervision newspapers report

1910 May 2  Walter Camp says new rules banning flying tackles and hits below knees will “make the game safe” newspapers report

1910 May 14  football rulemakers approve “forward pass” across line of scrimmage newspapers report

1910 May 26  former president Teddy Roosevelt, speaking to London audience, says: “I wish I could learn from you how to make football a less homicidal pastime” newspapers report

1910 Oct. 9  medical authorities say “ordinary concussion” can lead to brain abnormality known as dual or multiplex personality Washington Post reports

1910 Oct. 26  Butler U. coach says football players “haven’t one chance out of ten thousand of suffering injury,” adding that baseball, track, and car travel are just as dangerous Indianapolis Star reports

1910 Nov. 2  players practice form with a “butting machine” at the University of Indiana reports The Indianapolis Star

1910 Nov. 20  Concussion of the brain was the leading cause for [football] deaths this year, as has been the case in the past, but it led by a much higher proportion than in either of the two preceding years. Most of the accidents which caused this injury came from open field tackles, while there was a decrease in the number of men hurt in the mass plays. The number of those who received blows on the head resulting in concussions which were not fatal also showed a large increase”New York Times

1911 Nov. 12  Carlisle’s Jim Thorpe stars against Harvard, executing Pop Warner’s head-bashing offense until getting “knocked out in the last period”… “Carlisle’s playing was marked by powerful [blocking], a dogged, butting style of plunging” reports The Associated Press

1911 Nov. 26  ‘”the rule forbidding the flying tackle… seems to have failed its purpose… net result of this change has been to bring about harder and fiercer tackling”—Chicago Tribune

1912 Sept. 23  “I am in doubt as to whether [football] is safer than it was in years past, but public opinion seems to hold that it is safer”—NCAA rulemaker Jonas A. Babbitt, speaking to newsmen

1913 Oct. 9  football coaches teach schoolboys to “tackle properly” for avoiding injury reports The Winston-Salem Journal NC

1913 Oct. 18  Football helmets are now almost universally worn by college and high school footballists”Lima News OH

1914 March 24  “The value of football lies in the ten thousand prairie organizations which train a hundred thousand boys in nerve and teamwork each year”—Escanaba Morning Press MI

1914 Nov. 17  “Fred Treece, a New Brighton, Pa., high school footballist, is dead. Playing without a headgear, he suffered a concussion of the brain”Iowa City Daily Press

1914 Nov. 24  newspapers head-line a “Curious Football Injury” after schoolboys collide head-on in Pennsylvania

Escanaba Morning Press MI

Washington, Pa., Nov. 21—Wilbur Hoyt, quarterback on the local high school team, is thought to be recovering from an unusual and dangerous an injury as is recorded in gridiron annals. Hoyt’s head collided with the face of another player recently and a front tooth of the other was torn loose and embedded in Hoyt’s forehead.
The quarterback was knocked unconscious, but soon recovered his senses and the injury was lightly regarded. Two weeks later, however, he was taken seriously ill, and it was found that he was suffering from blood poison resulting form the injury.

The physicians decided to operate. Hoyt’s skull was trephined, and it was found that the tooth had penetrated the skull and entered the brain cavity, where infection had set in. It is believed that the operation was a success and that Hoyt will recover.

1914 Nov. 29  “traumatic insanity” casualties are routine of football, with players “out of their heads as the result of some injury received in the scrimmage,” says Dr. L. Van Horn Gerdine, a Missouri osteopath, who adds “these cases are frequently cured” reports The New York Tribune

1914 Dec. 9  a Pennsylvania father says son who tried to kill him has displayed “signs of abberation” since suffering concussion in football three years before newspapers report

1915 April 25  “shell shock” disturbance in soldiers, of a “nervous disease” class observed for a half-century around industrial artillery, manifests widely in the World War

Des Moines Register IA

A great number of new mental and nervous diseases have been produced by what is known as “shell shock,” that is the effect of the passage or bursting of a shell near a man without doing him visible physical injury. Among the results of shell shock noted have been reduction of vision, loss of hearing, loss of smell, loss of taste, loss of memory and paralysis of various physical functions.

1915 July 17  “The committal of Gath Harbaugh, twenty-six years old, to the Kalamazoo state hospital is the result of football, according to the parents, Mr. and Mrs. M. Harbaugh of this city. Gath was playing in an amateur game five years ago, when he suffered head injuries that eventually cost him his reason”—Wakefield News MI

1915 Sept. 4  Illinois coach Bob Zuppke joins the quest for designing the anti-TBI football helmet

Fort Wayne Daily News IN

A New Headgear
MUSKEGON, Mich., Sept. 4—Robert C. Zuppke, football mentor at Illinois, is working on a new type of headgear to prevent a player being knocked out by a blow on the head.

The new headgear is so designed that the protection comes at all points where a blow might wreak havoc. Zuppke used his vacation time in perfecting this device.

1915 Oct. 30  Lancet medical journal examines whether warfare bomb blasts “produce serious psychological disturbances often terminating in insanity” reports The Indianapolis Star

1916 Jan. 26  Walter Camp leaves rule-making of college football after four decades, with the new NCAA committee comprised of representatives from the East and Midwest… Camp had served for “every rule-making body since 1877, the second year of the intercollegiate game” newspapers report

1916 Feb. 8  JAMA declares “latent athletic injuries must be reckoned with and the lives of our youths safeguarded” newspapers report

1917 Jan. 31  a former Purdue football player has become “demented” in his early 20s

Indianapolis News IN

LAFAYETTE—Max W. Phelps, who escaped from his guard at Covington, was taken into custody here Monday afternoon and sent back to a sanitarium in Indianapolis. He is suffering from a mental disorder. As a student at Purdue University he was known as Happy Phelps. He became demented in Chicago last fall. The young man is under the delusion that he has solved the problem of world trade and industry. During his college career he was a football and track star, and played halfback on the football team with Elmer Q. Oliphant, who now is starring at West Point Military Academy. He was graduated in 1914.

1917 Sept. 30  an Illinois school game is injurious because “both teams persisted in high tackling” reports The Decatur Herald

1919 Jan. 6  after former president Teddy Roosevelt dies at home in New York, newspapers inaccurately report he played college football for Harvard

1919 Oct. 2  sports pages are loaded with reports of diagnosed concussions in American football, such as a schoolboy’s casualty case in Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh Daily Post PA

GRIDDER RECOVERING

SHARON, Oct. 1—Ormond Claypool, right end of the Sharon High School football team, who was injured during a scrimmage in a game last Saturday with Greenville High, is recovering and probably will be out in a few days. It was thought at first that his skull was fractured. Later it was found he was suffering concussion of the brain. His head came in contact with one of the player’s knees while he was making a flying tackle.

1919 Oct. 18  “Never tackle head on, as it may result in a broken neck. Always have the head to one side, and one shoulder well into the man’s body”—Walter Camp, writing for kids in his newspaper football series

1919 Nov. 4  “Harry Forbes, the former bantamweight champion of the world… is suffering from a form of locomotor ataxia, known as ‘fighter’s dance.’ It has affected his eyes and limbs”Bloomington Pantagraph IL

1920 Jan. 21  boxer appears “punch drunk” on ropes in fight reports The New York Times

1920 May 30  a UNC football coach instructs players: “Go through the line with your head up. Take all the slams on your face” reports The New York Tribune

1920 Nov. 20  “Mac Cosby, the John Marshall [Athletic Club] halfback who suffered a relapse of shell-shock several weeks ago, will not play again this season. Cosby is reported to be getting along fairly well, but is is deemed inadvisable for him to play [football] again this year”Richmond Times-Dispatch VA

1921 Oct. 2  “There is no question that determined backs can out-butt the in-driving end, who… is required to smash”—Army football coach Maj. Ernest Graves, West Point, writing for The Boston Daily Globe

1921 Oct. 11  “During a spell of dementia M.M. Greer, ex-serviceman with a fighting [boxing] record, committed suicide in jail… running head downward at a wall, suffering a terrible fracture of his skull and dying within a few hours. During the war he suffered shell shock”Klamath Falls Evening Herald OR

1922 Sept. 12  “Players should learn to tackle off both shoulders. One side should never be favored, because times will come when a tackle must be made in an instant with no time to shift the body to strike with the favorite shoulder”—Walter Eckersall, former college player and coach, writing for The Chicago Tribune

1923 Sept. 13  a schoolboy ball-carrier “should run low, bending the body at the hips, but keeping the head up and eyes to the front. He watches where he is going and picks the holes made by the linemen. The head should be kept up until he is about to hit someone, then he should put the head down and take the force of the bump on the head guard” newspapers report

1924 Nov. 2  “Earl Jabs [Cal-Berkeley lineman]… jabbed the U.S.C. line until it was reeling and punch drunk”Los Angeles Times

1924 Nov. 4  “Years ago some [boxers] were forced to quit the ring because they were too punch drunk to go on. They had been battered and pounded around the brain region so hard and so much”newspapers report

1924 Dec. 25  eliminate the forward pass for football safety, say Harvard officials… but Knute Rockne disagrees, famed coach of Notre Dame… Rockne rebukes the Harvard men with their own former characterization of the forward pass, as “saving” football from brutality wayback when

Oakland Tribune CA

Forward Pass Is Favored By Famous Coach
Rockne Gives Opinion of Proposed Changes in The Rules
HOUSTON, Texas, Dec. 25—Knute Rockne, mentor of the Notre Dame University football team, expressed his opinion of proposed changes of the grid laws today. Although in favor of some of the minor changes in the football rules, he spoke in no uncertain terms when the abolishing of the forward pass was brought up.
The driver of the four horsemen made it plain that he was against any rule that would cut down the open game and that he believed when a rule of this kind was passed it would be the first step toward killing grid contests.
“If they will glance back through the pages they will find that in 1906 the forward pass saved the game, and now they are trying to put it out,” he said. “Until the overhead game was brought into play everybody was hollering about the game being too brutal, and it was.”
Brought Football Back
“Then the forward pass came. It cut down the flying wedge and all the ‘man killing’ style of play. It brought football back and pushed it to a front rank in the sporting world, and now they are talking about robbing the game of the style of play that has made football what it is,” Rockne said.

“Harvard is anxious to have the pass abolished. They have been sinking before the other members of their conference season after season, and now they want to eliminate the style of play that has been beating them. They are merely trying to get rid of the thing they don’t understand.”

1925 Feb. 4  “No football player is afraid of getting knocked out. It’s too common an experience. You can’t go through a season on the gridiron without being knocked senseless a couple of times”—Sully Montgomery, pro boxer and former college football star, speaking with The Brooklyn Daily Eagle

1925 Dec. 28  eastern football coaches want the NCAA to outlaw high tackling, hits above neckline, penalizing it as unnecessary roughness reports The Associated Press

1925 Dec. 31  tackling with “head up and chest out” is impossible in football and therefore no option for the NCAA, proclaims a sportswriter in Pennsylvania

Altoona Tribune
Changing Grid Rules: Too Much Roughness
[No byline for identifying the writer.]

Officials recommend… tackling above the shoulders, piling, and roughing the catcher [receiver] of kicks be eliminated. … Tackling below the shoulder would be a very fine thing and very practical if runners could be forced to do their sprinting with head up and chest out. The sad part of it is that runners, like ["Galloping Ghost" Red] Grange, run very low. If the Wheaton ice man is to be tossed at all, the tackler has little time or opportunity to pick a suitable spot of the Phantom around which to twine his arms. Officials believe that high tackling should be punishable to a 15-yard penalty.

1926 March 20  the NCAA rules committee does not address the issue of “high tackling” news accounts indicate

1926 Nov. 1  former All-American quarterback Walter Eckersall recalls that President Theodore Roosevelt “saved football” in 1905 by restoring its “good name” newspapers report

1927 Aug. 25  Stanford coach Pop Warner, in his new book, touts a particular helmet where “shock of being struck on the head is distributed by a net on the inside” newspapers report

1927 July 24  “You hear a lot about fighters going ‘goofy’ and being punch-drunk. That’s a lot of nonsense. Fighters as a class do not compare intelligence with, say, bank clerks. And because they don’t seem bright, some people blame it on their ring experiences. If a fighter seems goofy he was that way before he became a fighter”—boxing trainer Marty Brombe, speaking with The Hartford Courant

1927 Oct. 16  “John Gripp [of Fordham] intercepted a forward pass… It was evident that John Gripp had been badly battered in the defensive work that had preceeded his chance, for, after running thirty yards, he staggered like a prizefighter who is in that condition described as punch drunk”New York Herald Tribune

1927 Nov. 26  “This might lead to the question, ‘Where are the lightweights of yesteryear?’ The answer, I am sorry to record, is, ‘Permanently punch drunk, in the insane asylums or dead’ “—W.O. McGeehan, New York Tribune

1928 Jan. 24  ” ‘Punch Drunk’ is an expression that probably has not yet found its way into the dictionaries, but it will get there in due course of time, for it is now a well-established phrase in the sport of boxing the country over”Wilkes-Barre Evening News PA

1928 April 19  Jack Dempsey, heavyweight champion, fears “punch drunk” condition and might retire newspapers report

1928 April 24  Army doctors diagnose “punch drunk” disease in hero soldier-boxer

Mount Carmel Item PA

WASHINGTON, April 24 [United Press]—Bob Martin, champion boxer of the American expeditionary forces, today lost a decision in the greatest battle of his life—a fight to regain his health.
Physicians of the Walter Reed Hospital told Martin his illness was incurable. He is suffering with what is known as the “boxer’s waltz” or “punch drunk.”
Physicians said his ailment is the result of cerebral lesions, directly due to the many blows he received on the head.

Modern science has been unable to check the disease and the fighter, who mastered Gene Tunney in the A.E.F. days, will retired to seclusion at his home in Terra Alta, W. Va.

1928 May 10  Dr. Harrison S. Martland, forensic pathologist of Essex County, NJ, introduces his microscopic findings of “punch drunk’ boxing disease to the New York Academy of Medicine

1928 Aug. 3  Gene Tunney retires from boxing, 31-year-old former heavyweight champion, citing his fear of “punch drunk”newspapers report

1928 Sept. 25  U.S. Health Secretary Dr. Theodore Appel says parents should understand football’s benefits outweigh risks, saying “the casualty toll of the pedestrian is each day greater than are football injuries in several seasons” newspapers report

1928 Oct. 14  Georgia football star appears concussed or “punch drunk” on field against Yale newspapers report

1928 Oct. 19  Dr. Martland publishes his “punch drunk” findings in Journal of The American Medical Association

Brooklyn Daily Eagle NY

Punch Drunkenness Is Found Outside the Boxing Profession
The “punch drunk” condition of boxers has stepped into the medical field for determination whether others than boxers get it, according to the Associated Press.
The American Medical Association has issued in its Journal an appeal by Harrison S. Martland, M.D., of Newark, N.J., to find out the nature and extent of this state, which he says fight fans describe as “punch drunk, cuckoo, goofy, cutting paper dolls or slug nutty.”
The symptoms in slight cases are a “very slight flopping of one foot or leg in walking, noticeable only at intervals, or a slight unsteadiness in gait or uncertainty in equilibrium.” In severe cases “there may develop a peculiar tilting of the head, a marked dragging of one or both legs, a staggering, propulsive gain.” finally, marked mental deterioration may set in.
“I am of the opinion that in punch drunk there is a very definite brain injury, due to single or repeated blows on the head or jaw.”
Dr. Martland suggests that if punch drunk exists in the form he suspects it afflicts others than boxers and that establishment of the facts is important to courts and labor compensation boards in handling head injury cases.

[Martland says:] “The condition can no longer be ignored by the medical profession or the public.”

1928 Oct. 22  “Punch Drunk Might Apply To Other Sports”—headline, Bismarck Tribune ND

1928 Oct. 25  JAMA editor Dr. Morris Fishbein, writing in his national newspaper column, endorses the Martland study on brain disease of impacts

1928 Nov. 5  Yale halfback appears “punch drunk” after collisions on game field newspapers report

1928 Nov. 18 Dr. Martland says some experts deny existence of brain disease from boxing

Baltimore Sun MD

How hundreds of tiny blood clots, each no larger than a pinhead, may form inside the gray matter of the human brain and ruin its ability to think or to control the body is explained by Dr. Harrison S. Martland, of Newark, N.J., in reporting to the American Medical Association the first scientific study every made of the unusual prize fighter’s disease, called “punch drunk.”
So little has this condition been studied by physicians, Dr. Martland reports, that there are even some brain experts who deny that it exists. Nevertheless Dr. Martland has compiled a list of twenty-three former fighters who show its symptoms, chiefly dragging of the legs or arms, uncertainties of movement and slowness in thinking and in speech.
Every experienced promoter or manager of fights or fighters is familiar, he says, with the occasional appearance of these symptoms in former sparring partners of hard-hitting champions or in other fighters accustomed to take heavy punishment, especially blows on the head or face. In an accident case which came under Dr. Martland’s observation a blow on the head caused, it was found on postmortem, hundreds of the tiny blood clots, each due to the rupture of a small blood vessel.
Not much blood escaped from any one break, but the presence of the many small clots in the substance of the brain damaged the organ, in this case fatally.

It is very probably, Dr. Martland believes, that repeated severe jars to the head like those received in prize fights may cause just such blood vessel ruptures, resulting in the disturbances of movement or of thinking which the “punch drunk” ex-fighter shows.

1928 Nov. 28  “Pop Warner used to say that he didn’t want to see a tackle—he wanted to hear it”—Quin Hall, King Features Syndicate

1928 Dec. 2  “Dr. Harrison S. Martland… has found that punch-drunk pugs are really suffering from an occupational disease or injury, and he urges the medical profession to so consider it and treat it from that point of view”Brooklyn Daily Eagle

1929 Jan. 2  Cal-Berkeley player acted “punch drunk” in wrong-way run during Rose Bowl newspapers report

1929 Jan. 2  “Was Riegels Punch-Drunk on Weird Run?”—headline, Portsmouth Daily Times OH

1929 Feb. 8  an NCAA football referee-doctor says brain injuries on the gridiron can cause “punch drunk” players

New York Times NY

BOSTON, Feb. 7—As a means of reducing serious injury to school and college players Dr. Eddie O’Brien, one of the leading football officials of the East, today advocated a rule making it compulsory for a competent physician to be in attendance at all school and college games with absolute power to rule on a player’s fitness to continue in the game after receiving an injury.
Speaking at a dinner here O’Brien declared: “Every one of you high school football coaches should see to it that a doctor is on the field of play ready to rule whether a lad hurt in a game should be removed or not. If the player is not steady on his legs and normal in his faculties he should be removed from the game and given medical assistance until he has fully recovered from the blow that caused the trouble.”
O’Brien declared he has seen several cases of players “out on their feet” allowed to remain in a game because there was no competent medical authority on hand to order their removal.
He cited one instance of a player knocked unconscious. The trainer hurried on the field with a pail of water. He drenched and slapped the player’s face. O’Brien brought his profession into use, opened the player’s mouth, pulled out his tongue and instantly the player came to.
“The boys was choking to death with his tongue in back of his mouth and the man sent on the field didn’t know it,” said O’Brien.

“Punch drunk” was the term which O’Brien used to describe the condition caused by head injuries and lack of medical attention. He cited at instance of the past season. He read a list of twenty-five fighters who are now in asylums because of beatings about the head.

1929 May 7  doctor reports that NCAA football coaches discussed “punch drunk” in players years before the boxing study by Martland

San Bernardino County Sun CA

By JAS. W. BARTON, M.D.
While the sporting public was sorry to see Gene Tunney retire from the boxing ring, nevertheless Tunney’s own explanation for retiring is worthy of our thought.
He stated that after one of his bouts he lost his memory for two days, and he was therefore afraid that continued blows on the head would eventually unbalance his mentality.
It has been my privilege for a number of years to examine both amateur and professional boxers before and after the bouts, and that repeated blows to the head can cause loss of memory lasting for hours and even days, is only too true.
In fact, on more than one occasion it has been found necessary to have boxers stop boxing for a few months to avoid what is called “punch drunk.” Notwithstanding that this condition has been known to boxing and football coaches for many years, it is only within the past year that the medical profession has seriously considered the matter.
As students were were taught that a “concussion” was just a shaking up of the brain. That is was as if you took the skull in your hands and gave the contents a “shake.” No injury followed it, because the bony case, the skull, was not injured.
In “compression,” however, a bone or bones of the skull were so broken or pushed in, that they pressed on the brain substance itself and caused paralysis or other conditions.
Therefore we never game concussion much thought, because, although there is a temporary loss of consciousness or a loss of memory, it soon clears away, and there is no apparent damage done.
However, Dr. H.S. Martland some months ago told us that in some of these cases the brain substance can be “bruised” just like other parts of the body, and this bruising results in the breaking of tiny blood vessels and discoloration just as in a bruise of the skin.
What is this knowledge going to mean to us?
It certainly does not mean that boxing, football or other sports should be abandoned, but where an athlete or a player in any kind of sport gets a bump, a blow, or a kick, and finds it results in a loss of memory, however short, he should keep away from that sport for a time, because it is the “repeated knocks,” coming at frequent intervals, that may finally unbalance the mind.
After two or three such occurrences he would be wise to follow some other line of sport, because the bones of his skull, not his brain, are too soft and “springy.”

(Copyright 1929 by the Bell Syndicate, Inc.)

1929 Nov. 7  “As many football players wind up a little slug-nutty as fighters” Damon Runyon observes in his syndicated newspaper column

1929 Nov. 7  the Carnegie Report ranks football “most hazardous” sport in the NCAA newspapers report

1929 Nov. 9  the Carnegie Report declares a football MD shouldn’t be chosen for his sports enthusiasm and desire to win at all costs newspapers report

1929 Dec. 15  Penn State football coach says boxing champ Gene Tunney retired smartly, before becoming “punch drunk” newspapers report

1930s circa  “The chronicle of rules made, broken, amended, circumvented, amended again, abused again, in endless cycle [over football’s first half-century], seems to reveal a game that developed without intention”—Michael Oriard, Reading Football [1994]

1930 Jan. 28  Army board rules soldier-boxer is “punch drunk” and disabled after 60 fights

Miami Daily News-Record OK

Bob Martin, who has just been granted a monthly pension of $100 by the Federal government on the extraordinary ground that he was made punch-drunk by three score fights while in the army, emerged from the war with much brighter prospects of becoming heavyweight champion than Gene Tunney. … [Martin] later developed a brain tumor and was forced to quit the ring.

1930 May 30  “much study has been given to the condition described as ‘punch-drunk.’ Many a first-class man has been ruined, mentally and physically, by repeated batterings about the head”Newark Evening News NJ

1931 Jan. 8  brain specialist says medical science understands TBI danger without knowing validated treatment and reliable management reports The Sedalia Democrat MO

1931 May 31  “A condition known as ‘punch drunk’ occurs in prize fighters who have taken punishment on the head, but may occur in anyone who receives a blow”—Dr. Logan Clendening, writing in his national newspaper column

1931 Aug. 10  “This country has been hearing a lot about shell-shock since the war and many have been acquainted with the former service men assumed to be suffering from this condition. According to the sixth international congress of military medicine and pharmacy, held at The Hague, there is no such thing as shell-shock and the term has been misapplied” newspapers report

1931 Oct. 17  Michigan State football coach says too much football contact renders players “punch drunk”

New York Times NY
Scrimmages Harmful to Team, Michigan State Coach Asserts
EAST LANSING, Mich., Oct. 16 (AP)–James H. Crowley, Michigan State football coach, one of the famous “four horsemen” of Notre Dame, believes scrimmage “is all the bunk” as a method of preparing football material for an impending game.

“You know, scrimmage is all the bunk,” he told his charges. “If I had a large squad, I wouldn’t go in very much for [practice] scrimmage at all; maybe a few before the first game of the year. You take these men, when they get out on the gridiron Saturday, and they’ll be football hungry. They’ll think it’s a lot of fun. Give that same outfit three or four scrimmages and they’ll be punch drunk when a game comes around.”

1931 Oct. 18  NCAA football coaches debate “punch-drunk syndrome”

Brooklyn Daily Eagle NY

Ed. HUGHES’ COLUMN
Those ‘Punch Drunk’ Scrimmagers
Does scrimmage make football players “punch-drunk”?
Jimmy Crowley of  the famous Four Horsemen seems to think so, according to a report. Crowley is now head coach of the Michigan State team and his players get very little scrimmaging from him in preparation for a game. Crowley is reported as saying that “scrimmage is the bunk” as a means of gridiron preparation, that barring a few such before the opening game, players are better off without it.
Too much of it, he thinks, takes the pep out of his men, gets ‘em in a confused mental state known in ringland as being “punch-drunk.”
Very likely there’s a lot in the argument, although Crowley’s views on the subject might be termed advanced. The football training for big games has changed a great deal, almost keeping pace with the new developments of the game itself. The scrimmage is still used, of course, and a great deal by some of the more “hard-boiled” and “old-fashioned” coaches.
The Clash of Opinion
Many other gridiron mentors, though, entertain sentiments akin to Crowley’s. They stress signal drills, “skull work” and other stunts calculated to sharpen the football brain without depleting physical energy and taking chances in the matter of injuries. …
You see the clash of opinion here. One faction contends this inflicts a “punch-drunk” syndrome condition; the other that is breeds lusty, vigorous players, impervious to the impact of the bone-crushing scrimmage. …

While the grid star may seem to put up with inhuman pain and hardship in his own field, still he’s shown himself to be quite human in other lines of sport. That’s why it seems to me fairly reasonable that these muscular youths, abounding in animal spirits, can still be rendered “punch drunk” by a few tornadic scrimmages—the kind deplored by Crowley for training purposes.

1931 Dec. 5  famed sportswriter Grantland Rice promotes “heads up” theory for safer contact in football

Lincoln Evening Journal NE

Grantland Rice’s Sport Light
There is probably no one in football who knows more about the art and science of tackling and blocking than Benny Friedman, who in addition to starring for the New York Giants has done a good job of coaching at Yale. I asked Benny what he thought had brought so many serious injuries and fatal accidents this season, and his answer is interesting.
“I should say,” he answered, “that it was lack of skill in blocking and tackling. I have seen any number of tacklers and ball carriers drive in with their heads down instead of keeping their heads up. I have also seen considerable attempted blocking with the head and neck instead of shoulders or body. Here are a few things for the player to remember:
“1. A tackler should never lower his head in making the tackle. Tackle with your head up. In this way you can also see what you are doing.
“2. A ball carrier should never hit a line with lowered head. Keep the head up, which is easy to do even when running low.
“3. No blocking should be attempted with head or neck. Use shoulders, hips and body.
“So many players,” said Friedman, “do not know the proper way to block and tackle. Being unskilled, they leave themselves open to bad injuries. A skilled tackler or blocker, of course, may be injured, but he is much less likely to be hurt. You will notice that most of the fatal injuries have been in high school or other prep games where the lack of skill is more pronounced. The blocking and tackling in pro football are more effective than on any college team, and serious injuries through a twenty or twenty-two game schedule are rare.”
The Proper Remedy
I asked Friedman what he considered the best way to cut the casualty list.
“It is necessary,” he said, “to have the player properly coached in all fundamentals. This takes time. It can’t be done in a hurry. In the second place, the player himself must give his share of work and attention to the instruction given him. Football is a demanding game. It calls for condition, hard work, close attention to details, high-class instruction and, with all the spirit one may have, the knowledge how to protect one’s self in a play. And there should be an especial watchfulness over younger players in high schools and prep schools.” …

It so happens that football has one of the finest and soundest directorships in sport. There will be full co-operation by the coaches in an effort to reduce casualties, for another season such as 1931 might bring the end of football, which is too great a game not to have all possible protection.

1931 Dec. 9  “Early practices teach the fundamentals of the game, and that means tackling and blocking. Nobody gets hurt making a clean tackle or block. But when it’s done wrong or haphazardly, you have trouble”—Chick Meehan, NYU football coach, speaking with The Brooklyn Daily Eagle

1931 Dec. 10  “A calamitous crop of head injuries and infected arms and legs was a large part of the 1931 hospital harvest. There at least can be laid at the doorsteps of the coaches. They were responsible for discarding the sole-leather helmet and the adoption of the headguard which carries a hidden sheath of vulcanized fiber… it seems to have been a lamentable failure as a protection against concussion caused by blows upon the head”—Brooklyn Daily Eagle

1931 Dec. 30  John Heisman says “abolish mass interference [blocking] on end sweeps” The AP reports

1932 Jan. 3  Pop Warner, pondering safe football for boys, cites problem of “frequent cases of fogginess” from head shots reports The Brooklyn Daily Eagle

1932 Feb. 15  a mass blocking formation supposedly outlawed in 1894 still thrives in football: “There were many accusations that the flying wedge [for kickoff return]…  was responsible for the greatest number of injuries, and some deaths, last year” United Press reports

1932 Oct. 30  “head up” technique is discussed by Dr. Mal Stevens, Yale football coach and president of the American Football Coaches Association

Washington Post DC

Dr. Stevens… holds the opinion that many of the minor and more serious injuries can be avoided by the adoption of proper precautions. Some of the faults which he considers are contributing causes to the occurrence of injuries are the improper conditioning and training of players, lack of correct coaching technique, inferior equipment, the prevalence of a few undesirable rules governing the game, inadequate supervision of the playing field and carelessness on the part of the players. …
Dr. Stevens said: “The tendency in recent years has been to make the headguard heavier, harder and larger. It is now an offensive weapon of the powerful line-plunger, but while it provides protection against scalp wounds, it does not cushion the head from the force of blows which are transmitted to the base of the brain. …
Dr. Stevens then commented upon the method of tackling. “For the last fifty years,” he continued, “‘tackle low’ has been a command issued by coaches. This is distinctly an erroneous procedure in teaching tackling. The tackle should not be made low, that is, at the knee or a point below the knee, or at any point where the lift of the ball-carrier’s leg can collide with the tackler’s chin or neck. Tackling low into the knees or ankles or feet of a ball-carrier merely invites disaster.
“Many coaches teach their players to tackle head-on, using the head as a battering ram. This method of teaching head-on tackles and blocks is dangerous and makes for less efficiency. Again, we find coaches who hold the opinion that a player is more prone to neck injury with his head up than down. Nothing can be found in theory or in practice to sustain this view. Every tackle or block should be made with the neck slightly extended, that is, with the head up.

“When being tackled, there is a very definite way to fall and to handle the body so that injuries will be prevented. At this moment, the ball-carrier should flex his neck quite firmly, depressing the chin down to the chest in the manner commonly referred to as ‘tucking in his chin.’ Both arms should wrap around the ball, the spine should be flexed with sharp flexion of the thigh on the hops and the body bent as far forward as possible. His position then approximates that of a porcupine on defense, and he is well prepared for scientific football tumbling.

1933 Sept. 1  dethroned welterweight champ retires after 160 fights, fearing brain damage of boxing United Press reports

1933 Sept. 18  National Boxing Association considers helmets to prevent punch-drunk fighters United Press reports

1933 Oct. 10  JAMA editor discusses the NCAA’s first medical handbook, which includes concussion protocol for football newspapers report

1933 Oct. 19  “concussion” ranks among worst football injuries, JAMA editor observes in his national newspaper column

Manitowac Herald-Times WI

Daily Hints on Health
(By Dr. Morris Fishbein, editor Journal of the American Medical Association and of Hygeia)
KEEP YOUR HELMET ON!
Headgear Prevents Serious Skull Injuries: Accident to Brain Revealed by Dizziness and Loss of Memory
This is the last of a series of articles by Dr. Fishbein on “How to Stay in the Game” by prevention of athletic injuries.
Tossing away your football headgear at the height of the conflict may be a magnificent gesture, but don’t do it.
There have been far too many cases of concussion of the brain and even fracture of the skull in football to take a chance without adequate head protection.
Most important of all, however, is to get a player promptly off the field when he has sustained anything resembling a serious injury to an ankle or any other joint. The extent of the injury should be determined immediately.
If there is any evidence at all that the injury is serious, such as a fracture, he should be taken promptly to a hospital for an X-ray picture and suitable medical attention.
***
Most serious of all injuries are those affecting the brain and the skull. A concussion of the brain means that the brain tissue actually has been bruised, with possible small hemorrhages into the tissue.
The first sign of such injury is loss of memory for recent events. The least important sign is a slight dizziness. But coaches and trainers should not, however, be unimpressed when a player comes out of a sudden impact with another player merely slightly dizzy or dazed.
***
The first thing to do in any such accident is to put the player immediately at rest, to determine extent of the injury. When a player has had a head injury, he should be put into a reclining position, questioned as to the headache and dizziness and given the test as to his memory for recent events.
If he cannot remember the names of his opponents, which side is on the offensive, the score, the day of the week, or similar matters, it is not safe to permit him to play again. If, however, he merely is dizzy, he should be permitted to stand and move about, to determine whether he has lost his sense of balance.

Any sign of a loss of sense of balance is serious, and the player should be removed from the contest.

1934 Dec. 28  “Teach [players] a rolling rather than a head-on tackle; to block so that the soft parts of the body will be contacted; to tuck their chins when falling backward after being tackled or blocked in order to avoid concussion”—NCAA medical director Floyd Eastwood, PhD in physical education, communicating with The Associated Press

1935 Sept. 8  one very definite thing a parent should look for is whether the coach teaches his men to tackle and block with an arched back, head up and eyes open. This is not only the most efficient way to do those tings, but the safest”—Harry Sylvester, author and former Notre Dame player, writing for The New York Herald

1935 Oct. 24  Yale football trainer uses questions to test “mental faculties” of players at sideline, removing those who act “befuddled” from games newspapers report

1935 Oct. 30  “At least three of the deaths on football fields this year have been caused by head-on tackles… [NCAA] Prof. Eastwood wisely concludes that coaches could alleviate this situation somewhat by teaching players to roll their heads away from the ball carrier’s knees and legs when tackling”—El Paso Herald-Post TX

1936 July 6  the Pennsylvania Medical Society declares “traumatic encephalopathy is what the doctor would call” punch-drunk disease in football players and boxers newspapers report

Copyright ©2016 for historical arrangement by Matthew L. Chaney

Matt Chaney is a writer, researcher and consultant on public issues in sport, specializing in American football for three decades. Chaney, MA in media studies, is a former college football player and coach whose books include Spiral of Denial: Muscle Doping in American Football, self-published in 2009Chaney’s study for graduate thesis, co-published with the University of Central Missouri in 2001, analyzed print sport-media coverage of anabolic substances in football from 1983-1999. Email him at mattchaney@fourwallspublishing.com or visit the website for more information.

1928-1961: Denial of Brain Damage in Boxing

By Matt Chaney, chaneysblog.com

Posted Tuesday, March 22, 2016

1928: ‘some brain experts deny that punch drunk exists,’ says Dr. Harrison S. Martland

Nov. 18, 1928, Baltimore Sun MD, p.LT12

Blood Clots Make Fighter Punch Drunk

Tiny Hemorrhages In Brain Responsible For Condition Says Physician Who Studied It

How hundreds of tiny blood clots, each no larger than a pinhead, may form inside the gray matter of the human brain and ruin its ability to think or to control the body, is explained by Dr. Harrison S. Martland, of Newark, N.J., in reporting to the American Medical Association the first scientific study every made of the unusual prize fighter’s disease, called “punch drunk.”

So little has this condition been studied by physicians, Dr. Martland reports, that there are even some brain experts who deny that it exists. Nevertheless Dr. Martland has compiled a list of twenty-three former fighters who show its symptoms; chiefly dragging of the legs or arms, uncertainties of movement and slowness in thinking and in speech.

Every experienced promoter or manager of fights or fighters is familiar, he says, with the occasional appearance of these symptoms in former sparring partners of hard-hitting champions or in other fighters accustomed to take heavy punishment, especially blows on the head or face. In an accident case which came under Dr. Martland’s observation a blow on the head caused, it was found on postmortem, hundreds of the tiny blood clots, each due to the rupture of a small blood vessel.

Not much blood escaped from any one break, but the presence of the many small clots in the substance of the brain damaged the organ, in this case fatally.

It is very probable, Dr. Martland believes, that repeated severe jars to the head like those received in prize fights may cause just such blood vessel ruptures, resulting in the disturbances of movement or of thinking which the “punch drunk” ex-fighter shows.

1929:  Carnegie Report cautions NCAA schools against hiring doctors who are sports fans

Nov. 9, 1929, Jefferson City Post-Tribune MO, p. 6

Daily Health Service

Editor’s Note: This is the last of four articles by [JAMA editor] Dr. Morris Fishbein on the hygiene of athletics.

By Dr. Morris Fishbein

Editor Journal of The American Medical Association and of Hygeia, the Health Magazine.

In its survey of the hygiene of athletics training, the special committee, working under the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, emphasizes its conviction that athletics if properly conducted may be made to contribute significantly  to the physical health of students.

They point out that exercises in general, and athletics in particular, are not a panacea for all forms of ill health from flat feet to melancholia.

Another point of view is that athletics are in the nature of remedies to be prescribed for one person in one strength and for another in another strength, and not to be at all for other persons.

The committee is convinced that adequate physical examinations and adequate medical care and supervision of athletics are not yet available in most institutions. It is urged that in case of accident, the physician and not the trainer should go on the field to determine the nature of the injury and advisability of continuing play. There must not be participation in an excessive number of sports.

Furthermore, the physician should not be chosen because of his super enthusiasm for athletics and his desire to win at any cost, but rather for his ability to judge in the type of injury which he is most often asked to see.

Some of the hygenic practices associated with high school and college athletics are so filthy that they would not be tolerated for a moment in any other department of life. it has been found that the same athletic clothing is worn without washing for a long period of time and in the case of track athletics, not infrequently for four years. On the football field, the common drinking cup, water bottle and sponge are used in an exceedingly unsanitary manner.

The general uncleanliness of athletic clothing, locker rooms and wrestling mats is largely responsible for the spread of ringworm and infections of the skin.

The most dangerous feature of all is the constant emphasis on winning at any costs. In order to correct this emphasis, there must be a change in the point of view.

1931:  ‘shell shock’ condition isn’t caused by warfare, say doctors and officers of militaries worldwide

Aug. 10, 1931, Valparaiso Vidette-Messenger IN, p.4

SHELL-SHOCK MISNOMER

This country has been hearing a lot about shell-shock since the war and many have been acquainted with the former service men assumed to be suffering from this condition. According to the sixth international congress of military medicine and pharmacy, held at The Hague, there is no such thing as shell-shock and the term has been misapplied. A New York health commissioner was one of the delegates to the session, which discussed a variety of problems arising from wartime ills.

The medical men were convinced that the so-called victims of shell-shock entered the war already suffering from some form of neurosis. It is, of course, easily apparent that some types succumbed more readily to the excitement and strain than others. In its formal findings, the medical congress declared that the war had not created psychosis of a new type and that no new morbid entity had been observed. The terms “shell shock” and “post concussion syndrome,” the congress reported, “have been wrongly applied at times.”

In connection to criminal cases attributable to so-called shell shock, the congress recommended strongly that penal responsibility of the patient should be determined by a psychiatrist. That plan, of course, is only fair to both the prisoner and to society. The medical conference urged that an elaborate system of handling psychoneurotic persons should be instituted in war time. It also suggested a broader method of treatment for all those suffering from nervous disorders, dividing such victims into several classes and treating those deemed curable.

The report of the congress regarding shell-shock may provoke some discussion in this country when veterans are told that their condition is nothing more than a malady they already had before the war. It is true, of course, that a number of ills ascribed to army service were scarcely attributable to that cause. The cases of so-called shell shock, however, had usually been eliminated from that category.—Indianapolis Star

1932:  boxing promoter says ‘bad habits’ cause ‘punch drunk’ condition, not punches, throughout the general population

June 5, 1932, Hartford Courant CT, p.C5

Fighters Are Not Alone In Being ‘Punch Drunk’

Seattle, Wash.—(AP)—Bankers, bookkeepers, street car men or any other persons are just as apt to become “punch drunk” as boxers, declares Buddy Bishop, Seattle promoter, who has been connected with the boxing business for 40 years.

“Dissipations and not punches bring a boxer to the ‘punch drunk’ stage,” explained Bishop. “Bad liquor, later hours, unnatural habits and bad associates will make any person groggy in time. Boxers do not get ‘punch drunk’ from beatings.”

1936:  ‘boxing folks always say something else causes the wreck of a once-normal human being,’ scribe observes

March 27, 1936, Brooklyn Daily Eagle NY, p.28

ED. HUGHES’ COLUMN

Punch-Drunks

Believe it or not, an English hospital is looking into this grisly business of fighters going “punch-drunk.” It wants to know what cause that, as our old friend Moran and Mack used to say, What is the matter with the poor was once explained by a Mr. B. Shaw. He said it was poverty. You become wealthy if you make a lot of money. Old age, it is now generally conceded, is caused by celebrating too many birthdays. And as surely, too many collisions with upholstered knuckles will produced the punch-drunk fighter.

It is all very simple, yet it is strange how many people like to make something very complex out of it. Particularly folks who live on and by the fight game. They are the last to admit that mere wallopings scramble a fighter’s brain, put mumbles in his speech, and locomotor ataxia in his nervous system. I have discussed the subject with hundreds of them, but usually the answer is the same. Always it is something else that caused the wreck of a once normal human being.

This is a case, undoubtedly, of the wish being father to the thought. But is is remarkable what a variety of thoughts, fancy flights of the imagination then can bring to bear on the subject. I once knew a young heavyweight of the give-and-take type whose eyesight became affected from too much punching about the head. Facing certain blindness he quit the ring. After that I met his manager. It was too bad he had to take so much punishment, I commiserated, only to learn that wasn’t the case at all!

“He didn’t get that from punchings,” explained the manager. “About a year ago he was in an automobile accident and the shock affected an optic nerve. He could never see right after that.” The manager talked as if he meant it. Possibly he had given the excuse so often that even he himself had come to believe it.

Self-Hypnotism

This form of self-hypnotism makes the subject construe beatings as merely incidental to the punch-drunk condition. One of the favorite “trances” of the sort has to do with dissipation and the fighting man. When a pug “goes bad,” mentally, you are always told that he tried to mix fighting with gay carryings-on.

One cannot fight in a weakened state, you are told, which is quite true. But the fact that few fighters do seems to be conveniently overlooked. They train hard for fights, and doctors who pass on them for condition always pronounce them in perfect shape, else they do not fight.

However, assume a scrapper is given to dissipation, you still find it is the the thrashings in the ring that class him as “punchy.” Many people dissipate more or less, a whole life long, but they do not become punch-drunk. They may suffer in other ways, but the only way one can become punch-drunk is by getting punched.

Where To Get It

Thus, if all the fighters who have the “wobbles” in their gait, and the “gargles” in their talk had never fought they wouldn’t be “punch-drunk,” would they? They couldn’t get it working in an office, driving a truck, painting a house, or along similar healthful trails of life. Only in the ring can they get it, and it is a fact that the clean living gladiator is as susceptible to it as his careless living fellow battler. Simply, the human frame was never designed to stand such persistent, skilled and savage hammering. But Cauliflower folk alone will not admit this, and the reason is natural. No one llikes to believe his life job is such as to drive him daffy.

And so an English fight trainer theorizes: “If only these men were to look after themselves more they would never reach the condition the doctors are seeking a cure for. For at least a week after a fight they would eat sparingly, take plenty of fresh air and hot baths, and also go in for massage. If this were done there would be far fewer punch-drunks.”

But a former champion fighter once told me that he saw Bob Fitzsimmons slam a rival on the temple, and that the victim was looney from this one wallop for the rest of his life. Just from that one soul-searing smash.

Maybe that wallop made him forget to eat sparingly, take plenty of fresh air and go in for massage.

1936:  Dempsey blames fighters for ‘punch drunk’ disease, not boxing

May 8, 1936, Scranton Republican PA, p.20

POLLEY’S CHATTER

By Joe Polakoff, Sports Editor

PUNCH DRUNKS…Fighters get punch drunk because they let down too quickly after hard battles, says Jack Dempsey.

“Instead of sleeping and lolling around for a couple of days after a fight, they usually rush out of their dressing rooms and hit for a big party,” says Dempsey. “That relieves the pressure too fast and softens ‘em up quickly. They become easier targets the next time out.”

Dempsey advocates two managers for each fighter, one to get matches and arrange the business end. The other to train the fighter properly.

1936:  new UMaryland boxing coach promises safe, old-time fighting in his program of the NCAA

Sept. 17, 1936, Washington Post DC, p.X19

Ring Official Once Fought As a Pro

Coach Has Been Referee for 30 Years, Sports Editor, Promoter

The University of Maryland’s stock on the collegiate clouting market zoomed yesterday with the announcement that Maj. Harvey. L. (Heinic) Miller, long a prominent figure in the fight game, had accepted the position of boxing coach for the Terrapin beak bangers.

Miller, who is secretary of the District Boxing Commission and editor of Our Navy, a monthly service publication, succeeds Capt. John W. Harmon and will be assisted by Lyman McAboy, a prominent contender in past Southern Conference championship meets.

Himself t one time a very good professional fighter, Miller has been prominently identified with the boxing business since his retirement from the ring. For a number of years he served as sports editor of a local paper and once was the leading promoter hereabouts in the days when boxing was “bootlegged” to the fistic fans in matches held just outside the District.

30 Years a Referee

Miller has been a referee for the past 30 years. He has served as an official referee for the Eastern Intercollegiate Boxing Association and the Southern Conference since 1925.

The major participated in 205 bouts during his fighting career. All but 22 of them were professional engagements, and he lost only six. he won the bantamweight championship of the Army, Navy and Marine Corps in a tournament at Newport, R.I., in 1906—two years after he started fighting. …

Miller is a veteran of the World War and saw service in Cuba, the Phillipines, China, Nicaragua and Mexico. he is a major in the Fleet Corps Reserves, commanding the Fifth Battalion of that organization.

Hopes For Real Boxers

“I want to get out a larger squad, preach loyalty and training,” said Miller yesterday, in discussing his appointment. “I shall actually get in the ring with my boys a couple of hours each day and see if we can’t do with a bunch of smart college ringmen something like Jack Blackburn has done with Louis. By that, I mean that we will try to bring back the 1900 style of feinting, counter-punching and on-balance hitting which was the vogue in the days when haphazard punches to non-vital spots were just as rare as tin ears and punch-drunk fisticuffians.”

1937:  ‘fear exaggerated’ for boxing in schools, NCAA, and benefits outweigh risks, says ex-champ

Feb. 5, 1937, Baltimore Sun MD, p.16

TUNNEY BACKS SCHOOL BOXING

Hopes Virginia Will Not Ban Sport After Death of V.M.I. Boy

(By The Associated Press)

Richmond, Va., Feb. 4—Gene Tunney, former heavyweight boxing champion of the world, expressed the hope today that intercollegiate boxing would not be curtailed in Virginia as the result of the fatal injuries received by a V.M.I. cadet in a bout last week.

In a letter written to the Richmond Times-Dispatch from Washington, Tunney described the sport as a combination of “fine vigorous exercise with character building.”

Commenting on the action of his old Marine commander, Gen. John A. Lejeune, superintendent of the Virginia Military Institute, in canceling the ring schedule of the school after the death of Cadet W.J. Eastham, Tunney urged that the sport not be abandoned after this season.

“General Lejeune, my commander, loves a good scrap as well as anyone,” Tunney said. “He has always been very much interested in boxing. Of course, anyone would have closed the schedule under such circumstances.

“But to think that such an accident, serious as it is to the boy’s parents and friends, would bring about a movement to curtail all intercollegiate boxing throughout Virginia, is, I believe, rather saddening, particularly for those who have pictured the sport of boxing coming into its own through school and college interest.”

Referring to an editorial in the paper referring to “mental incompetency, due to pummeling of craniums,” Tunney said:

“It is my belief–after a long experience with amateur and professional boxers–that that fear is exaggerated. The punishment a young man in good physical condition sustains in a college boxing contest is insignificant compared with that which football players sustain in a game, or members of the crew bear in the course of a race.”

Pro Game Different

“Of course, when they change the atmosphere of the amateur ring to that of the professional ring, there is danger of eventual ‘punch drunk’ or incompetence in proportion to the increase and severity of the punishment.

“However, school and college boxing should not be concerned with these remote possibilities and, as one who has gone through hundreds of amateur and professional contests (not altogether unscathed, but still sound, I hope), and who has found only cleanness of body and development of character–the reward for those who know the wisdom of moderation—may appeal to you to throw the influence of your paper against the movement to curtail amateur school and college boxing in Virginia.

1937:  ‘punch drunk’ is unproven theory, non-existent in boxing, say ring supporters

April 26, 1937, Anniston Star AL, p.4

Punch Drunk

The least welcome topic of conversation among fight managers and promoters is boxing’s most prevalent occupational affliction: punch drunkenness.

Because they give the boxing game a brutal, unwholesome aura, “slap happy” or “punchy” ex-fighters, who have lost their mental balance from abnormal pounding on the head, are usually committed quietly to private or state institutions, occasionally taken care of generously by their former associates, and almost always forgotten thereafter.

Because even extensive laboratory tests have thus far failed to provide medical men with a complete explanation of this abnormality, only theory supports charges that the mumbling, hazy derelicts of boxing got that way from taking excessive punishment in the ring. Consequently, many of boxing’s ardent supporters defend the game by disavowing the existence of the affliction.—Literary Digest

1937:  allegedly punch-drunk boxers should blame themselves because many ex-boxers feel great, says ex-champion

May 26, 1937, Baltimore Sun MD, p.19

If Kid Has Any Knack, Boxing Is Career, Leonard Tells Rice

Ex-Champ Scores Warners—Points to Opportunities For Earnings and Broader Life If Boy Will Learn Hi Trade, Doesn’t Dissipate—And Has Equipment

By Grantland Rice

New York, May 25—Benny Leonard will argue with you all day if you intimate that professional boxing is not a desirable career for a young man—a young who, of course, is equipped to get somewhere with his fists.

“Naturally,” Benny says, “I wouldn’t advise a boy to start boxing professional who was doomed to stay in the preliminary ranks–anymore than I would advise him to be a tailor if I didn’t think he could make a suit of clothes. …”

“I love boxing. Boxing was very good to me–and there is no reason shy it shouldn’t be just as good to any other boys who takes it seriously and conducts himself decently.”

Why single out fighters?

“Why is it you newspaper fellows are always advising kids to stay away from the ring? Because you think they will spend the best years of their lives getting punched around and wind up with nothing, and that they’ll be lucky if they don’t wind up walking on their heels, eh?

“Why don’t you look at it this way? If a boy takes proper care of himself and learns how to box, the punishment he takes in the ring isn’t going to do him any harm. I can point out to you dozens of fellows–some of them ex-champions and some fellows in the ring for a long time–who are healthy middle-aged men and either comfortably fixed, or , with their ring days behind them, are earning good livings at something else.

“You say you can show me a lot of broken-down fighters, too. That’s right. But I can show you a lot of broken-down fellows who never had on a boxing glove in their lives. Misfortunes or dissipation have ruined many a ball players, jockey, tennis player, newspaper man or business man, haven’t they? You know some fellows who never were fighters, but who are all washed up at 35 or 40, don’t you?

“But they aren’t punch-drunk, you say. All right, Now let me tell you something: There is no need for a fighter to get punch-drunk, either. The fighter who winds up on his heels is the fighter who never learned his business in the first place and, in the second, weakened himself and undermined his health by dissipation. And I may be wrong, but I think that those characteristics aren’t exactly peculiar to fighters.”

 1938:  Navy researchers suggest boxing inexperience typically causes ‘punch drunk‘ disease, which they term as ‘dementia pugilistica’

Jan. 16, 1938, New York Times NY, p.67

It’s ‘Dementia Pugilistica’ And Not ‘Punch Drunk’

Special Correspondence, The New York Times

WASHINGTON–Uncle Sam’s navy doctors do not care for the term “punch drunk.” They admit it is colorful and “scarcely requires elucidation,” but say it tends to encumber nosological nomenclature.

The term “dementia pugilistica” has been coined instead for persons suffering delusions of pugilistic prowess. It would apply to any one who puts up his “dukes” at the sound of a trolley-car bell, or who habitually scowls, snorts, blows, grimaces, crouches or squares off like a boxer.

A recent government bulletin explains that the most typical examples of this disorder are usually found among the less expert boxers, particularly as concerns defensive ingenuity—boxers capable, nevertheless, of absorbing inordinate punishment.

1938:  reports of boxing ‘punch drunk’ condition are ‘grossly exaggerated,’ says UWisconsin neurologist, adding that ‘proper coaching, officiating and medical supervision’ will eliminate all chance of the problem at colleges

June 24, 1938, Baltimore Sun MD, p.17

Boxing Weight Limits Lifted

Colleges Raise Bantams to 120 Pounds and Feathers to 127

(By the Associated Press)

Annapolis, June 23–The weight limits of two classes of college boxing were increased today by the National Collegiate Athletic Association in order to relieve boxers from the strain of reducing their poundage.

The committee also decided to hold the annual national intercollegiate boxing meet at the University of Wisconsin on March 30, 31 and April 1.

After discussion had brought out that most colleges have had trouble in finding boxers light enough to compete in the present bantamweight and featherweight classes, the committee boosted the bantamweight limit from 115 to 120 pounds and the featherweight class limit from 125 to 127 pounds.

Other Classes Unchanged

The other classes authorized by the rules were unchanged. They are lightweight, 135 pounds; welterweight, 145 pounds; senior welterweight, 155 pounds; middleweight, 165 pounds; light-heavyweight 175 pounds,and unlimited weight, over 175 pounds.

The official group also decreed that boxers in the future cannot weight more than the top weight of the class in which they will compete. This eliminates the old rules which allowed boxers to weight four pounds more than the weight limit.

Another change was the adoption of a rule making it mandatory for boxers to weight in four hours before a meet, eliminating the optional clause which allowed weighing in during the four-hour period.

It was also agreed that by mutual consent between competing institutions, teams of more than eight men may be used by matching two or men in any of the weight classes. This will allow coaches by agreement to stage two bantamweight, heavyweight or any other class bouts they desire in an official meet.

Must Stick To Class

A section was added to the rules to prevent a boxer entering any tournament in a weight class in which he has not participated in at least 50 percent of the bouts during the dual meets of the season. This would prohibit a boxer who has fought in two weights during the season, but a majority in the heavier weight, from training down to enter a tournament in the lighter weight.

Dr. W.J. Blackwenn, professor of nervous and mental diseases and boxing representative at the University of Wisconsin, declared that reports of “punch-drunk” college fighters have been grossly exaggerated. He pointed out that the few cases reported have little foundation in fact, and that by proper training, coaching, medical supervision and officiating, the condition cannot occur in college boxing.

1938:  amateur boxing organization blames poorly constructed gloves for ‘punch drunk,’ scribe writes

June 1, 1938, Hartford Courant CT, p.11

Calling ‘Em Right

With Bert Keane, Sports Editor

Change Your Gloves

Beginning today the Amateur Athletic Union is imposing new regulations in the use of the boxing gloves by simon-pure fighters. Observations by officers of the union have shown that many types of boxing gloves now being used are poorly constructed, thus causing fighters to become punch drunk.

The union contends that it is the policy to teach the youth of American to fight scientifically and to defend themselves properly. The intention of pleasing the crowd is not the foremost aim.

Heretofore, although gloves were of the regulation weight of 8 or 10 ounces the padding was poorly distributed, much of it being around the wrists instead of covering the knuckles. Other gloves contained padding of a poor grade which soon separated causing injury to both fighters.

Under the new ruling all gloves must bear the AAU seal before they can be used in regulation amateur tourneys or exhibitions.

1939:  boxing only needs regulation and proper training, coaching, to limit a fighter’s exposure, says ex-champ

July 16, 1939, Los Angeles Times CA, p.13

“LET’S MAKE THEM RIGHT!”

By Johnny Kilbane

as told to Paul Zimmerman

A few weeks ago I sat at ringside in Los Angeles during a series of bouts which brought loud and frequent protests from the people who paid their good money to see a display of the manly art of boxing.

“Make ‘em fight! Make ‘em fight!” …

I am convinced boxers today are, potentially, just as willing, just as courageous as they were in the 20-round days.

The trouble lies, to my way of thinking, with the present-day system.

In many instances there is faulty control over the sport by commissions that make boxing a political football, allowing it, oftentimes, to become a racket.

Then there are the chiseling promoters. One of the most vicious harms today is the effort to put the game on a syndicate basis.

Many managers—as many as 90 percent—either don’t know their business or do but fail to protect their fighters. And then, the seconds; they often harm a fighter more than the opponent does.

What do I suggest?

The best plan I know of would be to put boxing under a national commissioner—a strong man who is all-powerful. such a man as baseball has in Judge Kenesaw Landis. Qualifications? Well, he would have to be a man of integrity, a good businessman and a man who knows boxing.

Where can we find such a man?

What’s the matter with Gene Tunney?

Then let this commissioner appoint supervisors in the various sections or States; men like Ritchie, your boxing inspector in Southern California, or Jim McLarnin, the former world’s welterweight champion.

A commissioner with fortitude could keep boxers, managers and promoters in line with the threat of a national suspension that means something. Today a man can be barred in California and fight in almost any other State in the Union.

Let’s start with the fighter. Most of our present-day boxers come up from the amateur ranks. And I’d like to say here and now that many of our so-called simon-pure fighters actually get more money than the professionals who fight preliminaries. I think this sham is bad for the youth to start with.

The majority of our present-day fighters are poorly trained. Defense is a lost art. There’s too much stress on punching. A young boy goes into the gymnasium, puts on a headgear, dons oversized gloves and starts swinging.

He doesn’t learn defense because he doesn’t get hurt with all that protection. As a result modern fighting has become installment mayhem. Raw clubbing has adulterated the most skillful of all sports.

Training has become a sham. For this reason we have few fighters who could go through 20 rounds of training, let alone a long fight.

Take what I consider my hardest fight. It was held in a barn outside of Cleveland back in 1909–winner take all. …

We have too many punch-drunk fighters reeling around our gyms and on our fight cards today because the commissions, the promoters and the managers—the men who should know–don’t tell a poor boxer to get out before he is washed up. …

Let me repeat that properly trained and properly matched boxers will give a good account of themselves if permitted to do do. …

I don’t want my readers to think this criticism of the boxing game means I have soured on the sport or my many friends in it.

Boxing was good to me. I was paid $2,300 when I won the title here but I received $100,000 when I defended the crown for the last time and lost to Eugene Criqui in New York in 1923. I knew it was time for me to quit and I did.

At 50 I’m in fine health; my features are unmarked and I still have my self-respect. That’s important.

My criticism of boxing has been solely for the good of the game I still love. I only hope you place the blame on the right shoulders when you go to a bad bout and feel the urge to shout:

“Make ‘em fight!”

1947:  boxers get ‘punch drunk’ from poor training, gloves, and football is just as bad for any such condition, scribe writes

Oct. 23, 1947, Mattoon Journal Gazette IL, p.9

Fair or Foul

By Lawton Carver

International News Service Sports Editor

New York—One of the great innovations currently needed in football is a game called off on a technical knockout.

When a fighter is hopelessly beaten and appears about to be permanently bruised, the official or officials have the right to step in and stop it. In football, it seems, a man doesn’t begin to show his courage until his bones begin to stick out through his jersey. …

The educators who get up on a rostrum occasionally and pop off about the evils of football always overlook that they are the ones who permit these slaughters. …

It is unbelievably strange that in the prize ring where pug-uglies take their swipes at each other, there is official humaneness, while in football the little guy playing the big guy is expected to take it until he is carried off the field. …

The general public probably would be surprised to know that there is a considerable amount of post traumatic encephalitis among football players.

That triple jointed word when translated bluntly means punch-drunk.

The prize-fighter actually gets most of his punch-drunkenness while working out In training, big gloves are used and the attempt to avoid punches is negligible.

Yet, with these big gloves on, fighters can hit each other hard enough to jolt the brain, tiny little hemorrhages in the blood vessels are set up and the next thing you know a guy has the equivalent of a locomotor ataxia and a mouth full of marbles.

In football it works the same way—only different. The guy’s brains are scrambled—or those blood vessels are ruptured—from belts on the head in close and from being bounced around the ground and kicked occasionally.

Some of the veteran pro football players talk with much the same mumble that you hear among fighters who have been swatted too much. This is set up while they still are in college.

1947:  college football players are ‘punchy,’ not boxers, says letter-writer

Oct. 5, 1947, Chapel Hill Daily Tar Heel NC, p.2

Write Away

Consider the Sport Boxing

Fellow Students:

Boxing has been dropped from the winter schedule of sport activities. You probably didn’t know about this until now. ..

I was told that boxing was dropped by the Athletic Council because of lack of interest, too many nose injuries, and the large number of undesirable characters that have boxed for the University of North Carolina. These reasons were given to me by a member of the Athletic Council and I feel that the latter reasoning is an insult to all former and present members of the University’s boxing team. …

As for nose injuries or any kind of injuries, I don’t believe that boxing in college even on a percentage basis, is anywhere close to football in that category. How many boxers in college do you know that have received permanent injuries or have become punchy due to boxing with ten ounce gloves?

Sincerely yours,

Dick Young

1953:  ‘Most Boxing Injuries Can Be Prevented,’ headline states over doctor’s newspaper column

July 9, 1953, Winona Republican-Herald MN, p.6

Most Boxing Injuries Can Be Prevented

By H.N. Bundesen, M.D.

Until public clamor over ring fatalities and brutalities caused boxing authorities to take action, the physician had little part to play in professional and amateur boxing. He might, before the bout, stethescope the prize fighters and check their blood pressure and body temperature. He then took his usual seat until it was time to repair the damaged men.

Today in progressive states, medial measures are now being undertaken to protect the fighters. Physicians thoroughly screen the men to make sure that their hearts are in good condition. They examine for the possibility of epilepsy or the tendency to have convulsions.

Brain Waves Measured

In some states, any fighter that is knocked unconscious is required to have an electroencephalogram, which is taken by an instrument that measures the brain waves and determines whether any brain damage has been brought about.

Much damage can be prevented by using eight and ten-ounce gloves rather than the usual six-ounce glove. The old glove used to have loose padding so that it could be shifted away from the knuckles. The more preventive type of glove is made of latex-bound pad.

The resin used to coat the floors of the ring to provide adequate friction is now being replaced by calcium carbonate. This will protect the fighter’s eyes, since the resin is very damaging to the eyes.

Safer Mouth Pieces

New plastic mouth pieces have been perfected so that the shock of jaw blows can be lessened. These are much safer and more effective than the rubber mouth pieces now being used.

The thin canvas mats that were once used are now being replaced by a synthetic soft substance, known as ensolite, which cushions the falls.

Physicians have learned that fighting might give rise to specific diseases. Boxing and repeated blows to the head may result in permanent damage to the brain and nervous system.

Medical and laboratory skills have combined in the fight to protect the fighter from his occupational hazards.

1955:  ‘boxing is relatively safe, with no definite evidence of brain damage in EEG study,’ say doctors

June 6, 1955, Escanaba Daily Press MI, p.12

New York Physician Calls Other Sports Tougher Than Boxing

By Jack Hand

NEW YORK (AP) A New York physician today called boxing “relatively safe” and rated football and pro ice hockey as tougher contact sports.

Dr. Mal Stevens, chairman of the medical advisory board of the New York State Athletic Commission, defended boxing against charges of “barbarism” voiced by a British physician in a speech to the American Medical Assn. at Atlantic City, N.J.

“With proper supervision, equipment, coaching, training and officiating, boxing has become relatively safe,” said Dr. Stevens, former football coach at Yale and New York University.

Danger In All

“There is an element of danger in all contact sports,” he said. “I believe there is more chance of permanent injury in football or pro hockey where the contestants rush at each other from a distance and momentum becomes a factor.

The British physician, Dr. James Hamilton Doggart of Moorsfield Eye Hospital, London, stressed the idea that a boxer can get damaging “cauliflower eyes” (hemorrhages in blood vessels of the eye nourishing the retina and lens).

Denies Brain Damage

“Retinal detachment is not peculiar to boxing,” said Dr. Stevens. “While I was a Yale we had three cases of detached retina. One came from football, another was the result of a boy being hit by a squash racquet and third from an exploding seltzer bottle.”

“The British physician said pre-fight physical exams did little more than “separate the cripples and morons.” He also said “one expert has said that probably no head blow is taken with impunity, and each knockout caused definite and irreparable damage.

“We have taken tests of 2,047 license boxers with the electro-encephalogram,” said Dr. Stevens, “and we’re still looking for definite evidence of any brain damage.”

1959:  ‘the so-called punch-drunk syndrome has been successfully challenged by an overwhelming weight of scientific evidence,’ doctor writes in JAMA

May 27, 1959, Salt Lake Tribune UT, p.13

Sports Mirror by

John Mooney

Tribune Sports Editor

Question Box

“Which of the three major American sports–boxing, baseball or football–causes the most deaths? And what about the great number of boxers who wind up ‘punch drunk.’ Bettey B., Provo.”

ANSWER—Dr. Ira McCowan, in the Journal of the American Medical Assn., asserts, “Many sports authorities, and even some physicians, mistakenly believe the incidence of fatalities and serious injuries is greater in boxing than in any of the other body contact sports.

“The Gonzales report of fatalities in competitive sports, based on a study from 1918 to 1950, found there were more deaths in baseball and football then in boxing in that period. There were 43 deaths in baseball, 22 in football and 21 in boxing.”

Dr. McCowan concludes, “The so-called punch-drunk syndrome has been successfully challenged by an overwhelming weight of scientific evidence. The clinical picture and pathological findings associated with this syndrome are not peculiar to boxing alone, but have been found in the average populace as frequently, if not more frequently, than in boxers.”

Dr. Tony Curreri, of the University of Wisconsin, who studied electric-encephalograms on thousands of boxers, says there are as many “punchy” folks going through life as there are ex-boxers who are hearing bells.

1960:  ‘boxing knockouts don’t leave brain damage,’ doctors argue:

June 22, 1960, New York Times NY, p.38

Neurosurgeons Study Knockout Physiology

No Lasting Changes in Brain Produced

But Specialists Do Not Agree on the ‘Punch Drunk’

By Robert K. Plumb

Knockout in the boxing ring occurs when the brain’s organizing network is suddenly overwhelmed by nervous signals, two nerve specialists reported here yesterday.

The ring knockout does not produce lasting changes in the brain, the two asserted at a medical conference on injuries and deaths in professional boxing that was sponsored by the New York State Athletic Commission.

However, specialists at the meeting disagreed on the cause of the phenomenon known as “punch drunk.” One held that a boxer could become punch drunk as a result of repeated knockouts; the other said that knockouts had nothing to do with the condition.

The physiology of the knockout was discussed in studies conducted by Dr. Jefferson Browder, neurosurgeon of the Long Island College Hospital, and Dr. Harry A. Kaplan, Associate Professor of Neurosurgery at the State University of New York, Downstate Medical Center.

Long Study Made

Dr. Kaplan reported that he and Dr. Browder had long studied knockouts at ringside with a view to furthering medical understanding of unconsciousness common in many medical emergencies. They soon decided that boxing, unless a fighter fell and hit head on the mat, produced only a temporary state of affairs in the brain. They maintained that it was different from being hit by an automobile. …

Others at the conference maintained that professional boxing did not have so many injuries or fatalities as other sports.

The chief medical examiner of New York City, Dr. Milton Helpern, reported on autopsy findings of boxers who died in this city after bouts. …

Dr. Helpern said that he agreed with Dr. Kaplan that the usual ring knockout was a temporary thing and that residual injury to the brain usually could not be established as resulting from blows to the head.

Dr. Abraham M. Rabiner, Emeritus Professor of Neurology at the State University of New York College of Medicine, discussed the punch drunk. He said he did not know what caused the condition. However, Dr. Rabiner speculated that repeated knockouts could injure the brain as a series of small strokes could injure it. …

Dr. Marvin A. [Mal] Stevens, chairman of the medical advisory board of the New York State Athletic Commission, and Dr. Ira A. McCown, the commission’s medical director, were chairmen for scientific sessions that began Monday and ended yesterday at the New York University-Bellevue Medical Center.

Participants at the symposium went to the weighing-in ceremony before the [Floyd Patterson-Ingemar Johansson] fight Monday night and most attended the bout. At the conference were ring physicians and other medical specialists, former boxers and boxing officials.

1961:  AMA Sports Medical members ‘have made a stand in support of intercollegiate boxing,’ scribe writes

Jan. 8, 1961, Idaho State Journal ID, p.11

On The Sidelines

By Tom Morrison

Journal Sports Editor

Can intercollegiate boxing make a comeback and enjoy the prestige it acquired at the height of its success?

We think it can and will do so.

Our opinion is based upon the recent developments during the American Medical Association’s Conference on the Medical Aspects of Sports held in Washington, D.C. The doctors not only sanctioned collegiate boxing but disagreed with the University of Wisconsin’s decision to retire from ring competition.

From a feeble beginning in 1932 and 1936, when bouts were held to qualify college boxers for the Olympic tryouts, the sport progressed like a champion to the National Collegiate Boxing Championships sponsored by the NCAA in 1957, when it hit its peak and Idaho State College won the national crown by taking seven out of ten weight classes and compiled a record number of points.

Since then the intercollegiate sport has taken several verbal blows on the chin from fans, coaches, school officials, writers, experts and even the participants.

Intercollegiate boxing received the hardest blow in its history last April 9 when wiry, 22-year-old Charles Mohr, probably one of the finest collegiate boxing in the nation for the University of Wisconsin and the 165-pound titleholder in ’59, stepped into the ring at Madison to defend his crown against San Jose State’s Stu Bartell and minutes later was in a deep coma from an intracranial hemorrhage following a moderate blow to the head which caused his death eight days later.

The punch rocked the collegiate boxing world. …

From April until the AMA in December, intercollegiate boxing reeled on the ropes from the unfounded verbal beating it was taking from opponents of the sport. …

Finally, the men who know have made a stand supporting intercollegiate boxing… the nation’s doctors and the American Medical Association. …

The doctors at the AMA conference in the nation’s capitol agreed that organized sports are well worth the risk of injury. They disagreed with the University of Wisconsin, which after Mohr’s death retired from intercollegiate boxing.

Time magazine, reporting on the conference in the Dec. 12 issue, said, “Bad injuries in sports happen often enough to keep doctors seriously worried.”

The weekly publication stated the Air Force in 1958 announced that 3,222 of its men had been disabled or killed in sports activities during a single year.

The breakdown of the Air Force injuries and fatalities, in parenthesis, is as follows: Softball 703, football 520, basketball 504, volleyball 137, skeet shooting 76 (1), water sports 359 (75), winter sports 151, baseball 147, hunting 70 (2), hiking 16, and others 536.

Boxing wasn’t listed in the report but was included in the category “others.”

At the conference, Harvard University’s Dr. Thomas B. Quigley said, “Whenever young men gather regularly on green autumn fields, on winter ice, or polished wooden floors to dispute the possession and position of various leather and rubber objects, according to certain rules, sooner or later somebody gets hurt.”

All must agree to this logic, but the big question before the doctors was: Are organized sports worth the risk?

The doctors answered with a QUALIFIED YES.

Furthermore, the doctors stated, boxing was good for youth. The medics agreed with Harvard’s Quigley that “young men must blow off steam and the playing field is much to be preferred to the tavern.”

Dr. Harry A. Kaplan of New York of New York blasted the popular theory that “punch-drunkenness” is brought on by repeated blows to the head in the ring.

He reported that a ten-year study of 3,000 electroencephalograms (recording of the brain’s electric current) taken on boxers showed no relationship between boxing and degenerative brain disease. Dr. Kaplan and said that the “punch drunk” ex-pugilist would probably have suffered the same fate had he never boxed at all.

Protection given intercollegiate boxers with head guards, padded gloves, mouthpieces, proper supervised training and careful scrutiny of the fighters in actual competition by competent officials and ringside doctors leaves very little chance of injury.

Matt Chaney is a researcher, writer, and consultant on public issues in sport, specializing in American football for three decades. Chaney, MA in media studies, is a former college football player and coach whose books include Spiral of Denial: Muscle Doping in American Football, self-published in 2009Chaney’s study for graduate thesis, co-published with the University of Central Missouri in 2001, analyzed print sport-media coverage of anabolic substances in football from 1983-1999. Email him at mattchaney@fourwallspublishing.com or visit the website for more information.

 

1900-1912: ‘The First Concussion Crisis’ For Beloved Football

Part Two in a Series

Brain Injury in American Football: 130 Years of Knowledge and Denial

By Matt Chaney, ChaneysBlog.com

Posted Saturday, January 30, 2016

I. Introduction

II. 1900-1904: Doctors, Football Officials Clash Over Brain Injuries

III. 1900-1902: Football Brutality and Call For ‘Open Game’

IV. 1903: Football Officials Tout New Rules, Sell New Helmets

V. 1876-1900: Roosevelt Embraces ‘Strenuous Life,’ Football

VI. 1901-1904: Football Fan and Father in The White House

VII. 1905: Football Tempest Explodes on Presidential Intervention

VIII. 1905: Football Tempest Subsides on Presidential Instruction

IX. 1912: Forgetting Football TBI and Disease For Posterity

By outset of 1910, the official promise of “debrutalized” football had not produced for America. Football appeal was spiking, drawing millions of spectators and enticing thousands of players for games at college stadiums, school fields, and local parks. “Enthusiast” presidents, among the famous, lent vogue to football fandom while the popular press made celebrities of college players. But the injury plague persisted, for inherent risks of the collision sport.

Former president Theodore Roosevelt may have “saved” football in 1905, per that blossoming story, but only from destructive infighting and scattered abolitionists.  Apparently no one could develop “Safer Football”—the headlined mission entrusted the game since Roosevelt’s intervention—and officials were acknowledging reality after years of failed policy.

“The majority of representatives want safer football,” said Amos Alonzo Stagg, University of Chicago head coach and member of the NCAA rules committee. “As to specific rules effecting this, it is impossible to say much. It’s easier to make attacks upon the rules… than to make the game safer.”

“Coach Stagg declares that there is a great demand for safer football,” intoned a newspaper commentator. “No doubt there is, and no doubt, too, there is as great a demand down below for a cooler hell.”

Another news writer faulted critics of football, for their “attitude” and nil help toward reform:

The game will have to be changed cause of the fatalities and injuries of the last season [1909]. Many of the persons who are loudest in their demands to have alterations made, however, are those who cannot or do not suggest just what things should be done.

American “foot-ball” had blended rugby with soccer following the Civil War, and from 1880 onward officials struggled to control increasingly vicious field contact, along with managing hordes of player casualties. Various types of injury threatened football players in 1910, with doctors virtually powerless to treat lethal conditions such as brain hemorrhaging, spinal paralysis, and infection.

Traumatic brain injury [TBI] occurred routinely for the impacts and indirect “jars” above neckline. Players charged headlong into each other on every play, naturally and necessarily, ramming with forward leverage then slamming against ground. Thus countless brain injuries posed the greatest challenged to game organizers and medical professionals. Symptoms of TBI ranged in players from headache to hemorrhage, and diagnosis was sketchy with scant treatment option.

The so-called football experts had pursued several ideas to protect players, including reduction of head contact in blocking and tackling. Since the 1890s rules had been designed to foster “open play,” which many believed would lessen field risks. Colleges and schools were encouraged to station athletic trainers and doctors at sideline, and coaches tried to teach hitting with shoulders and chest.

For years the football experts had promoted helmets or “headgear,” armor designed largely by trainers and coaches to prevent trauma, foremost “concussion of the brain.”

Any positive results were negligible and public outcry rose anew in winter 1909-10. College rulemakers opened meetings in New York City amidst a flurry of football criticism, speculation for congressional hearings, and “radical changes” for high schools. Many game insiders said boys should not play until physical maturity around age 16.

“FOR SAFER FOOTBALL,” headlined The Washington Herald in the nation’s capital city, where prep coaches outlawed the forward pass and mandated penalty for tackling “above the shoulders.” Elsewhere, lawmakers, doctors, and clergymen sought bans of school and “pee wee” football.

Once again, the onus fell upon college coaches and administrators to act decisively, effectively.

“SAFER FOOTBALL AIM OF EXPERTS,” reminded a headline in North Dakota, accompanied by national report. “Protests have gone up from all parts of the country against the dangers of the game as now played.”

Brooklyn sports fan W.C. Taylor declared, “I want to make a football confession,” in his letter to The New York Times, continuing:

I have followed the ball and howled along the side lines with the noisiest enthusiasts, and waxed wrathful of the enemies of the game; but now, with a clearer and fairer view, although with no cooling whatsoever of my ‘sporting blood,’ I want to go on record as saying that football is the biggest fool of an institution in America as a sport.

But this angry fan was not hopeless for the game. His football criticism concluded in common fashion, specifying “mass play,” the oft-heard scapegoat, and suggesting rule change would fix the game.

1900-1904: Doctors, Football Officials Clash Over Brain Injuries

By turn of the 20th century, brain “concussion” was elemental of news events, including for criminal assaults and industrial accidents, according to an electronic review of historical newspapers by this investigator. Waves of TBI cases resulted from transportation mishaps involving horses, buggies, railroads, and the new motorcars.

Motorcyclists and aviators donned leather football helmets for protection while polo players wore cork headgear covered in cloth, like Dr. Livingstone in the jungle, hoping to soften their head-first falls from horseback.

Newspapers regularly reported sport TBI in the early 1900s, especially in boxing, football, baseball, and horse racing. Death in sport garnered biggest headlines, but concussed athletes in recovery were also newsworthy.

During football season, TBI incidents dotted the “sporting” pages, describing injury conditions of players such as dazed, confused, insensible, “knocked senseless,” “knocked out,” and concussed. Many cerebral casualties attempted returns to football with mixed results, documented in news.

“The concept of brain concussion had been traveling through common and medical knowledge for centuries,” science historian Emily A. Harrison, Harvard PhD, wrote for her article “The First Concussion Crisis: Head Injury and Evidence in Early American Football,” published by American Journal of Public Health in 2014. Harrison continued:

As early as the mid-16th century it had been defined as a blow resulting in escape of blood from ruptured tissue. By the early 19th century it was described as an “external violence” that caused “derangement of the brain.”

Medical knowledge of TBI advanced after the Civil War, driven by casualty studies of railroad accidents. Harrison noted:

[T]rain collisions, frequent in the late 19th century, had generated a large study population for observing long-term effects of concussions of the brain and spine. Physicians said that the new frequency for which they were observing concussions made the long-term behavioral consequences clinically visible—in children and adults.

The field collisions of American football—sport that expanded throughout society coincident with rail transportation—produced numerous brain casualties as well. But the health problem was regarded indifferently by football  officials, perhaps in part for lack of known treatment. TBI was recognizable in symptoms, by coaches, trainers and doctors, but then basically a mystery.

The medical field and football clashed over cerebral injury, pitting conventional specialists versus coaches, trainers, team doctors, and injured players themselves.  Proper recovery time posed the prime question or sticking point.

Conservative medicine followed the Hippocratic ethic of Do no harm, exercising caution for cerebral disturbance of impact or shock, primarily a prescription of rest for days, weeks, even months. Dr. W.H. Earles, in a 1903 review for Journal of the American Medical Association [JAMA], wrote:

Clinical reports of competent observers, coupled with everyday experiences, have clearly demonstrated that blows or falls on the head may cause serious trouble, both present and prospective, without producing fracture to the skull wall.

Every case of recent head injury, however trivial it may appear, should, we believe, be treated with the greatest consideration, lest damage to hidden and important structures escape our attention, thus leaving a foundation for future trouble which too often is irreparable.

Turn-of-century medicine increasingly endorsed rest, careful recovery for brain-injury victims of all types. Doctors advised many concussed football players to sit out remainders of seasons, and some were told to quit entirely.

Contrarily, football personnel favored quick return for the brain-injured athlete, if side-lining him at all, and preferably under the authority of coaches and in-house technicians. Football trainers and hireling doctors were branching into their paradigm to become known as sports medicine, applying concepts beyond standard practice, and they assumed control in many casualty situations.

Such as the 1901 intercollegiate championship game between Harvard and Yale, before a record crowd of 37,000 at Cambridge, Mass. A key player sustained TBI for both teams, each an affluent gridiron power with trainers and doctors.

Harvard captain Dave Campbell, an All-American end, became “so groggy he did not see,” recounted The Washington Times, “but he did not leave the game.” Yale star John De Saulles was knocked unconscious while launching a “flying tackle” in goal-line defense. De Saulles experienced seizures on the sideline then revived briefly in a locker room, where reportedly “a doctor gave him an opiate and said that it was best for the boy to sleep it off.”

Following Harvard’s victory Saturday afternoon, doctors in Boston diagnosed De Saulles with a “slight attack of cerebral concussion” and admitted him to Massachusetts General Hospital. On Sunday morning, the “Yale football association” sent for De Saulles, intending to take him home with the team, but hospital officials refused to release the patient.

Doctors said De Saulles was “resting comfortably” and would recover within the week, “improving as rapidly as could be expected.” But by Monday night De Saulles was back at Yale in Connecticut, where headlines from campus proclaimed “YALE HERO” was “Out of Danger”:

New Haven, Conn., Nov. 25.—(Special)—Johnny De Saulles, Yale’s quarterback, returned to his college home in the cloister tonight with his roommate, Arthur Barnwell, the Yale [baseball] center fielder, who took him from the Massachusetts General Hospital today and brought him here.

The non-bylined report quoted Yale football officials, but no doctor, in announcing De Saulles had recovered from brain trauma sustained in a body shot on the field:

De Saulles is still weak, but danger of permanent injury from cerebral concussion is over. Trainer Murphy says that it was a solar plexus blow received when De Saulles tackled Marshall which threw him into convulsions on the side lines after the game. Head Coach Stillman shares that opinion. De Saulles has been ordered to keep quiet for a few days.

Walter Camp was not quoted directly, the Yale coaching director, football powerbroker, and rules leader who presumably presided over the matter of De Saulles. Instead the writer noted Camp felt “exhausted by the strain of the last few weeks” and would depart on a vacation.

Social Darwinism was a dynamic, spawning worry of an emasculated America, a male population ill-prepared to fight wars. Hysteric notions of manhood were popularized, along with symbols of ruggedness like Teddy Roosevelt and football. The macho-acting, tough-talking “T.R.” worshiped the gridiron, extolling it in news quotes and speeches. Roosevelt pushed his sons into the blood sport, although he never played as a student at Harvard.

“Manly” mindset often prevailed in cases of football injury, particularly TBI, the invisible wound. Concussive incidents could be ignored by everyone, including the injured players, although many could not help themselves.

During a college game in the Midwest, 1904, a frighteningly concussed player resisted anyone’s assistance on the field, and eventually got his wish to manage himself, even if delirious. Illinois Wesleyan end Robert Ramage absorbed a blow rendering him “dazed,” observed The Decatur Daily Review:

He was wholly out of his head at the field, and it took three men… to hold him and to keep him from running back into the game. … J.W. Race offered his carriage, and in it Ramage was taken to the hospital.

At the hotel Dr. E.J. Brown attended to the injured man. [The MD] said that is was plain there had been concussion of the brain that had caused the dazed condition, but that as far as he was able to see there was no fracture of the skull, nor any cut on the scalp. There was a bad bruise on the leg.

Dr. Brown ordered the man to go to bed, and to stay at the hotel until the early morning train, instead of going home with the team at 6:15 [in the evening].

At about 6 o’clock [Ramage] presented himself at the hotel office and announced he was going to the station and home with the boys. No objection was made, and he went. He was rather weak, but was able to get to the depot, where he joined the team and was taken home.

Two days later, the newspaper pronounced Ramage “recovered” without attributing medical authority for the information.

In the same week, Delaware, conflicting viewpoints surrounded the game injury of Vernon Gill, football captain for Maryland Agriculture College. Doctors at a Wilmington hospital said Gill suffered a concussion, but the senior administrator of his college disagreed. The Washington Times reported:

It was learned today… from Major Sylvester, president of the M.A.C., that the injured player is not suffering from concussion of the brain, and is in no serious danger. He was badly shaken up, but is expected back with the rest of his teammates in a few days.

Neural specialists conflicted with the college president on brain injury, which the former regarded as serious for any symptoms. Undoubtedly, TBI in acute phase could alter the senses, mental state, personality and behavior.

Brain-injured football players could struggle with schoolwork, such as Yale end William J. MacMahon, who was advised by his personal physician to quit the sport and leave law studies for the semester in October of 1904. Yale coaches called the injury report a “rumor” and denied knowledge, but MacMahon did not return to football. [Later, both MacMahon and John De Saulles made national headlines as former Yale stars in stormy marriages and court. De Saulles was shot dead by his ex-wife in 1917, amid acrimony over child custody and adultery. MacMahon was indicted for assaulting his second wife in 1928, beating her into critical condition with a flashlight during a car trip home from the Yale-Harvard game; the charge was dropped.]

Doctors had seen concussion spur violence in acute phase, at least, and football was blamed in part for a player’s suicide, according to this national report:

Janesville, Wis., Oct. 9—Leon Ayers, one of the brightest and most popular students in high school, committed suicide at his room in the Y.M.C.A. building last night with chloroform. It is thought that he was mentally unbalanced, the result of a fall from scaffolding last summer and subsequent injuries in a football game a week ago.

The Ayers case was included among football deaths for 1901, in lists compiled by newsmen.

Many specialists believed TBI could leave permanent damage, and concern for re-injury after a diagnosed concussion led to side-lining of football players around turn of the century. Princeton tackle Albert T. Baker had to leave the team in 1903 because of severe trauma. His hometown newspaper in Pennsylvania reported:

Baker was kicked on the head and was in the hospital with concussion of the brain for several weeks. Surgeons examined the wound and decided that it would be dangerous to allow him to play again this season, as a kick or blow on the same spot of the first injury would probably result fatally. Since that time he has not been allowed to play and has been coaching the Freshmen eleven of the school. The coaches speak favorably of Baker’s chances for next year and say he would have made the team this year but for his unfortunate injury.

Casualties of TBI were sometimes committed to mental wards, such as this schoolboy football player in 1903:

Columbus, Ohio, Nov. 16—Earl Neff, aged 16, was brought to the state hospital for the insane here Saturday from Kingston, Ohio. He is incurably crazed from injuries received in a game of football. He sustained concussion of the brain. He has a mania for studying electricity, in which subject he was interested before the accident.

JAMA editors likened football risks to warfare, declaring, “To be a cripple or lunatic for life is paying high for athletic emulation.” A former Purdue player injured in a wreck of the team train sued the railroad over permanent injuries, including brain damage that impaired his eyesight, hearing, memory, and reasoning while paralyzing him on the ride side. The judge awarded him $10,000 compensation. And a young man died years after a brain injury in football. A report stated:

Chicago, Oct. 11 [1902]—Max Henry Fleischer is dead as a result of an injury received in a football game six years ago. Until two months ago Fleischer did not know of [his condition], but as soon as his father learned of it he had an examination made which showed that the young man’s skull was depressed. The skull was trepanned [surgically opened], revealing a diseased condition of the brain.

During the last six years Fleischer had suffered from severe headaches. Several times he was found unconscious. When the accident occurred Fleischer was 15 years old and was anxious to get a place on the regular football team at school. He was kicked on the head and picked up in a dazed condition, but he exacted a promise from his playmates not to talk of the accident for fear his mother would not allow him to play anymore.

While medical science lacked a smoking gun to prove permanent cerebral damage of football collisions, circumstantial evidence abounded. Harvard president Charles Eliot, arch enemy of football, proclaimed the game was a health menace. In February 1905, Eliot stated, “Sprains, concussions of the brain and injuries to bones are apt to leave behind them permanent weaknesses, which in later life become troublesome.”

1900-1902: Football Brutality and Call For ‘Open Game’

When football controversy struck again in the early 1900s, brutality and injuries were issues, but spectators complained of plodding “mass” formations that obscured ball-carriers, like blocking “wedges” and scrums. Fans clamored for a completely “open game” of running and forward passing; player protection was minor concern.

Even university presidents, football’s notorious adversaries, typically advocated an open format to ensure the game’s survival. The ballyhooed rules revision of 1894 had failed to end deadly gang blocking, other the the 10-man “flying wedge,” and subsequent tinkering with code left loopholes for mass attacks.

Human wedges or walls still flourished on the field. The “guards back” ploy was standard, shifting two offensive linemen into the backfield before center snap for charging early and trampling defenders. Glenn “Pop” Warner, coaching “genius” of the Carlisle Indian School, designed the “end-over” formation, touted as “flying interference within the rules” for erasing defense on outside runs.

Public backlash rose during football season 1902, against mass play, coaching tactics, and the rules committee steered by Walter Camp at Yale. Player deaths caused tension, and a Presbyterian synod in Tennessee condemned football; the church had begun with bullfighting for denouncement but that was dropped as “not being on par with football.”

The gridiron maw proved mortal for a player of a Baptist college in its opening game: “Harry Jordan of Sioux Falls, S.D., became mixed up in a mass play and was so severely injured that he died soon after,” The St. Louis Republic reported.

Defensive linemen also formed walls, evidenced in the ruthless smashing of a young man who tried to make a town team in Pennsylvania. “KILLED AT FOOTBALL,” headlines announced, continuing, “Players Piled on One of Their Number, Crushing Out His Life.” The national report followed:

Sharon, Pa., Oct. 21—During a practice game of football at Transfer yesterday, William Martin, 21 years old, sustained injuries that resulted in his death a few hours later. Martin was playing center on a scrub team, and when the ball was [snapped to quarterback] he was carried backward for some distance, and then hurled to the ground with great violence. The opposing players piled on him… Physicians were summoned. They stated that Martin had sustained internal injuries and was suffering from concussion of the brain. He did not regain consciousness.

Martin’s violent brain injury was nevertheless ruled “an accident” by local officials, and he was among at least 10 football deaths in 1902. The grid season’s survivor casualties also included “a number of concussions,” reportedly. In Missouri, a lineman for Central College “bore the brunt of many [mass] attacks and played after he should have been taken out,” a newspaper declared. “He was helped off the field in a dazed condition and afterward examined by a physician, who found him suffering from concussion of the brain.”

Criticism overtook game officials once again. “RULES MUST CHANGE,” declared the headline over a news report from the East:

Syracuse, N.Y., Nov. 24—Chancellor James R. Day of Syracuse University caused a sensation in the chapel by stating that unless the football rules are radically changed so as to abolish mass plays, he would go before the board of trustees and ask them to disband the team at Syracuse. He said:

“I have always supported football, but the time has come when I find it difficult to defend the game. When, before the season is two-thirds over, half the members of a team have been in the hospital and some of them compelled to leave the game permanently, when men have been killed throughout the country and scores upon scores have been maimed, there must be something wrong with the game.”

JAMA, the premier medical journal, ripped football rulemakers for play “made absolutely murderous at times. Among the serious casualties of the game this year we have fractured skulls, injured spines, brain injuries resulting in insanity, as well as broken legs, ribs, collar-bones, etc.” Atlantic Monthly noted football presented mortal risks “justified only in professions like fire-protection, life-saving, sea-faring and railroading.”

New York Independent editors chided universities for allowing football “associations” of young men to rule campuses and besmirch educational mission with their blood sport:

Why should the policy of universities in so important a matter be left to the dictation of the undergraduates [players] and overenthusiastic athletic graduates [coaches]? … There needs to be careful discrimination made by competent authorities between what is essential and what is both non-essential and injurious in the game.

Competent or not, the same insider group of football “experts”—coaches, a referee, game-friendly professors—were tasked with overhauling the rules yet another time. But outside intervention was possible, sources told The New York Sun, which reported:

Well-informed persons say that the Intercollegiate Football Rules Committee will have to abolish mass plays from the gridiron before the season of 1903 begins. If the committee does not do so on its own initiative, the presidents and faculty athletic authorities of many of the big universities will, it is said, will take up the matter and deal with it… Several of the college presidents have been severely outspoken in their disfavor of existing conditions. … President [Woodrow] Wilson of Princeton has… said that the game would have to be altered if it is to continue to have a place on Princeton’s calendar of sports.

The St. Louis Republic declared the rules committee must redesign football: “For many seasons the cry of the general public has been for a game where there was more open work, that is, more passing, kicking, and playing in the broken field.”

Vanguards of the status quo held their ground. They defended football as-is and particularly the standing rules encouraging mass formations, such as a first down for advancing five yards and prohibition of forward passing and quarterback runs. Known as football “conservatives”—with Camp at top—they blamed existing strain of open play for terrible injuries, by leading faster body speeds to cause fiercer collisions.

Players faced less risk when “bunched in scrimmages,” remarked Julian Curtiss, a designer of football helmets and managing partner for A.G. Spalding athletic equipment in New York City. “Those who are clamoring for more open play should bear in mind that there are more injuries.” Curtiss, equipment magnate, was a former Yale football player who promoted his alma mater’s big games in New York with Harvard and Princeton, pulling enormous crowds and lucrative profit for grid associations at each university. Curtiss told a New York writer that 30,000 paying customers for a game “strikes me as pretty good evidence that the present style of play is what the spectators like to see.”

Spalding sponsored the annual football rulebook written by Camp, old friend of Curtiss in New Haven, among commercial relationships the company enjoyed with the sport icon and his Yale athletic association. Camp credited the rules committee for already “opening up” football, well enough. Camp echoed Curtiss in contending open play was risky and that popular opinion favored mass play, which founded the peerless Yale football program. In Camp’s statement disseminated by newspapers, introducing him as “the eminent authority” of football, he wrote:

Just at this time is transpiring one of the periodically occurring movements against the game as it stands. Football, wherever played, has always been a subject for critics. … Changes are not advocated now solely for the sake of avoiding injury, but rather in order to make the game more interesting to spectators. … There is no doubt that the men who are most interested in the sport of football are especially desirous of seeing it kept up to its present interest, both to player and spectator; that as far as possible the liability of injury be eliminated; and, finally, that the ethos of the game be kept as high as possible.

1903: Football Officials Tout New Rules, Sell New Helmets

Camp discussed football risk, manhood, and ethics for an address of the Yale Club in Chicago during February 1903. Football was also drawing blame for gambling among college students. “There is no increase in the so-called evils of football,” Camp reassured Yale alumni and boosters, as quoted in news. Gambling on campus, he argued, was modeled after beloved poker games and more ventures of chance, like lotteries to fund construction of churches and university buildings.

“Then they want the dangers eliminated from football,” Camp said, indicating rulemakers felt besieged by complaints while lacking fresh ideas for football safety. “It would be agreeable to schoolmasters and parents, probably, if we could devise sports which would not contain any elements of danger, but it cannot be done.”

Technology had already failed to reduce football’s most devastating risk, brain trauma, through unsuccessful “headgear” models produced by game officials. For years trainers and coaches had designed helmets they claimed would prevent “concussion of the brain” ranging from headaches to hemorrhaging, along with skull fracture.

Trainers and coaches controlled the boom business of football equipment and outfitting, in concert with associates like Curtiss at Spalding. While they aimed to protect players, the head armor was counterproductive, often spurring vicious colliding. A player felt safe in a helmet but also emboldened to hit head-on or absorb blows above the neck, particularly for gaining speed and forward leverage in open-field rams.

During the 1890s, the development of effective anti-TBI material proved elusive. Early headgear or “harness” included rubber and cowhide forms for injured players at Princeton and Kansas, but resulted in no protection. Then hard leather helmets proliferated, firm as a boot sole, and trouble.

In 1900, the influential Yale coaches decried “heavy leather helmets which are now worn by nearly all the players, especially the end rushers,” a reporter wrote from New Haven. “The ends dive headlong at the backs… Cook, Sharp and Hale, the three most powerful backs at Yale, are out of the game at present, largely because of injuries received in this way.”

It was likely Camp who channeled the following message for football at-large, through the news writer: “There is no rule forbidding… the [sole] leather helmets, but Yale men would favor a new football rule making it illegal to wear that article of football armor.” Left unsaid was Camp’s buddy at Spalding equipment, Yale alumnus Julian Curtiss, whose pet project was a “pneumatic” football helmet.

Another newspaper story head-lined Yale in its “crusade” against leather headgear, with support from the University of Pennsylvania. The report also dropped the unattributed assertion that “a good pneumatic headpiece distributes the force of a blow over the entire head instead of centering it on one spot.”

“Princeton coaches, on the other hand, favor all kinds of helmets,” the report continued. “They argue that headpieces are necessary because the injuries to the head are generally of a far more lasting and serious nature than those received in other parts of the body.”

Trainers announced new leather designs at the universities of Illinois and Michigan, and more joined the engineering race for a protective football helmet—and riches. “The gear that has caused the most experiment and thought is that for the head,” a reporter declared from the Midwest in 1901. But no one produced the dream helmet and brain trauma continued unabated in field collisions.

Officials debated potential policy on headgear and other equipment through the football season of 1902. Mass play preoccupied critics, and at that point the football rulemakers, or Camp, determined time was right for blaming injuries on heavy leather helmets. So the headgear problem made news again: Upcoming rules meetings would involve “a determined crusade against the armor-bearing tendencies of the game,” a report announced on Jan. 4, 1903, citing anonymous inside information. “Perhaps the worst phase of the armor question is the subject of hard leather.” A helmet encouraged a player to “literally ram his opponent,” the text stated, continuing:

When these are tied on there is a dome-shaped skull covering as hard as steel… The climax came during last season, when a prominent supporter of the game came across a New England schoolboy who had a [sole leather] helmet shaped to a point; a dull one, but a point, nevertheless. Then the gravity of the situation came home to the observer, who is a member of the Rules Committee, and it is safe to predict that there will be some strenuous reform urged at the next meeting.

The committee finalized rule revisions by summertime. Camp led officials in announcing “less dangerous” and exciting football for the 1903 season. Fans could soon compare mass play and open play since the game field had been divided into zones for both. The mass-play format stood intact from each 25-yard mark to goal line, allowing momentum formations and push-pull assistance for a ball-carrier. In the open zone, 50 yards in midfield set between the 25-yard marks, the quarterback was allowed forward ball-carrying if he crossed scrimmage minimally five yards either side of the center snap. Likewise in the open zone, seven men were required on the line for each snap. The committee did not address forward passing.

Additionally, the rule-makers acted on headgear and body padding, banning sole leather. Soft leather remained sanctioned by rules, and Spalding’s Julian Curtiss stood poised to fill the helmet vacuum with his air-cushioned model featuring a pneumatic crown. Most opportune for Spalding in the football preseason—and entirely set up—the company was able to release its sponsored press run of college rulebooks in step with advertising and planted news touting its new legal helmet. This business synergy of rules and equipment was no coincidence, but merely arranged between Camp and Curtiss, according to historical news and Camp’s personal papers.

“When necessary, Curtiss had no qualms about asking Camp’s predictions on rule changes that might affect Spalding equipment such as the ‘head harness,’ ” Stephen Hardy wrote for his essay Entrepreneurs, Structures, and the Sportgeist.

“Spalding executive Julian Curtiss found his friendship with Camp beneficial when it came to selling his expanding equipment lines,” author Julie Des Jardins wrote in her book Walter Camp: Football and The Modern Man, continuing:

When [Curtiss] developed a new shin guard, for instance, he showed it to his friend to make sure it conformed to Rule Three, Section Three of the football code, which forbade the wearing of “projecting, metallic, or hard substances.” Spalding held off on production of [pneumatic] head harnesses in 1902 until Camp could influence legislation on protective headgear. The sporting goods company marketed to casual players and high school leagues too, since many of them conformed to IFA guidelines and looked to the college game for guidance. In return, Camp was able to outfit Yale athletes at a discounted rate, and Curtiss offered him first dibs on the newest golf equipment, his-and-her bicycles, and skates and sleds for the kids.

Another football figure at Yale was not beholden to Curtiss, however, especially in open competition for developing the anti-TBI helmet, holy grail of football equipment. Mike Murphy, Yale’s famed athletic trainer and coach prone to switching jobs for better opportunity, including multiple stints with Camp at New Haven, focused his skill for equipment design entirely on football headgear in August 1903. And Murphy would not commit to Yale’s employing the new Spalding piece.

“Every one of us interested in football is trying to solve the problem…,” Murphy told a reporter, “and get something pliable and yet which will offer sufficient protection to the men. There ought to be, under the circumstances, a good assortment of headgear from which to select just the one we need.” Murphy saw promise in a few materials.  “Felt is a good protector and is not too hard to use. Rubber heads may be tried.”

But Spalding’s promotional blitz was rolling, drowning voices like Murphy, and “pneumatic” headgear was sudden buzzword of the game. Teams were already receiving Spalding deliveries, from Cornell University in New York to Drury College in Missouri. Rules czar Camp regularly mentioned the Spalding design, and the popular press chimed in approvingly, unquestioningly. “The most important device is for keeping the brains of the football player from spilling over the field of battle at inopportune times,” a columnist opined, introducing Spalding. “This wonderfully constructed machine is pneumatic.”

Newspaper editors reprinted Spalding releases verbatim. A nationally publicized item stated:

The rules committee… passed a rule that if head protectors were worn they should no longer be made of sole leather, papier mache or other hard and unyielding material, and all other devices for protectors must be so arranged and padded as, in the opinion of the umpire, to be without danger to other players.

To conform to this rule Spalding’s pneumatic head harness has been designed and it is certainly one of the greatest improvements in the players’ equipment… a pneumatic crown sufficient to afford absolute protection. Ventilation is provided through heavy felt. Many trainers and players from leading colleges have examined this head harness and give it their unqualified approval.

After football reform and conflicts of interest, the games began in late September, and field action drew scrutiny for the promises of rulemakers and associates. They garnered praise for enhancing the entertainment factor. An uptick in the open style was observable, according to reviews, and media celebrated scoring when major universities unloaded on smaller schools.

After Michigan won 79-0 over Beloit, the little college lost worse next week at Wisconsin, 87-0, and the headlines lit up newspapers and magazines. “BELOIT IS SNOWED UNDER” and “Crowd Goes Wild,” heralded a Chicago Tribune report from the Badger State, continuing:

Madison, Wis., Oct. 17—(Special)—Wisconsin went Michigan one touchdown better here today, defeating Beloit by a score of 87 to 0. The speed and team work shown by Wisconsin came as a big surprise to the most enthusiastic admirers, and hopes for a championship team are high in Madison tonight.

Bain made the first touchdown off tackle after one-and-a-half minutes’ play. Line bucks for short, steady gains carried the ball over the second score, and then end runs and line smashes were alternated in rapid succession until the [visiting] Congregationalists were literally swept off their feet. …

The crowd of 1,200 rooters early in the second half began calling for a score of 80, [and] when that point was reached their enthusiasm was without bounds.

Famed sports columnist Ralph D. Paine found positives and negatives in retreaded football, writing for The Illustrated Sporting News:

The “new football rules”… are deserving of commendation in certain ways, after actual test on a hundred fields in the first month of the season. It has been already demonstrated, however, that they are not revolutionary, that they are hardly to be called sensational, and that football is the “same old game.” …

As for the spectator, it is true that the play is more easily followed than formerly. In midfield, from the average point of vantage, it is possible to see who takes the ball from the quarterback, whither the run is directed, and to follow the runner until he is tackled. This is a distinct gain over the old-style scrimmage [conducted from 25-yard lines to goal lines] where, except when the ball is kicked or fumbled, the onlooker cannot tell whether there is a football, no ball, or an old high hat, as the bone of furious contention.

For less violence, proposed  injury reduction, Paine saw no evidence. “Reports of rough play are as frequent as they were last year,” he surmised.

New helmet policy and complementary product had no apparent effect. The soft pneumatic headgear accomplished sales but nothing else beyond a curious appearance, strapped like a “beehive” atop a player. And while a  written rule banned heavy leather from college football, real-time enforcement was problematic, especially for inspecting the array of helmets, homemade and manufactured, brought onto game fields. Responsibility remained with umpires for weeding out illicit equipment, any type, and allegations persisted of incompetence for the task.

Some coaches swore off all headgear as dangerous, trying to expunge it from their programs, including A.A. Stagg at the University of Chicago. But “concussion” casualties remained common of football news from all levels, sandlot, school, club and college. Multiple cases were reported on Stagg’s team, compelling him to reissue headgear for brain-injured players. The Chicago Daily News reported:

Kirby, the short, stocky little halfback, is forced to adopt the helmet. He had his head severely bruised in one of the early scrimmages and later received a jolt in one of the practice games which put him out of the contest. … It may be that [Stagg’s] hasty discarding of almost all protective armor will prove premature, and that the Maroons will be forced to take up again the shin guards, nose guards and helmets, which they have thrown away.

So-called head protection, rigid or otherwise, did not shield a school team in Kansas. During a game at Leavenworth, the players of Olathe High were “trampled on, kicked, and rubbed in the dirt,” according to The Leavenworth Times, which detailed TBI incidents on the field and followup treatment:

No one used to the clean kind of foot ball being put up by the local team would have anticipated the serious accidents which befell three of the Olathe players in yesterday’s game. Captain Harland Lanter, left guard, and Fred Hill, left half-back, were carried from the field unconscious and George Russell, right half, was early disabled by a sprained ankle. Of the three accidents Lanter’s was the most serious.

After twenty minutes’ play in the first half Olathe, realizing the futility of her efforts to crush the heavy Leavenworth line, fell back on the third down and punted. As the team swept down the field those on the side lines saw Lanter, standing in his tracks, grasp convulsively at his headgear and then fall. When persons from the side lines ran to him he was losing consciousness and lapsed into a… state in which he walked about the field and even played out the half before his men were brought to a realization of the fact that his injuries were of a dangerous nature.

He was taken from the field at the end of the half. Though still able to walk he knew nothing of his surroundings. Taken to the grand stand and wrapped in blankets he soon lost consciousness entirely. Only after he had been taken to the Imperial hotel in an ambulance did he regain reason. He was unconscious for two hours. …

Lanter was immediately taken care of by Drs. Suwalski, Shoyer and Lane, who were spectators at the game. A careful examination at the hotel last evening showed that Lanter had received a severe shock near the base of the brain on the left side. He told that he had been injured in the same spot at Fort Scott a year ago and he was not surprised at a recurrence. Hill’s injury resulted from falling and striking his forehead violently.

In both cases slight concussions of the brain resulted. Hill was able to leave town on the 6:30 o’clock [train] last evening but Lanter is still in this city in charge of his coach. It was thought advisable for him to rest after the shock before he undertook a journey.

Football death numbers compiled from news accounts, however faulty, suggested no decrease on the playing fields in 1903. The reports, with differing fatality totals, began appearing at season’s end around Thanksgiving. A Philadelphia news group announced at least 17 deaths from football, noting the actual number, impossible to determine, “probably would far exceed this number.” The American Medical Association corroborated: “During the football season just passed, 35 deaths occurred and over 500 severe accidents happened to players of football,” a report stated. “How many of those suffering from severe accidents died afterward cannot be ascertained, but, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association, the number cannot be less than 50.”

The Atlanta Constitution commented as though speaking of warfare: “The old question as to whether football is worth the while is being seriously discussed all over the country again just as another football season has come to an end, and people are beginning to figure up the losses of the season in killed and wounded.”

1876-1900: Roosevelt Embraces ‘Strenuous Life,’ Football

Almost anything seemed possible in America at beginning of the 20th century, including ideas for “safe and sane football.” And when football “brutality” was condemned by the people’s president, Theodore Roosevelt, successful game reform appeared imminent.

Many Americans felt personal connection to the president, simply calling him “T.R” or “Teddy.” Writers regaled the public with heartwarming stories on this heroic character of The Strenuous Life, the theme he hammered in speeches. And Roosevelt figuratively wrapped himself in football, its powerful meanings, as another manhood badge he wore along with those of cowboy, mighty hunter, war hero, explorer, boxer, wrestler, and trust buster.

“Theodore Roosevelt… promoted the strenuous life in myriad ways but granted football a conspicuously important role,” observed cultural analyst Michael Oriard in 1993, an English professor and former NFL player. “Roosevelt tied football to the development of character but also to qualities of bodily hardihood and courage in the face of physical danger that were necessary for both ‘the individual and the race.’ ”

Roosevelt was never a football player, like the celebrity athletes he fawned over, recruited to surround him, but seemed to have been. This pugnacious figure was seen and heard around the sport from outset of his political career. Roosevelt saw himself as public defender of football, against unjust attack, a role he assumed before the presidency.

Roosevelt first encountered football spectacle as a Harvard freshman in 1876. He was 18, a hearty fitness buff, but weighed only 135 pounds and wore eyeglasses. Roosevelt later recalled poor eyesight prevented his playing the game. Young Teddy became a football fan instead, made friends in players, and secured a crimson Harvard jersey he donned for campus workouts.

When the Harvard “eleven” lost 1-0 to Yale, on a Hail Mary dropkick at the victor’s home field, student Roosevelt rued defeat and alleged dirty tricks. “I am sorry to say we were beaten, principally because our opponents played very foul,” Teddy wrote his mother in Manhattan.

In the 1890s college football faced its concerted abolition threat, and Roosevelt rushed to the fore, vociferously supporting the game and officials in conversations, letters, and speeches. Roosevelt’s opinion was delivered with gusto and carried political weight, from this rising public servant, native of New York City. He derided critics of football as wimps and resented their leader in charge at his own alma mater, Harvard president Charles W. Eliot.

“In Roosevelt’s opinion, the foes of football were wrongheaded idealists who simply refused to accept the risks that are attached to virtually any human endeavor,” wrote author John J. Miller, The Big Scrum: How Teddy Roosevelt Saved Football:

They threatened to feminize an entire generation. At stake was nothing less than the future of the United States: On the threshold of a new century, would the country seize its historic destiny and grow into a world power or would it stop short of this accomplishment because it had turned out, in Roosevelt’s words, “mollycoddles instead of vigorous men”?

Roosevelt addressed the football players at Cambridge in 1896, “a most enthusiastic audience of Harvard men,” reported The Crimson. “It is not the critic that we want…” Roosevelt told the team, “it is the hard worker, the man who has the cause at heart, who has the fighting spirit and who feels his veins thrill when Harvard scores a goal. That is the man we need. Every individual fellow owes a debt of gratitude to a man who has the qualities of mind and body to make the team and who plays for Harvard.”

Roosevelt relished speaking to Harvard players and stayed mindful of football when appointed as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, by President William McKinley in 1897. Roosevelt helped restore football games between Navy and West Point, and tabbed college players for his “Rough Riders” volunteer regiment—hyped to extreme by the press—in America’s short war against Spain in Cuba in 1898. Miller wrote:

On July 1, outside the city of Santiago, Roosevelt led his dismounted men in the Battle of San Jan Hill. His famous charge up Kettle Hill drove Spanish soldiers from the summit. Roosevelt called it his “crowded hour.” It secured his place as a national hero. Although Roosevelt might have remained safely to the rear of his charging soldiers, he faced open fire and led them to the top of the hill.

Roosevelt returned home a celebrity, in time to run for New York governor and win convincingly. Harvard football enjoyed a banner year, too, defeating Yale for the national championship and a perfect 11-0 record. The Harvard alumni threw a lavish banquet in Boston before Christmas, hosting a crowd of 500 at the American House hotel, to fete the football champions and the university’s latest figure of fame, Roosevelt. When the toast went to  T.R., the room erupted. “It was five minutes before Colonel Roosevelt could speak,” a report noted, continuing:

When the tumult had partly subsided, he said: “Mr. Toastmaster and Fellow Harvard Men. This has been a good year for Harvard. The team won and I won myself, and at the present moment I am somewhat in doubt as to which was the greater achievement.”

“I realize that the team understands and appreciates the keen personal interest taken in it by Harvard’s old graduates and undergraduates. But what I am proudest of is the fact that the Harvard team played liked gentlemen and won like gentlemen. If I ever go to war again, let me have such men as they who comprised the Harvard team of this year behind me.”

Roosevelt would not return to war; he was on fast track to the White House, named as McKinley’s vice-presidential running mate for 1900. McKinley won reelection but was shot by an assassin and died of complications, and Roosevelt was sworn in as the 25th president in September 1901, history’s youngest at age 42.

1901-1904: Football Fan and Father in The White House

President Theodore Roosevelt was a social reformer, the buster of business monopoly and “Big Stick” protector of workers and consumers. In historic fights from the White House, he took on financier J.P. Morgan, the railroads, meatpacking and coalmining. And he religiously followed football and attended games, unlike presidents before him.

American football had its first fan president, a most powerful ally, which a congressman discovered awkwardly soon after Roosevelt took office. Rep. Frank Wachter of Maryland, a Republican like the president, attacked “government football” at West Point and the Naval Academy in Annapolis. Citing dangers, Wachter argued “that men who are to be officers in the Army and Navy should not subject themselves to possible injury in such rough and tumble playing as the gridiron.”

Wachter urged Congress to end football games between West Point and Navy—but Teddy Roosevelt’s shadow loomed, suddenly. “Congressman Wachter… was surprised that the President should attend the recent Army and Navy game,” commented The Richmond Dispatch, wryly adding: “[Wachter] proposes a joint resolution prohibiting… the annual contest between the West Point and Annapolis elevens, but doesn’t he, in planning this action, himself undertake a bold and interesting tackle?”

The congressman denied criticizing the president over the Army-Navy game. “He declares that he has been misunderstood in this respect, and that in commenting upon the gridiron has never stated that Mr. Roosevelt acted with impropriety in witnessing the exhibition,” reported The Washington Times.

Rep. Wachter caved and took his flogging, ceasing talk of congressional action on football as pressmen mocked him and “anxious mothers.” The women had pledged allegiance to the young politician “if he would get a law through Congress not only prohibiting the Army and Navy game, but also putting a stop to football everywhere in the country,” reported The Philadelphia Press, which continued:

 And it can be taken for granted that so long as there is a man in the White House who is willing to travel 130 miles to see a game, sit two hours in a November atmosphere while the game lasts and then travel 130 miles back to Washington again—so long as that condition lasts, there will be no presidential signature put to an anti-football bill. Congressman Wachter doubtless informed himself as to that fact and then withdrew to the sideline and let the game to go on as before.

But terrible casualties would continue with the game, predictably, and foremost among players at the Naval Academy in Wachter’s district—and through Roosevelt’s presidency. Navy doctors of the decade, in fact, would advance surgical practice through their procedures on injured football players, attempting to treat catastrophic trauma cases of the brain and spine. [The Annapolis academy has ultimately led American football in player fatalities reported publicly since 1900, with eight deaths that include two ensigns from “sandlot” games on campus, from among historical newsprint available to this reviewer through electronic search.]

Meanwhile, Roosevelt dealt directly with an anxious football mother, his wife, Edith Roosevelt, the First Lady who avoided public comment. As newsmen ridiculed Rep. Wachter and the anti-football mothers at Christmas 1901, Edith was privately disturbed over game injuries of her eldest son, Theodore, Jr., at boarding school in Massachusetts.  “Ted” had suffered a fractured collarbone and broken front tooth. President Roosevelt felt compelled to write the prep’s headmaster, his good friend Endicott Peabody, founder of the Groton School in Massachusetts, and sheepishly question his son’s football situation.

White House, Jan. 4, 1902

Dear Cotty:

Pray do not think me grown timid in my old age until you read this note through. Ted would have a fit if he knew I were writing it, as I found that by having written you about his collar-bone he was rendered very uncomfortable. In addition to Ted’s collar-bone, the dentist tells me that he has killed one front tooth in foot ball, and that tooth will get black. Now I don’t care a rap for an accident in itself, but Ted is only fourteen and I am afraid if he goes on like this he will get battered out before he can play in college.

Many football personnel believed the game wrong for schoolboys, a sentiment voiced regularly by college coaches, trainers and players. Roosevelt in private letters seemed conflicted about prep football for his sons Ted and Kermit—Mrs. Roosevelt struggled with it, assuredly. The president, noting support of buddy college players, implied to Peabody that his son should not face “heavy boys” in football:

Last night a Groton graduate, one of the Harvard substitutes, told me of his own accord that he thought it had been a mistake for Ted to play against heavy boys so much this year. I do not know whether he knows anything about it or not, but De Saulles, the Yale quarterback, who was there, added that he thought it was a pity a young boy should get so battered up, if it came from playing larger ones, as it might interfere with other playing later. Now all this may be merely a rumor, and Ted may not have been playing against heavier boys, but I thought I would write you about it anyway.

Faithfully yours,

Theodore Roosevelt

The president sounded differently in public, heartily endorsing football for boys including his own. In public Roosevelt scoffed at casualty reporting about football, calling the numbers overblown, seeing no victims among the disabled. Indeed, he regularly advocated athletic injury for galvanizing a “muscular Christian,” within the movement of so-called vigorous men who played fair and square in physical conquest. “It seems to me that a good rule for life is one borrowed from the football field…,” Roosevelt would chime in familiar tone, leading an expectant audience to his famed kicker: “Don’t flinch, don’t foul, hit the line hard!” He autographed likewise for fans, signing his pet grid slogan, and apparently indulged news stories falsely claiming he had played for Harvard, courageously defying injury.

Theodore did note Edith’s darkest football fear for their sons—spinal paralysis leading to death—in his public and private communication. But he resorted to gallows humor, poor joking peculiar to the game of bad outcomes, football. “Now do not break your neck unless you esteem it really necessary,” he wrote to Ted at Groton. “About arms and legs I am no less particular, although on the whole I prefer that even they should be kept reasonably whole.”

Ted was a tough boy but both the president and schoolmaster worried of his attempt to make the varsity football team in 1903. “Unfortunately he is light,” Peabody informed Roosevelt, “and when he tackles these big chaps, and goes down under them, I expect to find him squashed!” Peabody told coaches he had to write the president before allowing Ted to play on varsity, while the boy protested and likewise wrote his father.

Upon letters reaching the White House, Theodore and Edith discussed the problem before he penned a long reply to Ted, relaying their fear.

White House, Oct. 4, 1903

DEAR TED:

In spite of the “Hurry! Hurry!” on the outside of your envelope, I did not like to act until I had consulted Mother and thought the matter over; and to be frank with you, old fellow, I am by no means sure that I am doing [the] right [thing] now. If it were not that I feel you will be so bitterly disappointed, I would strongly advocate your acquiescing in the decision to leave you off the [varsity] second squad this year. I am proud of your pluck, and I greatly admire football—though it was not a game I was ever able to play myself, my qualities resembling Kermit’s rather than yours. But the very things that make it a good game make it a rough game, and there is always the chance of your being laid up. Now, I should not in the least object to your being laid up for a season if you were striving for something worth while, to get on the Groton school team, for instance, or on your class team when you entered Harvard—for of course I don’t think you will have the weight to entitle you to try for the [college varsity as a freshman]. But I am no means sure that it is worth your while to run the risk of being laid up for the sake of playing in the second squad when you are a fourth former [prep junior], instead of when you are a fifth former [senior]. I do not know that the risk is balanced by the reward. However, I have told the Rector [Peabody] that as you feel so strongly about it, I think that the chance of your damaging yourself in body is outweighed by the possibility of bitterness in spirit if you could not play. …in this case I am uncertain, and I shall give you the benefit of the doubt.

I am delighted to have you play football. I believe in rough, manly sports. But I do not believe in them if they degenerate into the sole end of any one’s existence. I don’t want you to sacrifice standing well in your studies to any over-athleticism… Athletic proficiency is a mighty good servant, and like so many other good servants, a mighty bad master. … I am glad you should play football; I am glad that you should box; I am glad that you should ride and shoot and walk and row as well as you do. I should be very sorry if you did not do these things. But don’t even get into the frame of mind which regards these things as constituting the end to which all your energies must be devoted, or even the major portion of your energies.

Ted grasped his parents’ wish and agreed to play on Groton’s “third eleven” as a junior. Roosevelt immediately wrote his son:

White House, Oct. 11, 1903

DEAR TED:

I have received letters from the Rector [Peabody], from [football coach] Mr. Woods, and [coach] Mr Billings. They all say that you should play on the third squad. This was my first, and as I am convinced, my real judgment in the case. If you get smashed up now in a serious way it may prevent your playing later. … I think it a little silly to run any imminent risk of a serious smash simply to play on the second squad instead of the third.

But Theodore, Jr., could not avoid injury in jayvee football either, suffering a fractured nose, of infection risk, to end his season. The president wrote him: “I am interested in your broken nose, and am glad the football season has come to an end as far as you are concerned.” Trying to turn the subject, Roosevelt still could not avoid gridiron chat for his son. “Did you ever know anything more disgraceful than Harvard’s record in football this year?”

The Harvard team heard next from the alumni commander in chief, through his letter of “advice and warning” addressed the losing coach, John Cranston. “I shall feel more than surprise if they do not go on the field the day of the Yale game with a determination to risk their necks rather than see the Yale team win,” Roosevelt wrote, as a leader of Harvard’s athletic booster organization.

Young Kermit at Groton, meanwhile, received the T.R. football message of fatherly concern, restraint. “I am glad you seem to be doing so well in football,” the president wrote the second son, “but I would rather you were on a lower eleven. I wouldn’t much care to have you on one of the upper eleven, where the boys may be too big and heavy for you. So I hope you have been reduced [demoted]!”

1905: Football Tempest Explodes on Presidential Intervention

Theodore Roosevelt reached his zenith of popularity in 1905, beginning his second presidential term after a landslide victory in the general election. As domestic and foreign issues filled his agenda in the Oval Office, football remained a personal affection he utilized, like most, for public image as well.

Football buddies draped Roosevelt at his March inauguration in Washington. Rough Riders on horseback flanked his carriage in parade, waving to the crowd, themselves adoringly headlined as a “Motley Collection of Cowboys, Society Leaders, Gun-Fighters and College Football Players.”

Harvard alumni discussed T.R. for someday replacing Charles Eliot as president of the university, specifically for building the football program to beat Yale regularly. “The Rough Rider would certainly be able to organize an impregnable football team,” cheered The Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

Eliot seemingly condemned football, for his rhetoric. Eliot was a visionary of higher education, the builder of Harvard reputation, having transformed a small Cambridge campus into the world-renowned research institution during his leadership of 36 years. But in everyday news Eliot embodied public enemy No. 1 for cherished football.

Eliot’s annual criticism of football was always subject to controversy, delivered in a Harvard report and news quotes. In early 1905, Eliot cited permanency of football injuries, including brain damage of concussion, and alleged “visibly dazed” players on a field were targeted for further abuse. Eliot equated the “hateful” conditions of football to warfare, speaking with The New York Times. “No sport is wholesome in which ungenerous or mean acts which easily escape detection contribute to victory, whether such acts can be occasional, accidental, or habitual,” he said.

Eliot’s comments surely stoked ire of Roosevelt, particularly for the academic’s staking higher ground in morality, which the president assumed for himself in any argument. Roosevelt was also reading news exposés on college football, disclosures that included professional coaches and paid players of no scholarly record on campuses.

Roosevelt soon visited alma mater Harvard, amid his international negotiations for peace between warring Russia and Japan, to deliver a preachy commencement speech. A specially prepared passage defended American football while rebuking types like Eliot. “I believe in outdoor games, and I do not mind in the least that they are rough games…,” Roosevelt said on June 28 in Cambridge, “or that those who take part in them are occasionally injured. I have no sympathy whatever with the overwrought sentimentality which would keep a young man in cotton wool, and I have a hearty contempt for him in he counts a broken arm or collarbone as of serious consequence when balanced against the chance of showing that he possesses hardihood, physical address, and courage.”

The president did not mention son Ted’s mounting injuries in prep football while alleging “sensationalism and hysteria” on part of game critics. Roosevelt viewed problems along lines he broadly termed as poor sportsmanship and amoral violence on the gridiron. Roosevelt blamed individual players, not inherently vicious football, declaring “when these injuries are inflicted by [miscreants], either wantonly or of set design, we are confronted by the question, not of damage to one man’s body, but of damage to the other man’s character. Brutality in playing a game should awaken the heartiest and most plainly shown contempt for the player guilty of it.”

The argument was heating up in public, and football held deeper concern for Roosevelt. The rugged college game loomed for Ted, who would try out for Harvard’s freshman team as a lineman weighing 145 pounds, meeting his father’s wish and scaring his mother. Once again, parents Theodore and Edith blinked at football danger for a son.

Perhaps Roosevelt recalled addressing the Harvard Club a decade before, when he ripped into anti-football comments by the absent Eliot, “stirring up the alumni in great style,” a news writer recounted. “I say I am the father of three boys,” T.R. attested at the time. “I will say right here that if I thought any one of them would weigh a possible broken bone against the glory of being chosen to play on Harvard’s football eleven, I would disinherit him!”

Now Roosevelt felt it worthwhile to mention Ted’s football pursuit to Eliot, of all people, who perhaps could keep watchful eye at Harvard like Peabody had for the kid at Groton School. “He is not an athlete of the first or even second caliber,” Roosevelt wrote the Harvard leader, “but I suppose he will try for the freshman eleven this fall, with the hope of becoming a substitute or something of that kind.”

In mid-September, as Ted’s college start drew near, Roosevelt heard from Peabody at Groton in a letter spurring action to become American myth  of T.R.’s “saving” football. Endicott Peabody was more than schoolmaster for Roosevelt’s sons; he was longtime confidante of the president whose old, influential New England family embraced athletics. This relationship was not one-sided but of mutual respect and power-wielding. And Peabody knew how to motivate Theodore Roosevelt through self-righteous morality.

Peabody implored Roosevelt to do something about “the condition of Foot-ball in this country.” Peabody, advocate and host of the gridiron for schoolboys, wrote that “the teaching of Foot-ball at the Universities is dishonest,” continuing:

There are all kinds of abuses connected with the game which should be remedied, but for most of these we can afford to wait. But this fundamental dishonesty calls for immediate treatment. What is the use of teaching a boy to play fairly at school if he is going to be subjected at college to a pressure which he can hardly be expected to withstand to play a tricky game?

Peabody—a Muscular Christian or muscular moralist like T.R.—overlooked injuries, worrying instead about demoralization of youths if the college game were not reformed. Optimistically, Peabody spelled out how Roosevelt could accomplish the mission:

A complete revolution could be worked if we could get the coaches of Harvard and Yale and Princeton together, and persuade them to undertake to teach men to play Foot-ball honestly. … If you should talk to these three men, and point out to them the importance to the country that this great game should be freed from the stigma which rests upon it they would, I feel confident, acquiesce, and we should start on a new road which should itself be clean, and would lead to many other reforms.

Peabody added, quite optimistically: “You are the one man, so far as I know, who could accomplish this without much effort.”

Roosevelt replied, naively, “I agree with you absolutely,” and set up the meeting as Peabody prescribed. The president contacted coaches and associates at college football’s “Big Three” universities, and they agreed to meet him at the White House in October.

Football season began for the Roosevelt sons with 18-year-old Ted at Harvard; Kermit, 15, at Groton; and Archie, 11, and Quentin, 7, at home with their parents in Washington. “Have you started your football? I think this is important,” the president wrote Kermit, pushing the game’s roughness and fraternity as beneficial for boys. “Archie is playing football with much zeal. Quentin as yet does not care for any sport in which he is likely to get hurt.” Roosevelt wrote to Ted at Harvard with advice on handling the press: “Do not let these newspaper creatures and kindred idiots drive you one hair’s breadth from the line you have marked out in football or anything else.”

But football posed high challenge for Ted, and he had the ignominious distinction of becoming the first Harvard player injured in 1905, sustaining a facial blow and laceration in practice on Oct. 5. A press mob witnessed the injury and sent stories nationwide. “Theodore, Jr., Laid Out,” announced a headline, then another: “Teddie Failed to Make Team: President’s Son Could Not Meet Beef Requirements at Harvard.” The accompanying report quoted a Harvard coach as saying, “Young Roosevelt is full of grit and is game from start to finish. But he is not heavily built, neither is he speedy enough, both of which are essential qualities for an end.”

Football, if not Ted’s setback, occupied the president on Oct. 9 as he expected grid leaders in Washington; the Monday was busy at the White House, with government officials among visitors passing through. “To-day I see the football men…,” T.R. wrote Kermit, “to try to get them to come to a gentlemen’s agreement not to have mucker play.”

Roosevelt conducted the meeting that afternoon, attended by Harvard football coach Bill Reid and team physician Dr. Edward H. Nichols, the former being a rulemaker; Princeton coach Arthur Hildebrand and football rulemaker John B. Fine; Yale football coach John Owsley—and Walter Camp, the Yale athletic director, football rules king, Spalding equipment endorser, and the most powerful man in collegiate sports. Secretary of State Elihu Root was also present. Football rivalry and bias hung over the room, among the Harvard contingent led by Roosevelt and the parties of Yale and Princeton.

But all were united in the fight to preserve football from harm, and so went the meeting. Injury epidemic for players was no main topic, apparently, particularly not the brain trauma increasingly cited by medical experts outside the sport. No meeting notes were recorded but the press heard details afterward, including T.R. quotes secondhand.

“President Roosevelt avowed his purpose to ‘inaugurate a movement having for its object absolutely clean sport and the eradication of professionalism, money making, and brutality from college games,’ ” stated one news report, and another: “Mr. Roosevelt is especially desirous that the great American college game should not suffer through the unsportsmanlike conduct of players who may willfully injure a member of an opposing team in the heat of the contest.”

The president assigned homework to the football coaches, and they worked together on an evening train from Washington, drafting their official pledge. Headlines ensued: “SWEAR TO IMPROVE GAME” and “Representatives of Big Universities to Follow Roosevelt’s Advice,” with the report:

New Haven, Conn., Oct. 12–Walter Camp, Yale’s general athletic adviser, last night gave out a statement in regard to the conference of the representatives of Yale, Harvard and Princeton, with President Roosevelt Monday, which was held for the purpose of considering reforms in the game of football.

The statement was made public after word had been received from President Roosevelt, and is as follows:

“At a meeting with the president of the United States, it was agreed that we consider an honorable obligation which exists to carry out in letter and in spirit the rules of the game of football relating to roughness, holding and foul play, and the active coaches of our universities being present with us pledged themselves so to regard it and to their utmost to carry out that obligation.

“Walter Camp,

“John B. Owlsley,

“J.B. Fine,

“A.B. Hillebrand,

“Edward H. Nichols,

“William T. Reid, Jr.”

These men represent Yale, Princeton and Harvard.

Since this legendary football confab of Roosevelt, analysts have searched for substantive action and results, evidence of real reform.

“The conference was a public relations triumph but even a superficial reading of the [prepared] communiqué reveals its shortcomings,” observed modern author Mark F. Bernstein. “No one acknowledged that there were any problems with the game that a stricter application of the existing rules would not fix.”

“The president’s reform interest was in attitudes rather than rules,” wrote Guy Maxton Lewis, for his widely cited doctoral dissertation in physical education at the University of Maryland. Lewis continued:

He [T.R.] liked the physical combat in football, but was an outspoken critic of those in sport, business or government who broke “the spirit but not the letter of the law.” … Roosevelt had no interest in rules reform to reduce the injury risk or to increase the appeal of the sport for the spectator.

Challenge confronted world leader Roosevelt in trying to resolve football crisis, which his presidential attention stamped instantly for national discussion. “Roosevelt later remarked that he found his attempts to resolve the conflicts in football more complicated than settling the Russo-Japanese War. Certainly, those attempts proved less successful,” wrote John Sayle Watterson, author of College Football: History, Spectacle, Controversy, continuing:

Unfortunately for the president, football did not lend itself to mediation as readily as diplomacy or politics. By singling out football, Roosevelt’s intervention had an unintended effect. As if by publicly acknowledging that serious defects existed, Roosevelt gave legitimacy to past and future criticism and spotlighted a debate on football injuries which had been ongoing for a decade but had never received so much attention in so many parts of the country.

News opinion covered the spectrum on T.R.’s grid-busting. Many commentators ridiculed Roosevelt, calling his action absurd, unbefitting of presidential office, while others praised it as characteristically progressive. In Pennsylvania, The Altoona Tribune editorialized:

Some presidents of the United States would have regarded the discussion of the foot-ball problem beneath their dignity. President Roosevelt, however, has a universal mind. Nothing is too high for him, nothing too trivial. The upshot of the whole matter is that the president is opposed to [football's] abolition, but heartily in favor of its transformation into a respectable and comparatively safe game.

But the notion of “sane” football was oxymoronic, opined The Washington Post, and of no demand by the general public. The football debate raged primarily among educators, game officials, doctors, politicians and theologians, only magnified for the T.R. touch. “The president with characteristic vigor has tackled a hard job,” Eliot said from Harvard. “It is hard to bring about a reform through the very [football] men who have long known about the existing evils, and have been largely responsible for their continuance.”

Congressman Charles B. Landis said that “fighting, cock-fighting, and bull-fighting are Sabbath-school games in comparison with modern football.” Rep. Landis, an Indiana Republican and brother of federal judge Kenesaw Landis, future baseball commissioner, commented after watching a football game. “Sport that necessitates the presence of physicians—well, that is simply another evidence that the brutal instincts in man and woman will crop out,” Landis said. “Early in the contest one of the captains was carried off the field insensible, and the game went on. There was not a boy in the game who did not run the risk of receiving an injury that would send him through life a hopeless cripple.”

Mass play reared anew as the foremost culprit of football ills. Moreover, while “open play” or lack thereof had dogged Camp and rulemakers for decades, this touted antidote was maturing as a coverall panacea, assured to eliminate field brutality and spectator boredom, according to proponents of late.

Abolition of football was hardly espoused anymore, not as a 20th century solution for problems. An outright ban seemed implausible in industrialized America, for this nationalized sport so planted economically, socially, and ideologically. Eliot loathed football, but even he had to acknowledge the spectacle’s contribution to higher education’s improving image. Football cast a romantic aura of campus life, offsetting scholarly drudgery; the game was “firmly entrenched,” Eliot stated, “in the affections and interests of students.”

Merely sanction open play in football, pleaded fans and critics alike. Rulemakers were implored to drop restrictions on forward passing and end rushing while eliminating mass formations—then they would realize “SAFE AND SANE FOOTBALL,” blared The New York Tribune. The resolution was obvious for practically everyone, even William Howard Taft, the jovial war secretary and Yale man who professed knowing little of the collision sport beyond hearing from friends like T.R. and Camp. “I am not an expert on football,” Taft said, “but in common with others, it seems to me that if the game can be more open and the heavy mass plays abolished, the change will be beneficial.”

“The president has discussed football with me several times lately,” Taft continued. “There is no doubt in my mind that football as played is unsportsmanlike. There is altogether too much rough play and unnecessary injuring of players. The passion for winning the game at any cost has led… to bitter recrimination until underhand methods give way to out-and-out slugging.”

Taft and Camp blamed individual athletes and newsmen, not inherently dangerous football, when they addressed a rousing St. Louis meeting of Associated Western Yale Clubs. A scribe reported that Taft, who would become Roosevelt’s handpicked successor as president, “took occasion to speak a good word for football, supporting Mr. Camp’s contention that it is not the game but the individual player and sensational journalism that is responsible for the present agitation against the game.”

At Harvard, meanwhile, football posed brutality for young Ted Roosevelt, with every player violent on the field by necessity, including him, not merely unsportsmanlike characters. Father Theodore surely understood; the president sympathized in letters from Washington when Ted was initially publicized as failing to make the freshman team. The president wrote:

Were not your first few days—or nights—at Harvard rather too full of incident to lend towards football proficiency? … I expected that you would find it hard to compete with the other candidates for the position of end, as they are mostly heavier than you.

Ted was not finished as a Harvard football player, however; he would stay on the field. Theodore stressed commitment to studies and sport, writing to Ted:

In all these things I can only advise you in a very general way. You are on the ground. You know the men and the general college sentiment. You have gone in with the serious purpose of doing decently and honorably; of standing well in your studies; of showing that in athletics you mean business up to the extent of your capacity, and of getting the respect and liking of your classmates so far as they can be legitimately obtained. As to the exact methods of carrying out these objects, I must trust to you.

Ted secured a backup position on the Harvard freshmen team, but injuries struck again when games began. Playing part-time at end, Ted was led off a casualty before most contests ended. “Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., was injured in a football scrimmage Saturday,” cracked a Minneapolis columnist on Oct. 30, for mocking the president.  “Football had just as well take off its headgear and prepare for another swat by the big stick.”

During games Ted suffered a chest injury and absorbed head blows, as most reporters lauded his “pluck.” In a loss for the Harvard freshmen on Nov. 5, Ted was “tackling low and hard and seeming not to mind the way his opponents trampled on him,” a scribe recounted. “Once he was laid out, and for three minutes the play was delayed.”

Ted contacted his parents after the game, asking to come home. Theodore replied immediately, urging his son against the trip because of the upcoming freshmen game versus Yale. “Of course we would be overjoyed to see you, but I don’t want you to leave if it is going to interfere with your football,” the president wrote. ” You must not lose the chance of getting into the Yale game.”

Ted obeyed and competed well in an interim game before Yale, as the Harvard frosh defeated Cushing Academy. “Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., played an excellent game for the Crimson, made a number of good tackles, and twice fell on the ball after a fumble,” The New York Tribune reported.

Cushing Academy was not Yale University, however. The Yale association predominated American football, boasting fearsome players on every squad. Edith Roosevelt knew as much in Washington, fretting over Ted’s pending risk against Yale freshmen, and his father worried, too, while also anticipating glorious opportunity for the son. The freshmen season would climax on Nov. 18 at Cambridge, Harvard versus Yale, the opening match in a week-long series between famed grid rivals to culminate with clash of varsities. Alum Teddy Roosevelt, wistful perhaps for football magic on Harvard campus, and unmistakable in the proud concern of a player’s father, wrote Ted:

Of course I hope you get into the Yale game, but it doesn’t make much real difference, for you have been on the team and at the training table and you have evidently shown that you are a game player. Orville Frantz [of Harvard YMCA] was here at lunch the other day and he said that you had been playing with just the right spirit. Still, though I would not have had you fail to play, and think it was a mighty good thing for you, I sympathize with Mother in being glad that after next Saturday your playing will be through!

Your loving father

Scrawny Ted Roosevelt needed his dad’s “right spirit,” pride, prayers and whatever more to withstand Yale football. The game became Ted’s personal worst and most injurious as Harvard lost, 16-0. “Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., was so repeatedly pounded by the heavier Yale freshmen…  that he was taken out in the second half and carried off the field,” The New York Times reported on Sunday morning, Nov. 19. In Washington, The Post placed a graphic account atop Page 3:

THEODORE HURT IN GAME

President’s Son Carried from the Field Unable to Stir

Special to The Washington Post

Cambridge, Mass., Nov. 18—Worn out by hard fighting against a team of men far heavier than he, battered and smashed by end plays, in which he was trampled down and stepped upon, Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., was to-day laid out in the Harvard-Yale freshman football game so that he had to be carried from the field.

When he was in the play, young Roosevelt put up a plucky game. He tackled low and hard, and although light, he got into every play fiercely. When the Yale giants began finally to wear him out he did not show the least signs of quitting, but fought it out gamely until he was fairly staggering with exhaustion.

He made some fearless tackling, but after he got groggy, Yale sent play after play at him.

Once he was knocked out and lay on the ground for some time, but persisted in remaining in the game. Finally a play came around his end that proved too much for the 145-pound boy. When the whistle blew and the men were pulled off the heap, there, underneath everyone else, lay young Roosevelt, cut, bruised, and bleeding, unable to stir. This time he did not protest, but allowed himself to be carried to the locker building, where he was patched up under the doctor’s care.

“Too bad he’s so light,” said McClintock, the sandy-haired coach of the Yale team. “He’s the pluckiest man on the team, and if he had a little more beef he’d make things just a little more interesting.”

Reading The Post at the White House, Edith Roosevelt and daughter Ethel reacted angrily, convinced that Yale targeted Ted for the beating. Theodore acted as football politician, muscular moralist, in writing—or coaching—his son.

Dear Ted:

Good for you! Of course I am sorry that Yale beat us, but I am very glad you made the team and I am not merely glad but very proud that you should have played as you evidently did play in the game. Of course I only know what the papers say but they are united in praising you for having put up an exceedingly resolute and plucky fight and they say that in spite of being lighter than any other man in the line on either team you nevertheless held your own well until you got groggy under the battering plays directed at you. If one of the Boston papers gave a fuller account of the game I wish you would sent it to me. I only hope there will not be any feeling caused in your class by the prominence the newspapers have given to you. …

Incidentally I very sincerely hope that now that football is over you will be able to do better in your studies. A record of C’s with an occasional D does not allow much margin for accidents, and while I think it was entirely satisfactory during the time you were playing football, I hope you can improve upon it a little now. …

Mother and Ethel were very indignant about Yale, and Mother especially was inclined to take a very dark view of the conduct of the Yale team in playing at you. I think it was rather a compliment than otherwise; but anyhow you are the last man in the world that would squeal about it. I think it is evident that the Yale men admire you, judging from the comments of their coach, and of course your game is to be perfectly good-natured and friendly with them and say that everything was all right. I am very proud of what you have done and I feel that you have lived right up to the doctrines you have preached and that you have upheld the family credit in great shape.

The president’s typed letter concluded with a P.S. in his handwriting. “I am mighty glad you played football this year,” he repeated to Ted, “and I am not at all sorry that you are too light to try for the varsity, so that this will really be your last year hard at it.”

Ted replied to his parents in positive language, writing:

They [Yale] played a clean, straight game and played no favorites. I met a good many of them whom I knew after the game and we had a friendly drink together. They beat us by simply and plainly outplaying us. … The report in the paper about Yale directing their interference against me was all bosh. Of course I knew all that rotten talk about come out in the papers, but it could not be helped.  … Well, I am very glad that I made the team anyway. I feel so large in my black sweater with the numerals on. Saturday’s game was a hard one, as I knew it was bound to be. I was not seriously hurt at all. Just shaken up and bruised. I broke my nose.

Ted’s crushed nose would require surgery. An eye was blackened and the neck wrenched, and he likely sustained brain trauma, for symptoms visible during the Yale game. A reporter located him in Cambridge, looked at the teen’s swollen and discolored face, the bloodied eye, and asked Ted if football were brutal and whether he agreed with his father on reform.

“I don’t wish to be in the newspapers,” replied Theodore, Jr., reflecting his mother. “I’ve been there altogether too much already.”

Roosevelt wrote Camp to say that Yale played fair against his son, without malicious intent as alleged by the First Lady. But thereon in football crisis, the president entrusted less authority to Camp and his Yale-tilted committee for solving anything. “The moral reform movement became a personal concern of the Roosevelt family after the Yale-Harvard freshman game,” surmised Lewis.

1905: Football Tempest Subsides on Presidential Instruction

Within days of Ted’s injury against Yale, T.R. strengthened his presidential stance on the football question. Having begun the dialogue six weeks before, Roosevelt decided to issue rule recommendations for football reform. He summoned another gridiron insider to Washington for relaying message to the press, Dr. J. William White of Philadelphia, a University of Pennsylvania football booster and professor of surgery.

Foremost, the president opposed ban on tackle football and sought “to minimize danger while preserving the essential manly and vigorous characteristics of the game,” newspapers reported after White’s trip to Washington. Roosevelt wanted a uniform athletics code for amateur eligibility, presumably administered by a national organization. Roosevelt endorsed rules without loopholes and rigid enforcement by referees. He called for penalizing institutions and coaches when athletes committed severe violations, and for “gentlemen’s agreement” among schools to ensure compliance. T.R. wanted football officials to eliminate brutality and dirty tricks on the field.

“Brutality and foul play should receive the same summary punishment given to a man who cheats at cards, who strikes a foul blow in boxing,” said White, reciting statements of Roosevelt for newsmen. “The umpire must have the widest latitude in enforcing this principle, even to the extent of ordering not only individual players, but whole teams off the field, and college presidents should hold to the sharpest accountability the umpire who permits for brutal football in any game.”

So-called brutality should include “slugging” and “kneeing,” said Penn officials, while “piling on” and “straight arm” jabbing should constitute “unnecessary roughness.” A case occurred on Thanksgiving Day, when star quarterback Walter Eckersall was flattened unconscious in a controversial 2-0 win for the University of Chicago. A referee ruled a Michigan player maliciously decked Eckersall and kneed him in the head, and the offender was ejected from this title match of western football.

Roosevelt demanded such uncompromising enforcement of football code and began pushing his plan with game officials and college leaders, communicating largely by private mail. He met personally with Woodrow Wilson, the Princeton University president destined for Washington and the Oval Office.

Roosevelt visited the Princeton campus to attend the Army-Navy game on Dec. 2, leading a “most brilliant official throng” of his cabinet members and congressional lawmakers, affirming grid fandom of Capitol Hill. The New York Tribune observed that “the President saw a smart, able exhibition of the great American undergraduate game, strenuously played… but free from any taint of foul play or personal rancor.”

Football season wound down in 1905, awash in news of injury and death, and a professor blasted the game from the University of Chicago, proclaiming the only option as “stop playing it.” Shailer Mathews, dean of the Chicago divinity school, accused newspapers of elevating football into “a social obsession—a monomania.” Mathews labeled the football institution as cartel, a “boy-killing, man-mutilating, money-making, education-prostituting, gladiatorial sport.”

Football abolitionists like Mathews were scarce, including among educators, and game injuries inspired no forceful countermeasure.  Social Darwinism pulsed through cultural thought and behavior, especially with blustery T.R. in the White House, and often academics talked blood-thirsty as anyone.  When committees opened work nationwide to tackle football issues, none touted a priority of ensuring player protection, not for resolving the tempest.

But severe injuries were systemic of American football, from colleges to sandlots, and the 1905 casualties seemed extraordinary under intense spotlight. The Chicago Tribune announced 19 fatalities for the football season as of Nov. 26, but data were routine besides the death of a young woman, and unverifiable, also typical of annual press reporting.

Coaches and trainers summarily discounted casualty figures. “The number of deaths from football this season was nineteen. The number last season was about the same, and I don’t think there has been any increase in the death list for many years,” said Columbia coach Bill Morley. “When you consider that during the football season probably 100,000 players are engaged in the game, then the death rate is wonderfully small.”

Officials declared football safe as basketball, bicycling and polo, and safer than baseball, the sporting “pastime” which would kill excessively until advent of hard headgear. Football officials blamed death in their sport on poor player specimens, along with inadequate training and medical supervision, but they overlooked common violence as a factor.

Game insiders also argued with each other,  about helmet designs, colliding to avoid head impacts, and defining brutality and unnecessary roughness. They divided sharply over Walter Camp, whether the recognized Father of American Football should continue as czar of rule-making after 27 years. Camp had image problems. Journalists were exposing cash riches and shady professionalism around Yale football, and many foes questioned the winning regime—22 national championships in 34 seasons—that they believed Camp rigged through rule-making and further influence. Many in the sport wished to see him dethroned from atop the rules committee.

John Heisman, coach of Georgia Tech, alluded to football infighting for his commentary in The Atlanta Constitution on the Sunday before Thanksgiving. Heisman claimed that “truth to tell, this rules committee has never quite succeeded in satisfying the game’s detractors.” Heisman wrote:

At the close of the season 1904 the demand for radical changes became so widespread and insistent that it seemed a heavy impression would surely be made upon the committee members and startling legislation would be the result.

But, though the members really sat up and took notice, really took an interest in the discussion, pondered much and discussed more, the absolute result of their deliberations was nil—the changes made proved trifling in the extreme and the game this year is just about as it was last year.

The effect… there is now more criticism—intelligent and otherwise, more howling down—of the game than has ever been known before, and in this crisis it becomes the duty of everyone who knows football by experience and observation to speak up manfully, yet with discretion, with well-weighed words and temperateness, but, above all, with honesty. Let neither the cranks for, nor the cranks against the game permit their prejudices to run away with their sound common sense.

Heisman agreed with Camp that a “10-yard rule” for awarding a first down would discourage the grinding interior plays to gain just 5 yards for retaining possession, as the rule stood. But Heisman was staunch advocate of forward passing, and after years of backroom lobbying with the likes of Camp, fruitlessly, he publicly revealed the stonewalling:

Last year, I suggested to the rules committee that if they really wanted to open up the game… they might rule forward passing permissible. This, too, was discussed and partly favored but was finally dismissed for the reason that is would make the game too much like basketball. To my way of thinking, no great harm would be done if it did resemble basketball a little more.

In one word, then, I think mass play is the trouble with modern football. … Let us do away with mass pushing and we can get the smaller fellows into the game again—many more of the general run of students at large can take part in the game.

Secondly, it will do away with what brutalizing tendency the game now may have.

Thirdly, it will please the spectators by its greater attractiveness. …

I confidently predict that with the abolition of the mass play, the adverse criticism will subside if not entirely die out.

The large majority of college administrators echoed Coach Heisman, supporting “radical revision” of football for the open format. Only a handful of schools banned football. The headliner was Columbia University, where administrators abolished the sport during Thanksgiving break, enraging students upon their return. Educators elsewhere sympathized—with Columbia students.

“I think that is going entirely too far,” remarked Cyrus Northrop, president at the University of Minnesota. “I am not in favor of the elimination of football from college sports. There is no question but that changes should be made in the game as played at present. In my opinion, the rules can be so amended as to make the plays more open [with] more punting and end runs, and fewer mass formations and scrimmages.”

Camp, for his part, maintained that “the 10-yard rule suggested by him last Spring would cure the game by opening the play,” reported The New York Times. Camp said, “In open play the slugging and dirty work sometimes done in scrimmage would be impossible, because it could be seen. If we can get the game so that the spectators can see all of it, public opinion would stop foul play. The 10-yard rule would allow lighter men to get into the open game, which would be an advantage that some people are urging.” Camp promised his committee would finally fix football, but skeptics were legion.

“No Experts Need Apply,” The Times headlined over a story with Harvard president Eliot, who sneered: “I find it impossible to believe that the committees, coaches, and umpires that have ruined the game are to be trusted with the reform or replacement.”

Eliot also professed no faith in a fledgling group of educators and athletic representatives, outside the Camp committee, meeting to pursue new football structure. The organizer was chancellor Henry B. MacCracken of New York University, who asked Eliot to lead the upstart organization, but the Harvard leader declined. Eliot proposed a moratorium on football, a “cooling down” period for ridding the game of unsportsmanlike attitude. “To get rid of this vicious spirit, I think we must stop intercollegiate football for a time,” Eliot said.

The MacCracken group did impress Harvard men besides Eliot, including Roosevelt and football coach Bill Reid, an attendee of the White House summit and member of Camp’s rules committee. MacCracken’s national organization was building momentum, adding members, representatives of more colleges large and small. The group sought to preserve football through “radical revision,” with casualties to be expected. “Football is football: It is not a parlor game,” said a group spokesman. “What we shall aim to do in changing the rules will be to limit, so far as possible, the number of injuries.”

When the MacCracken convention appointed its committee for representation in football rule-making, newspapers heralded the development. The Harrisburg Daily Independent in Pennsylvania reported:

SIXTY-TWO COLLEGES FOR SAFER FOOTBALL

Resolutions Pass Denouncing the Game As Now Played

New York, Dec. 29—The great college game of football will be saved to the American public. The greatest movement in behalf of the sport was inaugurated at the Murray Hill hotel yesterday when representatives from sixty-two colleges and universities from every section of the United States convened at the invitation of Chancellor MacCracken, of New York University… football reform seems assured.

The salvation of the convention hung upon a resolution favoring the appointment of a committee to request a conference with the [Camp] committee that has had the keeping of the game in its hand in former years. This was the battle of the meeting. The radicals advised self-constituted committee, and it was a difficult task to swing the sentiment of the convention into a favorable consideration of this resolution. However, after the hardest kind of battle, the practical men in the conference managed to convince the others that recognition of the present Intercollegiate Rules Committee was necessary if any effective reforms were to be made, and that the work of revising the rules would have to be undertaken with that body as a part to any action.

A committee of seven was therefore appointed to revise the rules and to seek an amalgamation with the present Rules Committee.

Harvard football men saw chance for a coup in rule-making: By politically playing the new group against the standing committee, Camp and Yale could be dislodged from central power. Harvard associates also sought control of the football debate for keeping their own program intact at Cambridge, heading off threat of suspension by the Eliot faction. Harvard men began making noise about leaving the football establishment if Camp’s committee were not receptive to “radical” reform. Speculation had Harvard in position to lead a new football association that would envelop the MacCracken group.

But before Harvard powerbrokers could gerrymander policy to “clean” the collision game—with help from booster Roosevelt at the White House—they confronted a pair of roadblocks, defection of a star Crimson player and frightful research on team injuries.

Harvard football barely missed calamity with captain D.J. Hurley, a halfback who suffered delayed brain hemorrhaging of shots from Dartmouth on Nov. 18. Symptoms presented days after the game in Hurley’s bizarre behavior and slurred speech on campus. Hurley, hospitalized for a week until the intracranial clot subsided, would never play football again.

Star tackle Karl Brill quit the Harvard team in December, citing his class load in engineering, but primarily protesting football’s inescapable violence. Brill’s decision was headlined as unprecedented for a talented player in his prime. He wrote in a prepared statement for press:

I have been in the game 10 years, playing tackle most of the time. I believe the human body was never meant to withstand the enormous strain which football demands. Moreover, I don’t believe the game is right. I dislike it on moral grounds. It is a mere gladiatorial combat. It is brutal throughout. When you are opposed to a strong man, you have got to get the better of him by violence.

I fail to see where the gray matter in a man’s head is exercised at all, nor am I able to see how football is the intricate game some proclaim it to be. Neither do I see how the game can be reformed or remedied. Sooner or later I believe we shall come to our sense and abolish it from all American institutions of learning.

A landmark medical study hit Harvard football in January, documenting the program’s injury plague for 1905, co-authored by team doctors and published by Boston Medical and Surgical Journal. Lead author Dr. Edward H. Nichols, a Boston surgeon and Harvard professor, worked closely with football coach Bill Reid and was well-acquainted with fan alum President Roosevelt. Nichols, a Harvard baseball legend as former star captain-coach, had attended the White House football summit with Reid. The medical news broke just as Reid orchestrated inside overthrow of the Camp committee.

The Harvard football study startled anyone with comprehension, particularly for revelations on brain trauma. Nichols and co-author Dr. Homer B. Smith gathered casualty information through surveying players and monitoring practices and games. Approximately 150 players aspired for the varsity or ” university team,” with about half accounting for the bulk of collision exposures, and 145 injuries were recorded, qualified in severity ranging from “moderate” to “great.”

Twenty-two bone fractures occurred, breaks of fibula, pelvis [4 cases], rib [5], clavicle, finger [9], nose—and neck, 1 case of fracture in the second cervical vertebra, which apparently did not involve permanent paralysis and deadly bed infection. Hurley’s brain bleed was perhaps worst among Harvard injuries, and his recovery continued into 1906.

Injured players were sidelined from football for a total of 1,057 days and cumulatively missed 175 days of college classes. After the season, 35 players of 110 who answered queries confirmed they were still recovering from injuries, and researchers suspected significant under-reporting of lingering pain and dysfunction. “Many of the joint injuries are of such a character as to be likely to be progressively worse and many of the injuries to the shoulder are certain to cause some disability in later years,” Nichols and Smith wrote for BMSJ.

News scribes highlighted findings on “head injuries” in Harvard football; Nichols and Smith had diagnosed 19 brain concussions on the 1905 varsity. Newspapers reported:

A sensational feature of the observations of the surgeons is their statement that cases of concussion of the brain were frequent. In fact, only two games were played during the entire season in which a case of concussion did not occur.

A range of symptoms accompanied brain trauma on the football field, often detected from the sidelines. In the journal article, Nichols and Smith stated a concussed, oblivious player might “run through a considerable series of plays before his mates noticed that he was mentally irresponsible.” The researchers continued:

The mental state of the players who had concussion was variable, some being highly excitable and hysterical, others merely confused, and in a few cases, knocked completely unconscious. In every case there was a certain loss of memory, both previous and subsequent to the injury. … Concussion was treated by the players in general as a trivial injury and rather regarded as a joke.

Possible brain damage of football players was incalculable, but many specialists believed TBI could lead to mental disorder, chronic disease, and suicide. “The real seriousness of the injury is not certain,” Nichols and Smith observed.

For general casualty among major sports, tackle football ranked first, far ahead, according to the study’s conclusions:

(1) The number, severity and permanence of the injuries which are received in playing football are very much greater than generally is credited or believed.

(2) The great number of the injuries come in the “pile” and not in the open plays, although serious injuries are received in the open.

(3) The number of injuries is inherent in the game itself, and is not due especially to close competition, as is shown by the fact that the proportion of injuries received in games and in practice is about the same.

(4) A large percentage of the injuries is unavoidable.

(5) The percentage of injuries is incomparably greater in football than in any other of the major sports.

(6) The game does not develop the best type of men physically, because too great prominence is given to weight without corresponding nervous energy.

(7) Constant medical supervision of the game where large numbers of men are engaged is a necessity and not a luxury, although it is a question if a game, requiring the constant attendance of two trained surgeons, is played under desirable conditions.

(8) The percentage of injury is much too great for any mere sport.

The Harvard study was publicized nationwide, drawing “much interest” as debate raged over football, according to The New York Tribune, and response was strong from the American Medical Association in Chicago.

The medical writers of JAMA editorialized against football as a health menace: “We may say at once that their [Nichols and Smith] conclusions are entirely against the game as judged from its medical standpoint.” JAMA editors rated concussion findings as likely the “most serious feature” of the research and discussed potential brain damage for impact victims such as football players; they wrote:

When a condition like [concussion] develops as the result of an injury, the central nervous system has received a very severe shaking up. There was a time when it was considered that convulsions and other untoward incidents in the conscious life of the individual were not likely to be followed by serious consequences. This is not the opinion at present time, however. One of the questions always asked by nerve specialists with regard to nervous disease developing later on in life, is whether or not the individual ever suffered from convulsions in childhood. A state of affairs in which the individual acts as an automaton after an injury is not so different from a convulsive seizure. If the one is supposed to have serious consequences so may the other. At the present time no one is ready to say whether concussions of the brain may or may not have serious consequences in after life.

JAMA editors viewed the Harvard study as red alert for educators who sanctioned football’s bloody spectacle at schools and colleges, as well as for the medical institution’s prevailing laissez faire approach. Game officials and advocates were chastised for their rationale that football benefits somehow outweighed risks. The JAMA editorial continued:

The whole report of the two surgeons in charge of the Harvard squad should be read by every prominent educator throughout the country, and it should be the duty of the members of the medical profession to see that it is called particularly to their attention. Surely, no one will consider after this calm exposure of the inside history of football injuries, even at a great university where no effort is spared to bring the men into the pink of condition, that football is to be considered a game without serious risks, no matter what the preparation, or that it is to be compared with any of the other sports in this matter of liability to serious injury. An attempt has been made to gloss over football’s worst aspects by widely published suggestions that no game is entirely without the danger of death under accidental circumstances. In football, however, as the Harvard surgeons emphasize, the injuries are absolutely dependent on the present methods of playing the game itself, and are bound to occur.

In 2014, science historian Emily A. Harrison characterized the Nichols-Smith literature as resounding for the problem of traumatic brain injury in American football, long ago at Harvard, grid bastion of the day. “Concussion was deemed something that could happen almost invisibly in the noise and action of a game,” Harrison wrote. “The concussion crisis had begun.”

Nevertheless in 1906, lest any football abolitionist took up the research of Nichols and Smith, the Harvard team physicians couched political caveat within passages they wrote largely like a sport condemnation. These sports doctors asserted football casualties could be reduced to acceptable margin. “Leaving out all other objections to the game, ethical and practical…,” Nichols and Smith wrote in their conclusion No. 9, finishing the BMSJ article, “the conditions under which the game is played should be so modified as to diminish to a very great degree the number of injuries.”

All shades of football supporters denied field danger was insolvable, purporting that injuries were controllable through reform, along with any problem. Harvard men bore the popular banner with Dr. Nichols out front, discussing his football study with press on Jan. 15, saying,  “I think the rules can be changed to make them answer the demands for an improved game.”

Events followed in formality. The MacCracken committee gained space at the rule-making table, joining up with the old committee after members relented, and autocratic Walter Camp was overthrown as head. Reid keyed the maneuver, encouraged by Roosevelt, with the Harvard coach appointed as rules secretary, supplanting Camp at top.

The conjoined committees adopted a name, the Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States, for bureaucracy extending beyond elite eastern football, with everything evolving toward becoming known, in a few years, as the National Collegiate Athletic Association, or NCAA. “Abuses did not end with the organization of the Association,” surmised Guy Maxton Lewis, a half-century later. “Profits to support winning teams continued to motivate athletic associations.”

Football rolled on, with official concern for player protection when convenient, or hardly ever. The football institution focused on protecting itself, the realistic mission always within reach. The casualty drumbeat continued, impossible to tone down, modify, legislate away.

In July 1906, football rules secretary Bill Reid detailed newly ratified measures in his lengthy review published by newspapers and journals. Of keen interest, the new rules required advancing 10 yards within three plays for a first down, encouraging outside runs; established a “neutral zone” or scrimmage line between teams, of ball’s length, providing clearer view for referees and spectators; allowed forward passing under restrictions; described tactics constituting infractions of brutality and unnecessary roughness, encouraging referee enforcement; and required six offensive players lined at scrimmage for a snap, limiting mass formations.

During the 1906 football season, the press collected fewer cases of death and survivor casualties, and the unvalidated numbers were generally considered as sign of improvement. Critics still scoffed, but “safe” football was never the serious goal of reformers, anyway, reminded The New York Times. On the contrary, gridiron “dullness” had been maddening for spectators, according to the editorial: “It was the dullness of the shove and push, the ‘mass and charge,’ that was really deadly.”

The Times praised new rulemakers for creating quick, agile field action, stating “it seems that they have saved the game of football.” Teddy Roosevelt drew credit, too, at home and in Canada, where tackle football had taken root. “His influence is expected to be far-reaching,” opined The Winnipeg Tribune, “and the next few years will doubtless see a marked improvement all along the line.”

Roosevelt was not so sure. Speaking at Harvard in early 1907, he claimed football reform was succeeding at preparatory schools, for moral administrators like his pal Peabody at Groton—but not at the colleges, still. The president, while continuing to belittle “nonsense” of football abolitionists, blamed college officials and field referees for poorly enforcing the new rules he helped establish. “He declared that it was his opinion that the right kind of umpiring and refereeing would remove the evils of football,” reported The Boston Daily Globe.

Roosevelt said, “The preparatory schools are able to keep football clean, and to develop the right spirit in the players without the slightest necessity ever arising to so much as consider the question of abolishing it. There is no excuse whatever for colleges failing to show the same capacity… the experience of every good preparatory school shows that the abuse is in no shape necessarily attendant upon the game.”

1912: Forgetting Football TBI and Disease For Posterity

Football deaths made major headlines after 1905, with data unverifiable and varying. Journalists collected fatality cases by “clipping” newsprint flows, and 1909 tallies figured badly for so-called football reform—“the most disastrous season in the history of the sport,” remarked a New York scribe—with reported numbers ranging from 29 to 33 deaths, mostly schoolboys. While Harvard’s Dr. Nichols was recording dwindling casualties on his team, year by year, news analysts and independent doctors saw injuries rising in football, particularly in cases of brain trauma or “concussion.”

Many critics blamed the emerging open format for riskier colliding among speeding players, compared to slower mass formations. A national news commentary stated “not even the football rulemakers can wipe out the bone-breaking features of the game by substituting one kind of danger for another.” And The Washington Herald opined: “The open play game, brought about by the 10-yard rule and other innovations, supposed to lessen the perils of the gridiron, seems to be a failure as far as any great saving of life and limb is concerned.”

Herald editorial writers contended brain concussion “may cause permanent bodily effects,” adding that TBI “seems a direct argument against the open game, as practically all of the brain injuries reported were received in running tackles, made prominent by the open game, in contrast to the close struggles in the mass plays of the past.”

Former president Theodore Roosevelt detected folly in policy stemming from the football tempest he had personally ignited and mitigated from the White House. In 1910 Roosevelt spoke at Cambridge University in England, where he complimented rugby, the British collision sport of running, passing and kicking. Roosevelt liked rugby for having no scrimmage line and prohibiting “interference” or blocking to lead ball-carriers. And there was no armor.

T.R. lamented the state of American football. “There is one thing I wish I could learn from you,” he told the Brits in audience, “how to make football a less homicidal pastime. I don’t wish to speak as a mere sentimentalist, but I don’t think manslaughter should be a normal accompaniment. I do think a first-class football match between two American university teams is a corking game, but I should like to modify the game in order to draw the teeth of the men who cry out against football, and thus deprive them of a valid argument against a good sport.”

“He Makes a Plea for Human Football,” The New York Herald headlined back home, of Roosevelt abroad.

T.R. no longer manipulated football rule-making. Still, NCAA officials professed to aim for a humane game in presenting new, unrestricted forward passing, and critics were appeased. Forms of the forward pass had been sanctioned in rules since 1906, but restrictions discouraged its use, such as mandate on when to throw on the field, where to throw and how far, and loss of ball possession for an incomplete attempt. Stifling rules were loosened in 1910 and the forward pass was fully legalized in 1912, for throwing from anywhere on the field behind the line of scrimmage, for any distance.

Fans loved action of the passing game, but effect on football risk was unclear. The sporting press reported slight decline in deaths through World War I, but game mortality and injury rates were not ascertained. The NCAA did not bother with football research, fewer journalists cared, and no epidemiological frame was launched. Football ills became passé as world and national affairs occupied public concern and rhetoric.

The gridiron had survived, endured as human escape, virtual fantasy, nothing to really worry about. America stood enraptured, thoroughly gratified with football and social rituals of the season. Theodore Roosevelt continued glorifying “clean” football, speaking especially for boys and parents, and Woodrow Wilson applied the T.R. model for exploiting the game to enhance his own presidential popularity.

Wilson, elected two terms to the White House, 1913 to 1921, traveled with his “Wilson Guard” of football stars for appearances. The pacifist president and academic had served as secretary of the Princeton football association in college, avoiding the field maw himself. President Wilson applauded NCAA measures to finally establish the open game, years after failed reform of Roosevelt’s influence. “The new rules are doing much to bring football to a high level as a sport, for its brutal features are being done away with and better elements retained,” Wilson said.

Football officials felt less pressure, despite pervasive casualties’ ongoing. “I am in doubt as to whether the game is safer,” said Jonas A. Babbit, NCAA rules chairman, “but public opinion seems to hold that it is safer.”

A century later, Harrison rued football’s historic whitewash for brain injuries and disease, in her commentary for the Somatosphere website. Harrison wrote that “ample evidence existed at the turn of the 19th century to make a convincing case of concussion’s dangers at that time,” continuing:

Society forgot what it knew because significant work was done by football’s supporters to hush up evidence in the media and other popular discussions, to discourage scientific research, and to legitimize football by allying it with morally-reputable institutions and with cultural ideals of manliness that carried great weight at that time. What was known was unlearned, forgotten, pushed away into a corner. Over time, the first surge of the concussion crisis settled away into the storage bins of history.

“In the long history of the concussion crisis there is a story,” Harrison concluded, “that once a society comes to know something is unsafe, those with a stake in its perpetuation prefer that people forget.”

Matt Chaney is an author, editor, and consultant on public issues in sport, specializing in American football. Chaney, MA in media studies, is a former college football player and coach whose books include Spiral of Denial: Muscle Doping in American Football, self-published in 2009.Chaney’s study for graduate thesis, co-published with the University of Central Missouri in 2001, analyzed print sport-media coverage of anabolic substances in football from 1983-1999. Email him at mattchaney@fourwallspublishing.com or visit the website for more information.

1900-1968 News Line of Football Brain Damage and Policy-Making

By Matt Chaney

Friday, January 1, 2016

Copyright ©2015 for historical arrangement by Matthew L. Chaney

Each date below denotes newspaper publication, which could have occurred a day or longer after the news event, unless otherwise noted

1900 Oct. 24  Yale coaches contend that ‘heavy leather helmets’ lead to ‘headlong’ collisions in college football, New Haven scribe reports

1900 Nov. 12  Princeton coaches endorse football helmets because ‘head injuries are generally more lasting and serious’ than those elsewhere, newspapers report

1901 Oct. 10  ‘mentally unbalanced’ prep football player commits suicide after repetitive brain injury:

Oct. 10, 1901, Topeka Daily Capital KS
The Easy, Gentle Game of Football
Special to The Capital
Janesville, Wis., Oct. 9—Leon Ayers, one of the brightest and most popular students in high school, committed suicide at his room in the Y.M.C.A. building last night with chloroform. It is thought that he was mentally unbalanced, the result of a fall from scaffolding last summer and subsequent injuries in a football game a week ago. He was 19 years old, a member of the senior classes of its football team, and a singer in the First M.B. church choir. He expected to enter the Chicago Art Institute next spring, having great artistic talent.

 

1901 Nov. 6  college football players serve for helmets ‘experiment and thought’ of designer trainers and coaches, newspapers report

1901 Nov. 6  sole-leather helmets ‘safer’ for players, newspapers report

1902 Oct. 12  doctors  say man dies of brain damage received in football game six years previously, St. Louis

1902 Dec. 13  JAMA declares that football can cause ‘cerebral injuries resulting in insanity’ or ‘permanent weaknesses’ Atlanta Constitution reports

1902 Dec. 13  JAMA analysts see colleges exhibit ‘a growing disregard of humane ethics’ in pursuit of football profit and prestige, Atlanta Constitution reports

1903 April 7  ‘helmets have been used in mass plays as battering rams to butt down opponents’ scribe reports

1903 July 18  JAMA: brain injury can ‘damage hidden and important structures’ in victims, Dr. W.H. Earles observes in the journal

1903 July 18  JAMA: brain injury can leave ‘a foundation for future trouble which is too often irreparable’ Dr. W.H. Earles observes for journal

1905 Feb. 3  Harvard president argues that ‘concussion’ of football can result in ‘permanent weakness, later trouble’ newspapers report

1905 March 30  MDs diagnose brain damage for football player in wreck of Purdue train; he sues railroad, newspapers report

1905 Oct. 6  ‘Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., Hurt in Football Scrimmage’—Chicago headline

1905 Oct. 7  ‘Theodore, Jr., Laid Out’ in football practice for Harvard freshmen—Salt Lake headline

1905 Oct. 10  President Roosevelt says individual ‘unsportsmanlike’ players besmirch football by targeting foes for injury, newspapers report

1905 Oct. 10  President Roosevelt meets with football coaches and officials from elite programs Harvard, Yale and Princeton at White House, newspapers report

1905 Oct. 10  President Roosevelt acts ‘as citizen and father to start movement to put down brutality in football’  Chicago Tribune reports

1905 Oct. 10  President Roosevelt ‘Wants Clean, Manly Sport’:

Oct. 10, 1905,  Chicago Tribune IL
Roosevelt In New Crusade
President Opens War on Brutality in College Athletics
Calls “Coaches” To His Aid
Yale, Harvard, and Princeton Football Men at the White House
WASHINGTON, D.C, Oct. 9 (Special)–Theodore Roosevelt, not as president of the United States, but as an American citizen and the father of a college boy who has just come out of a football game with a “slit eyebrow” and a “cauliflower ear,” has started a movement to put down brutality in football.
To aid him in his crusade he called to the White House today Walter C. Camp, general adviser of Yale athletics, William C. Reid, Jr., the Harvard coach, “Doc” Hildebrand, the Princeton coach, “Jack” Owsley, the Yale coach, Dr. E.H. Nichols, and John B. Fine. Secretary Root participated in the conference.
Plans War on Brutal Sport
To these men, who practically control the best part of college athletics in the east, President Roosevelt avowed his purpose to “inaugurate a movement having for its object absolutely clean sport and the eradication of professionalism, money making, and brutality from college games.”
The president has enjoyed a long acquaintance with the men with whom he talked today, and he talked with them in a practical, personal way of the reforms which he considers necessary in order to establish a higher standard of sport.
He suggested the adoption of drastic rules in an intercollegiate code, under which any college team guilty of brutality or unsportsmanlike conduct shall be excluded from participating in contests with other colleges.
Wants Clean, Manly Sport
There is no firmer believer in healthful sports than President Roosevelt. He is himself an athlete. He believes in athletics. The fact that his son, Theodore Jr., has just entered Harvard, and that he has other sons who will someday go to college, lends a personal interest to his action, besides general interest to advance college sports all over the country.
The president did most of the talking at the conference today, and what he said was practically a reiteration of the speech he made at Harvard last June. In the course of that speech he said:
“I believe in outdoor games and I do not mind in the least that they are rough games, or that those who take part in them are occasionally injured. I have no sympathy whatsoever with the overwrought sentimentality that would keep a young man in cotton wool, and I have a hearty contempt for him if he counts a broken arm or collarbone as of serious consequence [as such football injuries qualified medically in 1905] when balanced against the chance of showing that he possesses hardihood, physical address, and courage.” [The president himself chose not to play football at Harvard 29 years earlier.]
Contempt for Low Cunning
“But when these injuries are inflicted by others, either wantonly or of set design, we are confronted by the question, not of damage to one man’s body but of damage to the other man’s character.
“Brutality in playing a game should awaken the heartiest and most plainly shown contempt for the players guilty of it, especially if this brutality is coupled with a low cunning in committing it without getting caught by the umpire.
“I hope to see both graduate and undergraduate opinion come to scorn such a man as one guilty of base and dishonorable action, who has no place in the regard of gallant and upright men.”
The conference between the president and the athletes named began at luncheon, which occurred at 1:30, and did not end until shortly before 4 o’clock, when the guests left hurriedly to catch the train for New York. It is understood they will endeavor to have action taken along the lines of their talk with the president, but they declined to discuss the matter at the present time.

 

1905 Dec. 12  ‘concussion of the brain, other injuries of collisions are now a regular part of football news’ Brooklyn Daily Eagle reports

1905 Dec. 29  ‘Sixty-Two Colleges for Safer Football’—Pennsylvania headline of NCAA genesis

1906 Jan. 5  ‘concussion of the brain’ causes college football players to become failing students, drunks, criminals, cracks ‘Mr. Next’ in syndicated satire of newspapers

1906 Jan. 6  Harvard sports MDs report ‘concussions of the brain are frequent’ in football for JAMA article, newspapers report

1906 Jan. 6  Harvard sports doctors note medical uncertainty about ‘ later effects of concussion’ in JAMA article:

Jan. 6, 1906, Greensboro Daily Industrial News NC
Surgeons Score Gridiron Sport
Large Percentage of Injuries Is Unavoidable
New York, Jan. 5—Most noteworthy of the football literature of the season is probably that furnished by Dr. Edward H. Nichols and Dr. Homer B. Smith, surgeons of the Harvard eleven. Writing on “The Physical Aspect of American Football” in the Medical Journal, they draw conclusions from a scientific and surgical study of injuries to Harvard players in the season just ended which cannot fail to be of interest to every follower of the sport. …
Concussion of Brain Frequent
A sensational feature of the observations of the surgeons is their statement that cases of concussion of the brain were frequent, both in practice and championship games. In fact, only two games were played during the season in which a case of concussion of the brain did not occur. There were several noticeable features in these cases. Often the fact that a man had received a serious head injury was noticed by the surgeon from the side lines before it was recognized by the players. This was due to the fact that a player might, apparently, automatically run through a considerable series of plays before his mates noticed that he was mentally irresponsible. …
Many Do Not Recover
… No one seems to be in a position to settle with certainty the question as to whether there is any possibility of later effects from concussion.

 

1906 Jan. 10  excessive injuries inherent of ‘war-like’ football, Harvard sports MDs observe

1906 Jan. 15  Yale families resist football for sons, fearing ‘brain concussion’ and spinal paralysis, scribe reports

1906 Feb. 26  War Secretary William H. Taft blames ‘individual players and sensational journalists for football agitation’ AP reports

1906 Nov. 25  ‘open game makes football safer’ college presidents say

1906 Nov. 27  ‘Safer Football’—Kansas headline

1907 Feb. 24  Roosevelt says ‘no need to abolish football, a thoroughly manly sport that’s sometimes abused’ AP reports

1907 Nov. 28 ‘speed and combination plays almost as hazardous’ as mass formations, scribe says

1907 Nov. 30  Kansas man sues railroad for concussion leaving him unable to ‘fully attend his business as farmer, banker and loan man’ newspapers report

1908 Sept. 16  MD links suicide of doctor to a concussion suffered in football 15 years previously,  Nebraska State Journal reports

1908 Sept. 16  doctor suffered years of ‘despondency and violent headaches’ from football TBI then committed suicide:

Sept. 16, 1908, Nebraska State Journal NE
DID NOT CONTEMPLATE DYING
Dr. Rustin Registered At The Primary Election
WAS ONCE SERIOUSLY HURT
Injury Received in a Football Game Years Ago a Reason for His Moral Decadence—Omaha Notes
OMAHA, Neb., Sept. 15—Dr. Frederick T. Rustin, shot on the morning of September 2, intended to vote in November. One of the last things he did before his death was to register and say he would vote the democratic ticket straight. …
High medical authority brings out the theory that Dr. Rustin may have owed his moral and physical decadence to an accident sustained in a football game some fifteen years ago. At that time he was seriously injured, and there is a likelihood that a pressure on the brain was never removed, and hence his despondency and violent headaches which his intimates tell about.
Regarding the mental condition of Dr. Rustin, before he made his attempts to commit suicide by inoculating himself with disease germs, an interesting statement has been made by Dr. Edward W. Lee of New York City, who practiced in Omaha for fifteen years. He advance several reasons for the moral and physical collapse of Dr. Rustin.
“There is one thing,” said Dr. Lee, “which, from a psychological point of view, may help to explain his pitiful collapse in late years.
“When he was home in Omaha on vacation from college in 1893 or 1894, he was seriously injured in a football game. He sustained a concussion of the brain, and was unconscious for several hours I attended him, and afterward, as I recall it, he often suffered from the effects of the accident.”

 

1908 Sept. 30  ‘heavy headgear’ will protect Yale player in return to field after his ‘slight concussion’ scribe reports

1908 Nov. 8  ‘football rule makers substitute one kind of danger for another’ by sanctioning the forward pass, scribe reports

1908 Nov. 8  ‘Has Football Reform Failed?’—Pennsylvania headline

1908 Nov. 22  ‘concussion of the brain’ is an injury ‘which may cause permanent bodily defects’ Chicago Tribune reports

1908 Nov. 22  ‘practically all brain injuries were received in running tackles made prominent by the open game’ Chicago Tribune reports

1908 Nov. 22 ‘brain concussion seems a direct argument against the open game, in contrast to close struggles of mass play’ Chicago Tribune observes

1908 Dec. 8  father says son charged in armed holdup was rendered insane by concussion in football game, scribe reports

1909 March 30  four months after concussion, college football player ‘has never fully regained his reason’ Decatur Herald reports

1909 Sept. 15  ‘several football coaches oppose brass-knuckle headgear in general use these days’ scribe reports

1909 Nov. 2  ‘current events radically indict the efficacy of the so-called reform of football’:

Nov. 2, 1909, Atlanta Constitution GA
WHERE THE MAN—NOT THE BEAST—IS KILLED
Humane America shudders over the bloody brutality of bull fights and cocking mains in Mexico and Central America and Cuba.
How shall we answer our critics from these countries when they point to the long list of casualties and fatalities from the average American football season?
In the one instance, it is a few dumb animals done to death for the diversion of an emotional people.
In the other, it is the flower of young collegians of one of the most highly civilized countries of the world, deliberately trampled out of life or permanently maimed that the glory of our rival educational institutions must be vindicated.
The record of last Saturday alone is sickening.
There is Cadet Eugene Byrne, of the West Point military academy, dead of a broken neck as a result of the academy’s encounter with Harvard.
At Annapolis, quarter back Wilson is slowly dying from injuries very similar to those of Byrne’s, received two weeks ago in a game with Villanova.
Kokomo, Indiana, contributes a fatally injured student as the consequence of a college football game.
Philadelphia comes in with a 21-year-old collegian dead.
From Des Moines and Omaha come, respectively, stories of concussion of the brain and a broken collar bone, due to the same source.
Two or three years ago, a similar succession of tragedies inspired a conscientious effort to “debrutalize” football, by eliminating many of the more dangerous tactics.
Current developments radically indict the efficacy of the so-called “reform in football.”
The present situation brings uppermost this curious crisis:
Combining interest of spectator and player as does no other game, football is one of the most popular pastimes in America.
But it appears that in order to retain its drawing features, the game is inseparable from such danger to life and limb as brings it into unfavorable comparison with the most brutal sports of ancient Rome, not to mention those of our own day.
Is football doomed?

 

1909 Nov. 19  Congress should intervene for football injuries and demand long-term study of college players, Medical Record opines

1909 Nov. 21  ‘Safe And Sane Football Is Cry From Easterners’—Detroit Free Press headline

1909 Nov. 21  ‘in a flying tackle the football player dives head foremost at a runner with the ball’ Detroit Free Press notes

1909 Nov. 27  ‘Season Just Closed Most Disastrous In History of Football; 29 Men Killed’—Kansas headline

1909 Nov. 28  football rule makers must ‘prune down mass plays and flying tackles still further’ sports editor declares

1909 Dec. 22  ‘Safer Football Aim Of Experts’—North Dakota headline

1910 Jan. 26  ‘For Safer Football; District High School Coaches Revise Playing Code’Washington Herald DC headline

1910 Jan. 26  ‘tackling around neck or above shoulders no longer allowed’ in DC schools, Washington Herald reports

1910 Jan. 26  ‘forward pass’ banned for safer football in DC high schools, Washington Herald reports

1910 Feb. 5  ‘easier to attack the football rules than to make the game safer’ Amos Alonzo Stagg says, U.Chicago coach

1910 May 2  Walter Camp says new rules banning ‘flying tackle’ and hits below knees will ‘make the game safe’ Chicago Tribune reports

1910 May 14  new rules approve ‘forward pass’ across line of scrimmage and no longer than 20 yards upfield, officials say

1910 Oct. 9  ‘ordinary concussion can lead to brain abnormality known as duplex or multiplex personality’ Washington Post reports

1910 Oct. 26  Butler coach says ‘football is safe as baseball, track and field, and car travel’ Indianapolis Star reports

1910 Nov. 20  ‘concussion of the brain was the leading cause for 14 football deaths this year’ NY Times reports

1910 Nov. 20  ‘open field tackles’ cause most brain concussions in football,  NY Times reports

1911 Nov. 26  ‘rule forbidding the flying tackle seems to have failed its purpose’ Chicago Tribune observes

1911 Nov. 26  rules cause ‘harder and fiercer tackling’ from shoulders up, Chicago Tribune reports

1912 Sept. 23  ‘doubtful that football is safer’ but the public seems to think so, NCAA rule maker says

1913 Oct. 18  ‘helmets are now almost universally worn by college and high school footballists’ news scribe observes

1914 Dec. 9  father says son who tried to kill him is bereft of ‘his reason’ since football concussion three years before, scribe reports

1915 Sept. 4  Illinois coach designs helmet for ‘protection at all points where a blow might wreak havoc’ scribe reports

1915 Oct. 30  Lancet medical journal examines whether warfare bomb blasts ‘produce psychological disturbances often causing insanity’ Indianapolis Star reports

1915 Nov. 3  ‘rough and high tackling by Georgetown caused many sore necks on the Fordham team’ scribe reports

1916 Feb. 8  JAMA declares ‘latent athletic injuries must be reckoned with and our youths safeguarded’ Fitchburg Sentinel reports

1917 Sept. 30  Illinois prep game extremely rough because ‘both teams persisted in high tackling’ scribe reports

1919 Oct. 18  ‘always tackle with head to one side and shoulder into man’s body’ Walter Camp writes

1920 Jan. 21  boxer appears ‘punch drunk’ on ropes in fight, NY Times reports

1925 Feb. 4  ‘no college football player fears getting knocked out; it’s too common an experience’ ex-college player says

1925 Feb. 4  a college player ‘cannot go through a football season without being knocked senseless a couple times’ ex-player says

1925 Dec. 28  ‘high tackling’ problem is agenda item for NCAA rules committee, AP reports

1925 Dec. 28  eastern football coaches want NCAA to penalize high tackling as unnecessary roughness, AP reports

1925 Dec. 31  ‘head up, chest out’ is an impossible technique that cannot remedy ‘high tackling’ in NCAA, scribe writes:

Dec. 31, 1925, Altoona Tribune PA
Changing Grid Rules: Too Much Roughness
Officials recommend… [that] tackling above the shoulders, piling, and roughing the catcher [receiver] of kicks be eliminated. … Tackling below the shoulder would be a very fine thing and very practical if runners could be forced to do their sprinting with head up and chest out. The sad part of it is that runners, like ["Galloping Ghost" Red] Grange, run very low. If the Wheaton ice man is to be tossed at all, the tackler has little time or opportunity to pick a suitable spot of the Phantom around which to twine his arms. Officials believe that high tackling should be punishable to a 15-yard penalty.

 

1926 March 20  NCAA rules committee does not act on ‘high tackling’ problem, according to news accounts

1926 Nov. 1  President Theodore Roosevelt ‘saved football’ from abolition in 1905 by restoring ‘good name’ of the game, ex-player writes

1927 Aug. 25  new book by Stanford coach Glenn ‘Pop’ Warner recommends a helmet model where ‘shock is distributed by a net on the inside’ scribe reports

1928 March 22  ‘punch drunk an abject lesson for Jack Dempsey,’ heavyweight champ, says scribe

1928 March 22  ‘Many Old-Time Pugs Are In Punch Drunk Alley’—Pennsylvania headline

1928 April 19  champ Dempsey fears ‘punch drunk’ and might retire, ex-manager says

1928 April 24  Army doctors say punch drunk is ‘disease of cerebral lesions’ United Press reports

1928 April 24  ‘Science unable to treat punch-drunk disease’ United Press reports

1928 April 24  Army MDs diagnose ‘punch drunk’ in hero soldier-boxer:

April 24, 1928, Mount Carmel Item PA
BOB MARTIN, BOXER, LOSING LIFE’S BATTLE
WASHINGTON, April 24 (U.P.) [United Press]—Bob Martin, champion boxer of the American expeditionary forces, today lost a decision in the greatest battle of his life—a fight to regain his health.
Physicians of the Walter Reed Hospital told Martin his illness was incurable. He is suffering with what is known as the “boxer’s waltz” or “punch drunk.”
Physicians said his ailment is the result of cerebral lesions, directly due to the many blows he received on the head.
Modern science has been unable to check the disease and the fighter, who mastered Gene Tunney in the A.E.F. days, will retired to seclusion at his home in Terra Alta, W. Va.

 

1928 May 10  Dr. Harrison S. Martland, forensic pathologist of Essex County, NJ, introduces his findings of ‘punch drunk’ boxing disease to NY Academy of Medicine

1928 May 10  Dr. Martland says halting speech, tremors, unsteady gait signal ‘punch drunk’

1928 May 17  ‘Remember Bob Martin, Toast of Boxing?’—Oregon headline

1928 May 17  Army boxer is ‘disabled, dizzy, loses memory for cerebral lesions—punch drunk’ scribe writes

1928 Aug. 3  ‘Punch Drunk The Reason Tunney Quit Fighting’—Illinois headline

1928 Aug. 7  baseball champion Yankees play like ‘punch drunk’ on losing roadtrip, AP scribe alludes

1928 Sept. 25  parents should know that ‘boys are as safe on the football field as pedestrians on the street’ Health Secretary Dr. Theodore Appel says

1928 Oct. 14  U.Georgia football star appears ‘punch drunk’ or concussed on field against Yale, scribe writes

1928 Oct. 15  Schuylkill College defeats listless or ‘punch drunk’ team of Gallaudet College, scribe alludes

1928 Oct. 19  ‘Punch Drunkenness Found Outside Boxing’—Brooklyn headline

1928 Oct. 19  JAMA publishes Martland study that found single or repeated blows cause ‘punch drunk’ brain disease in boxers, newspapers report

1928 Oct. 19  medical profession, public can no longer ignore ‘punch drunk’ disease, Dr. Martland concludes in JAMA

1928 Oct. 19   Dr. Martland says courts and labor compensation boards need research on ‘punch drunk’ disease:

Oct. 19, 1928, Brooklyn Daily Eagle NY
Punch Drunkenness Is Found Outside the Boxing Profession
The “punch drunk” condition of boxers has stepped into the medical field for determination whether others than boxers get it, according to the Associated Press.
The American Medical Association has issued in its Journal an appeal by Harrison S. Martland, M.D., of Newark, N.J., to find out the nature and extent of this state, which he says fight fans describe as “punch drunk, cuckoo, goofy, cutting paper dolls or slug nutty.”
The symptoms in slight cases are a “very slight flopping of one foot or leg in walking, noticeable only at intervals, or a slight unsteadiness in gait or uncertainty in equilibrium.” In severe cases “there may develop a peculiar tilting of the head, a marked dragging of one or both legs, a staggering, propulsive gain.” finally, marked mental deterioration may set in.
“I am of the opinion that in punch drunk there is a very definite brain injury, due to single or repeated blows on the head or jaw.”
Dr. Martland suggests that if punch drunk exists in the form he suspects it afflicts others than boxers and that establishment of the facts is important to courts and labor compensation boards in handling head injury cases.
[Martland says:] “The condition can no longer be ignored by the medical profession or the public.”

 

1928 Oct. 22  ‘Punch Drunk Might Apply To Other Sports’—North Dakota headline

1928 Oct. 25  JAMA editor Dr. Morris Fishbein addresses Martland’s ‘punch drunk’ study of boxers in national newspaper column

1928 Oct. 25  ‘Dr. Martland says punch drunk results from a brain injury due to a single or repeated blows’ JAMA editor reports in national column

1928 Oct. 25  Martland found ‘punch drunk’ disease microscopically as ‘small hemorrhages in the deeper parts of the brain’ JAMA editor reports in national column

1928 Nov. 5  Yale halfback appears ‘punch drunk’ after collisions on game field, scribe observes

1928 Nov. 24  listless U.Wisconsin football team played like ‘punch drunk’ in losing game, scribe alludes

1928 Nov. 28  ‘Pop Warner says he doesn’t want to see a tackle—he wants to hear it’ scribe notes

1928 Dec. 2  Martland says ‘punch-drunk boxers suffer an occupational Injury’ scribe reports

1928 Dec. 2  a boxer is sidelined or retired from ring for exhibiting ‘punch drunk’ symptoms, scribe notes

1929 Jan. 2  U.California player acted ‘punch drunk’ in wrong-way run during Rose Bowl, writers allude

1929 Jan. 2  ‘Was Riegels Punch-Drunk on Weird Run?’ Rose Bowl headline

1929 Feb. 8  NCAA football referee says brain injuries without medical attention cause ‘punch drunk’ players, NY Times reports

1929 Feb. 8  NCAA referee says qualified MD must decide return for a brain-injured football playerNY Times reports

1929 Feb. 8  NCAA referee wants ‘competent physician’ for every game in high-school football, NY Times reports

1929 Feb. 8  watch for ‘punch drunk’ football players, NCAA referee tells prep coaches: 

Feb. 8, 1929, New York Times NY
Official Urges Doctor on Every Gridiron
Special to The New York Times
BOSTON, Feb. 7–As a means of reducing serious injury to school and college players Dr. Eddie O’Brien, one of the leading football officials of the East, today advocated a rule making it compulsory for a competent physician to be in attendance at all school and college games with absolute power to rule on a player’s fitness to continue in the game after receiving an injury.
Speaking at a dinner here O’Brien declared: “Every one of you high school football coaches should see to it that a doctor is on the field of play ready to rule whether a lad hurt in a game should be removed or not. If the player is not steady on his legs and normal in his faculties he should be removed from the game and given medical assistance until he has fully recovered from the blow that caused the trouble.”
O’Brien declared he has seen several cases of players “out on their feet” allowed to remain in a game because there was no competent medical authority on hand to order their removal.
He cited one instance of a player knocked unconscious. The trainer hurried on the field with a pail of water. He drenched and slapped the player’s face. O’Brien brought his profession into use, opened the player’s mouth, pulled out his tongue and instantly the player came to.
“The boy was choking to death with his tongue in back of his mouth and the man sent on the field didn’t know it,” said O’Brien.
“Punch drunk” was the term which O’Brien used to describe the condition caused by head injuries and lack of medical attention. He cited an instance of the past season. He read a list of twenty-five fighters who are now in asylums because of beatings about the head.

 

1929 May 7  NCAA football coaches discussed ‘punch drunk’ in players years before boxing study by Martland, MD reports in syndicated newspaper column

1929 May 7  new research doesn’t mean to ‘abandon football and boxing’ MD writes in syndicated column

1929 May 7  ‘repeated knocks may unbalance the mind’ MD writes in syndicated column

1929 May 7  ‘Science Proves Brain Injured By Hard Blows’:

May 7, 1929, San Bernardino County Sun CA
Meaning of ‘Punch Drunk’ Is Given Explanation by Physician
Science Proves Brain Injured By Hard Blows
By JAS. W. BARTON, M.D.
While the sporting public was sorry to see Gene Tunney retire from the boxing ring, nevertheless Tunney’s own explanation for retiring is worthy of our thought.
He stated that after one of his bouts he lost his memory for two days, and he was therefore afraid that continued blows on the head would eventually unbalance his mentality.
It has been my privilege for a number of years to examine both amateur and professional boxers before and after the bouts, and that repeated blows to the head can cause loss of memory lasting for hours and even days, is only too true.
In fact, on more than one occasion it has been found necessary to have boxers stop boxing for a few months to avoid what is called “punch drunk.” Notwithstanding that this condition has been known to boxing and football coaches for many years, it is only within the past year that the medical profession has seriously considered the matter.
As students were were taught that a “concussion” was just a shaking up of the brain. That is was as if you took the skull in your hands and gave the contents a “shake.” No injury followed it, because the bony case, the skull, was not injured.
In “compression,” however, a bone or bones of the skull were so broken or pushed in, that they pressed on the brain substance itself and caused paralysis or other conditions.
Therefore we never game concussion much thought, because, although there is a temporary loss of consciousness or a loss of memory, it soon clears away, and there is no apparent damage done.
However, Dr. H.S. Martland some months ago told us that in some of these cases the brain substance can be “bruised” just like other parts of the body, and this bruising results in the breaking of tiny blood vessels and discoloration just as in a bruise of the skin.
What is this knowledge going to mean to us?
It certainly does not mean that boxing, football or other sports should be abandoned, but where an athlete or a player in any kind of sport gets a bump, a blow, or a kick, and finds it results in a loss of memory, however short, he should keep away from that sport for a time, because it is the “repeated knocks,” coming at frequent intervals, that may finally unbalance the mind.
After two or three such occurrences he would be wise to follow some other line of sport, because the bones of his skull, not his brain, are too soft and “springy.”
(Copyright 1929 by the Bell Syndicate, Inc.)

 

1929 Nov. 7  ‘Football players wind up slug-nutty as boxers’ Damon Runyon observes in syndicated newspaper column

1929 Nov. 7  Carnegie Report ranks football ‘most hazardous’ sport, JAMA editor reports in national newspaper column

1929 Nov. 7  Carnegie Report warns that win-at-any-cost coaches are dangerous, JAMA editor reports

1929 Nov. 8  Carnegie Report criticizes lack of medical support for high-school football, JAMA editor reports

1929 Nov. 9  Carnegie Report declares most institutions subpar on medical care for athletics, JAMA editor reports in national column

1929 Nov. 9  Carnegie report declares a football MD ‘shouldn’t be chosen for his sports enthusiasm’ JAMA editor reports

1929 Dec. 15  PSU football coach says boxing champ Gene Tunney smartly retired before becoming ‘punch drunk’ scribe reports

1930 Jan. 28  Army board rules boxer is ‘punch drunk’ and disabled after 60 fights, AP reports

1930 Jan. 28  Army pension for ‘punch drunk’ fighter marks ‘extraordinary ground’:

Jan. 28, 1930, Miami Daily News-Record OK
Sport Slants
Alan Gould
Associated Press Sports Editor
Bob Martin, who has just been granted a monthly pension of $100 by the Federal government on the extraordinary ground that he was made punch-drunk by three score fights while in the army, emerged from the war with much brighter prospects of becoming heavyweight champion than Gene Tunney. …
Martin… later developed a brain tumor and was forced to quit the ring.

 

1930 Feb. 20  ‘a punch-drunk fighter isn’t a pretty sight’ scribe writes

1930 Feb. 20  render ‘a man punch drunk too often, he stays that way’ scribe writes

1930 May 30  ‘repeated head batterings ruin men’ scribe writes

1930 May 30  ‘it’s also true that many boxers have suffered no ill effects’ scribe reports

1930 May 30  ‘no man the same after a knockout’ scribe writes

1930 May 30 ‘punch drunk has been given much study of late’ scribe reports

1931 Jan. 8  brain specialist says medical science grasps TBI danger without validated treatment or management, Sedalia Democrat reports

1931 May 31  ‘punch drunk may occur for any head blow’ Dr. Logan Clendening reports in his national newspaper column ‘Diet and Health’

1931 May 31  columnist MD notes ‘small hemorrhages of brain substance’:

May 31, 1931, Kingsport Times TN
“PUNCH DRUNK’ STATE CAUSED BY HEAD INJURY
By Logan Clendening, M.D.
A condition known as “punch drunk” occurs in prize fighters who have taken punishment on the head, but may occur in anyone who receives a blow or injury on the head. For a time it was supposed to be a purely mental or neurotic condition, and fighters who exhibited it were often accused of being yellow, but the opportunity for careful study shows that it is due to actual changes in the brain substance, the result usually of small hemorrhages into the brain substance.
… There are a bunch of old fighters or trainers around a training camp who are victims of this condition. They are described in ring parlance as “cutting paper dolls” or “slug nutty,” or “punch drunks,” “cookoos” or “goofies.”
The changes in the brain are the same as those in forms of concussion. The fluid in the lymph spaces of the brain is made tense by the rigidity of the chest and abdominal muscles. A blow now on the head or jaw forces some of the fluid out of the vessels into the brain substance, causing pressure on the nerve cells and frequently destroying them by pressure. Exactly the same thing has occurred in the ordinary course of civil life when there were falls which involved striking the heads, such as falls from horses or motor cars, etc.

 

1931 Oct. 17  MSU football coach says excessive football contact renders players ‘punch drunk’ NY Times reports

1931 Oct. 17  MSU coach says reduce practice ‘scrimmage’ to avoid punch-drunk football players:

Oct. 17, 1931,  New York Times NY
Scrimmages Harmful to Team, Michigan State Coach Asserts
EAST LANSING, Mich., Oct. 16 (AP)–James H. Crowley, Michigan State football coach, one of the famous “four horsemen” of Notre Dame, believes scrimmage “is all the bunk” as a method of preparing football material for an impending game.
“You know, scrimmage is all the bunk,” he told his charges. “If I had a large squad, I wouldn’t go in very much for [practice] scrimmage at all; maybe a few before the first game of the year. You take these men, when they get out on the gridiron Saturday, and they’ll be football hungry. They’ll think it’s a lot of fun. Give that same outfit three or four scrimmages and they’ll be punch drunk when a game comes around.”

 

1931 Oct. 18  ‘Does scrimmage make football players punch-drunk?’ scribe poses

1931 Oct. 18  NCAA football coaches debate ‘punch-drunk syndrome’:

Oct. 18, 1931, Brooklyn Daily Eagle NY
Ed. HUGHES’ COLUMN
Those ‘Punch Drunk’ Scrimmagers
Does scrimmage make football players “punch-drunk”?
Jimmy Crowley of  the famous Four Horsemen seems to think so, according to a report. Crowley is now head coach of the Michigan State team and his players get very little scrimmaging from him in preparation for a game. Crowley is reported as saying that “scrimmage is the bunk” as a means of gridiron preparation, that barring a few such before the opening game, players are better off without it.
Too much of it, he thinks, takes the pep out of his men, gets ‘em in a confused mental state known in ringland as being “punch-drunk.”
Very likely there’s a lot in the argument, although Crowley’s views on the subject might be termed advanced. The football training for big games has changed a great deal, almost keeping pace with the new developments of the game itself. The scrimmage is still used, of course, and a great deal by some of the more “hard-boiled” and “old-fashioned” coaches.
The Clash of Opinion
Many other gridiron mentors, though, entertain sentiments akin to Crowley’s. They stress signal drills, “skull work” and other stunts calculated to sharpen the football brain without depleting physical energy and taking chances in the matter of injuries. …
You see the clash of opinion here. One faction contends this inflicts a “punch-drunk” syndrome condition; the other that is breeds lusty, vigorous players, impervious to the impact of the bone-crushing scrimmage. …
While the grid star may seem to put up with inhuman pain and hardship in his own field, still he’s shown himself to be quite human in other lines of sport. That’s why it seems to me fairly reasonable that these muscular youths, abounding in animal spirits, can still be rendered “punch drunk” by a few tornadic scrimmages—the kind deplored by Crowley for training purposes.

 

1931 Dec. 10  ‘in 1905 President Roosevelt intervened to save the game’ scribe writes

1931 Dec. 10  ‘a calamitous crop of head injuries and infection for football’s 1931 hospital harvest’ scribe writes

1931 Dec. 10  helmets with ‘vulcanized rubber are a lamentable failure as protection against concussion’ scribe writes

1931 Dec. 30  Pop Warner says ‘hard helmets a threat, not protection’ AP reports

1931 Dec. 30  John Heisman says ‘abolish mass interference [blocking] on end sweeps’ AP reports

1932 Jan. 3  Pop Warner, more coaches ‘Making Game Safe For Boys’Brooklyn Daily Eagle

1932 Jan. 3  ‘Pop [Warner] insists hands used legally upon the head and neck to inflict punishment; he cites the frequent cases of [player] fogginess’ Brooklyn scribe reports

1933 Jan. 2  ‘If I know I’m punch drunk, I’ll retire’ heavyweight contender Ernie Schaaf says

1933 Jan. 2  ‘Surgery Relieves Boxer’s Punch-Drunk Attack’—West Virginia headline

1933 Feb. 12  boxing contender Schaaf comatose, hospitalized after ring collapse, newspapers report

1933 Feb. 12  ‘concussions lead to punch drunk, not a cheerful spectacle’ NY Times observes

1933 Feb. 14  Ernie Schaaf, 24-year-old boxer, dies of brain hemorrhage four days post-injury

1933 Sept. 1  dethroned welterweight champ retires after 160 fights, fearing ‘punch drunk’ United Press reports

1933 Sept. 18  ‘National Boxing Association considers helmets to prevent punch-drunk fighters and blindness’ UP reports

1933 Oct. 10  JAMA editor discusses the NCAA’s first medical handbook, which includes concussion protocol, in his national newspaper column

1933 Oct. 19  ‘concussion’ ranks among worst football injuries, JAMA editor reports in national newspaper column

1933 Oct. 19  JAMA editor states football players must wear helmets to protect against concussion and relays sideline TBI test of NCAA handbook:

Oct. 19, 1933,  Manitowac Herald-Times WI
Daily Hints on Health
(By Dr. Morris Fishbein, editor Journal of the American Medical Association and of Hygeia)
KEEP YOUR HELMET ON!
Headgear Prevents Serious Skull Injuries: Accident to Brain Revealed by Dizziness and Loss of Memory
This is the last of a series of articles by Dr. Fishbein on “How to Stay in the Game” by prevention of athletic injuries.
Tossing away your football headgear at the height of the conflict may be a magnificent gesture, but don’t do it.
There have been far too many cases of concussion of the brain and even fracture of the skull in football to take a chance without adequate head protection.
Most important of all, however, is to get a player promptly off the field when he has sustained anything resembling a serious injury to an ankle or any other joint. The extent of the injury should be determined immediately.
If there is any evidence at all that the injury is serious, such as a fracture, he should be taken promptly to a hospital for an X-ray picture and suitable medical attention.
***
Most serious of all injuries are those affecting the brain and the skull. A concussion of the brain means that the brain tissue actually has been bruised, with possible small hemorrhages into the tissue.
The first sign of such injury is loss of memory for recent events. The least important sign is a slight dizziness. But coaches and trainers should not, however, be unimpressed when a player comes out of a sudden impact with another player merely slightly dizzy or dazed.
***
The first thing to do in any such accident is to put the player immediately at rest, to determine extent of the injury. When a player has had a head injury, he should be put into a reclining position, questioned as to the headache and dizziness and given the test as to his memory for recent events.
If he cannot remember the names of his opponents, which side is on the offensive, the score, the day of the week, or similar matters, it is not safe to permit him to play again. If, however, he merely is dizzy, he should be permitted to stand and move about, to determine whether he has lost his sense of balance.
Any sign of a loss of sense of balance is serious, and the player should be removed from the contest.

 

1934 Nov. 28 LaSalle college coach says ‘fewer men get hurt in high tackling’ scribe reports

1935 Oct. 9  ‘coaches instruct players to go for arms, shoulders and head in tackling’ scribe reports

1935 Oct. 24  Yale trainer uses sideline questions to test ‘mental faculties’ of players, scribe reports

1935 Oct. 24  Yale trainer always removes a ‘befuddled’ player, scribe reports

1935 Oct. 30  players can be taught to ‘roll head away’ when tackling, proposes NCAA medical director Floyd Eastwood, PhD

1936 June 9  columnist Dr. Clendening writes ‘punch drunk may occur in football players or anyone who receives a head blow’:

June 9, 1936,  Mason City Globe-Gazette IA
DIET AND HEALTH
By Logan Clendening, M.D.
HEAD BLOW MAY RUIN FIGHTER
In the world of fistiana, every boxer knows of a few old habitues of the ring who are what is known as “punch drunk,” or “slug nutty” or “slap happy.” They are described as “cutting paper dolls.”
Punch drunk is an occupational disease. The victims have very marked personality changes… extreme. They are likely to go into a reverie, ask the same question over and over, develop glassy eyes, and sometimes an impediment in the speech. …
The condition is not confined to boxers, and may occur in football players or to anyone who receives a severe blow on the head. The condition commonly called “concussion” is now presumed to have the same anatomical changes in the brain as a basis.

 

1936 July 6  ‘traumatic encephalopathy is what the doctor would call’ punch-drunk disease, Pennsylvania Medical Society reports

1936 July 6  Pennsylvania Medical Society warns football to monitor ‘punch drunk’ players:

July 6, 1936,  Monongahela Daily Republican PA
YOUR HEALTH
From the Educational Committee of the Board of Trustees of the Medical Society of the State of Pennsylvania, of which the Washington County Medical Society is a component
Punch drunk is not a pretty expression.
Nor are some other ones used about the prize-ring, to denote the same condition, such as “slap happy” and “slug nutty.”
“Traumatic encephalopathy” is what the doctor would call it.
[Prize fighters] get that way from being hit too often and too violently on the head.
It is estimated that 5 percent of fighters develop severe punch-drunkenness and that about 60 percent have slight but definitely recognized symptoms.
Punch-drunkenness is probably caused by multiple cerebral pinpoint hemorrhages.
A keen observation was made recently in the Pittsburgh Medical Bulletin in its “Thoughts for Tomorrow” page:
“Should not young men in boxing and football be watched more closely and be forbidden the sport at the first sign of punch-drunkenness?”
Scholar Gene Tunney, alarmed, quit the ring after his first intimation that he might become “slug nutty.”

 

1937 Feb. 10  Dr. Edward J. Carroll publishes journal article on ‘punch drunk’ in boxing, news editor reports

1937 Feb. 10  ‘any head blow serious’ in football, news editor reports

1937 Feb. 10  ‘Punch drunk also said to occur among football players’:

Feb. 10, 1937,  Mount Carmel Item PA
Odds and Ends
“SLAP HAPPY’
The recent death of William Judson Eastham, a student at V.M.I., following a boxing bout, illustrates one of the grave dangers of that exciting but risky sport. another rather sad outcome of the boxing game is not quite as spectacular or dramatic, but just as pathetic. It is the condition known as “punch-drunk,” “slap happy,” “cutting paper dolls,” or other terms. Dr. Edward P. Carroll, Jr., was interested enough to visit trainers and gymnasiums, and has been able to describe a typical picture, what doctors call a “syndrome.” It is given in the American Journal of the Medical Sciences. …
The condition of “punch-drunk” is also said to occur among football players, and I seem to remember a few examples myself. I think that every young man who feels the urge to display his athletic prowess ought to know that the human brain is a delicate thing, and just because it is the best-protected organ in the body is no reason why we should take chances with if and flaunt that security.
Any blow on the head can be serious, and if it is severe enough to lead to unconsciousness, no matter how brief the period the person should be kept abed at least one day. I guess there are very few people will submit to such treatment, because most of us feel that it’s an imposition to be kept in bed when we seem well enough to be up and around.
R.P.K.

 

1937 Oct. 26  ‘special helmet’ will protect player with ‘mild concussion’ Oregon State coach says

1937 Dec. 11  NFL star Sammy Baugh jokes about ‘punch-drunk football players’ AP reports

1938 Jan. 16  Navy doctors coin term ‘dementia pugilistica’ for brain damage in boxers:

Jan. 16, 1938,  New York Times NY
It’s ‘Dementia Pugilistica’ And Not ‘Punch Drunk’
Special Correspondence, The New York Times
WASHINGTON–Uncle Sam’s navy doctors do not care for the term “punch drunk.” They admit it is colorful and “scarcely requires elucidation,” but say it tends to encumber nosological nomenclature.
The term “dementia pugilistica” has been coined instead for persons suffering delusions of pugilistic prowess. It would apply to any one who puts up his “dukes” at the sound of a trolley-car bell, or who habitually scowls, snorts, blows, grimaces, crouches or squares off like a boxer.
A recent government bulletin explains that the most typical examples of this disorder are usually sound among the less expert boxers, particularly as concerns defensive ingenuity–boxers capable, nevertheless, of absorbing inordinate punishment.

 

1938 March 2  ‘Repeated Blows on Head Cause Punch Drunkenness’—Texas headline

1938 March 2  college boxing can cause ‘punch-drunkenness’ boxer MD says at U.Washington

1938 March 2  ‘Ban boxing as college sport’ boxer MD says at U.Washington

1939 April 8  ‘traumatic encephalopathy means punch-drunk, slap happy or slug nutty’ reports Delaware County Medical Society, Pennsylvania

1939 April 8  young football players can become ‘punch drunk’ declares Delaware County Medical Society in Pennsylvania

1939 Oct. 17  Fordham football players diagnosed with concussion are sidelined for season ‘no matter how improved’ scribe reports

1939 Nov. 7  NYU football coach Dr. Mal Stevens ‘has invented a new headgear with a concussion eliminator’ UPI reports

1939 Nov. 7  NYU football players avoid ‘head injuries and headaches’ with anti-concussion helmet designed by coach, UPI reports

1940 Oct. 1  ‘new plastic football helmet is lighter, stronger, unbreakable and available in brighter colors’ advertisement states

1940 Oct. 6  former football coach John T. Riddell introduces his plastic helmet at Northwestern U.

1940 Oct. 6  Riddell’s plastic helmet lighter than ‘conventional leather helmets’ with webbed suspension on inside to resist shock, report states

1940 Oct. 6  Riddell’s plastic helmet molded ‘to minimize risk of injury to opponents’ report states

1947 Jan. 10  college football players serve as ‘human subjects in initial experiments’ of helmet study by NCAA and associates, UPI scribe reports

1947 Jan. 10  NCAA and associates begin review of helmet-sensor application, UPI scribe reports

1947 Jan. 10  NCAA and U.S. military conduct dual ‘experiments’ with hard-shell helmets:

Jan. 10, 1947,  Harlingen Valley Morning Star TX
At Least One Suggestion To Protect the Grid Player Will Get Some Attention
By Steve Snider
NEW YORK (UPI)—Only a few of the thousands of noble words reeled off at the N.C.A.A. convention were translated into immediate action to protect every single man and boy who plays a game of organized football.
Those few came from Dr. Floyd R. Eastwood of Purdue university. He proposes to spend $15,000 to perfect a scientific headgear he expects will make a drastic reduction in football fatalities which increased to 25 in 1946. There were nine in 1945 [during wartime's down-sized game].
“Skull injuries or cerebral hemorrhage caused 45.7 per cent of all fatalities in the last 15 years,” Eastwood said. “With head injuries steadily increasing, it’s time for research on a headgear that will reduce that total as quickly as possible.”
Association Agrees
The N.C.A.A. thought so, too, and promptly voted him $1,000 a year for two years. The other $14,000 he expects from such units as the football coaches association, national high school federation, life insurance companies and from U.S. military units requiring similar headgear–the Air Force and tank corps.
“At first glance, the figure of 283 football deaths over a 15-year-period might seem alarming,” Eastwood said. “But football actually is far less hazardous on the basis of 100,000 players than being a pedestrian or driving a car.”
A Step Forward
“Since head injuries cause nearly half the fatalities, obviously a new type of headgear would be a great step forward.”
Eastwood plans his tests with “live” ammunition.
“Initial experiments will have to be made on human subjects to obtain data for construction of a dummy [head model],” he said. “We need to know the muscular reaction at various places when the subject expects the blow–and when it takes him by surprise.”
Record Stress
When the dummy finally is constructed, pressure of the blows will be increased and electronic instruments will record the stress and strain as they are distributed over the helmet and transferred to the dummy skull and brain area, Eastwood said.
Record Stress
When the dummy finally is constructed, pressure of the blows will be increased and electronic instruments will record the stress and strain as they are distributed over the helmet and transferred to the dummy skull and brain area, Eastwood said.
Manufacturers already have volunteered all available types of headgear for the experiments and will contribute whatever experimental helmets Eastwood suggests as the research progresses.
The rules have been softened at every point down through the years since the “flying wedge” and other early formations made a gridiron as bloody as a saloon brawl and almost brought an intervention by President Theodore Roosevelt to halt the slaughter.
Changes Recommended
Goal posts moved back from the goal-line, [rules enforcement against] flying tackles and blocks [that] went out in the legislation begun by outlawing the “wedge.” Members of the American Football Coaches Assn. already have recommended a change in the material of various padding used in uniforms, particularly in the legs, to reduce injuries.
Eastwood, for 15 years official compiler of football fatalities, thinks he’ll find the real answer.

 

1947 Sept. 13  plastic helmets cause ‘bad’ facial and brain injuries in high-school football of Indiana,  Rushville Republican reports

1947 Oct. 5  more college football players suffer ‘punch drunk’ than college boxers, student boxer declares at U.North Carolina-Chapel Hill

1947 Oct. 5  boxing eliminated as sport at U.North Carolina-Chapel Hill, student boxer’s letter reveals in Daily Tar Heel

1947 Oct. 23  ‘considerable amount’ of football players are punch-drunk, INS sports editor reports

1947 Oct. 23  ‘post traumatic encephalitis’ brain damage is same in football as boxing, INS sports editor declares

1947 Oct. 23  wire-service columnist asserts that NFL players suffer punch-drunk disability that begins in college football:

Oct. 23, 1947,  Mattoon Journal Gazette IL
Fair or Foul
By Lawton Carver, I.N.S. Sports Editor
[International News Service]
New York–One of the great innovations currently needed in football is a game called off on a technical knockout.
When a fighter is hopelessly beaten and appears about to be permanently bruised, the official or officials have the right to step in and stop it. In football, it seems, a man doesn’t begin to show his courage until his bones begin to stick out through his jersey. …
The educators who get up on a rostrum occasionally and pop off about the evils of football always overlook that they are the ones who permit these slaughters. …
It is unbelievably strange that in the prize ring where pug-uglies take their swipes at each other, there is official humaneness, while in football the little guy playing the big guy is expected to take it until he is carried off the field. …
The general public probably would be surprised to know that there is a considerable amount of post traumatic encephalitis among football players.
That triple jointed word when translated bluntly means punch-drunk.
The prize-fighter actually actually gets most of his punch-drunkenness while working out. In training, big gloves are used and the attempt to avoid punches is negligible.
Yet, with these big gloves on, fighters can hit each other hard enough to jolt the brain, tiny little hemorrhages in the blood vessels are set up and the next thing you know a guy has the equivalent of a locomotor ataxia and a mouth full of marbles.
In football it works the same way—only different. The guy’s brains are scrambled—or those blood vessels are ruptured—from belts on the head in close and from being bounced around the ground and kicked occasionally.
Some of the veteran pro football players talk with much the same mumble that you hear among fighters who have been swatted too much. This is set up while they still are in college.

 

1947 Dec. 18  sports surgeon urges ban of plastic helmets and steel masks:

Dec. 18, 1947,  Janesville Daily Gazette WI
Plastic Football Helmets Condemned
BALTIMORE (AP)–Rock-hard football helmets and steel masks have evolved into offensive “armor” which carries “potential injury on every play,” in the view of Dr. George Bennett, a surgeon who has done plenty of repair work on star athletes.
Dr. Bennett, whose patients have included such athletes as Joe DiMaggio, Pete Reiser and Frank Sinkwich, says the steel mask employed in football is an “open invitation to crush someone’s jaw or knock his teeth out.”
“The toll of injuries will continue to mount,” he added, “unless the mask is legislated out of the game immediately.”
Urging that hard plastic helmets be replaced with soft leather, Dr. Bennett declared that “an opposing player cannot come into contact with the kind of equipment without leaving himself open to serious injury.”

 

1948 April 5  physicians and educators contend ‘boxing cannot be defended as appropriate activity for high-school boys’ in JAMA survey, INS reports

1948 April 5  researcher Dr. Ernst Jokl says ‘no evidence supports boxing as developing character and determination’ in youths for JAMA survey, INS reports

1948 April 5  researcher Dr. Edward J. Carroll tells JAMA ‘probably no head blow is taken with impunity and a knockout causes irreparable damage’ INS reports

1948 May 5  Dr. William Brady links punch-drunk brain damage to school football players in his national newspaper column

1948 May 5  Dr. William Brady reports that football, boxing and blunt objects cause traumatic brain injuries, in his national column

1948 May 5  Dr. William Brady labels high-school football a ‘sickening farce’ in national column

1948 May 5  impacts can cause ‘pinpoint brain hemorrhages’ Dr. William Brady reports:

May 5, 1948,  Medford Mail Tribune OR
Your Health and Its Care
By Dr. William Brady, MD
Readers should address inquiries to: Dr. William Brady, 265 El Camino, Beverly Hills, Calif.
PUNCH DRUNK SCHOOL BOYS
Punch drunk is a phrase used to describe the condition of a professional boxer who has taken hard punches or blows on the head either in a single contest or in match after match over a considerable amount of time. …
In standard textbooks of surgery cerebral concussion is defined as an essentially transient state due to head injury which is of instantaneous onset (that is, there is no apparent interval between the injury and the dazed or helpless state it produces), manifests widespread symptoms of a purely paralytic kind, presents no immediate evidence of structural cerebral damage, and is always followed by amnesia for the actual moment of the accident. …
A knockout in boxing or a collision in the football game or a conk with the blunt end of an overhead door or an authoritative crack on the coco with a sock loaded with almost anything more substantial than wind or feathers, is the usual cause of a concussion.
According to Steinhause (J.Health & Phys. Educ. 15:384, 1944) who made a careful study of boxing in high schools, any serious head injury, even without skull fracture or knockout may be accompanied with pinpoint hemorrhages into the cerebral substance. Such injuries may occur to the novice or the experienced boxer, in the first encounter or after long experience.
It seems to be the opinion of most physicians that some such pinpoint hemorrhages into brain tissues account for the persistent, if not permanent state known in prize ring parlance as punch drunk. …
Formerly, I confess, I regarded boxing as a find method of developing character, determination and personality, and I advocated instruction in boxing for every schoolboy 12 years old or older. Some physical education authorities (not self-constituted “coachers” or “trainers who, with the aid of “sports fans,” often move in and take over that sickening farce, high school football) who support controlled boxing for high school boys, maintain that with heavy gloves, adequate protection (wearing suitable helmets) and close supervision by the instructor the activity is hardly comparable with the somewhat brutalizing business of the prize ring. …
[In] 1940, the following resolution was adopted:
Resolved, that the American Association for Health, Physical Education and Recreation recommends the discontinuance of interscholastic boxing for boys 18 years of age and younger.

 

1948 Nov. 16  football coach says plastic helmets have eliminated brain ‘concussion’ for Vanderbilt team, UPI reports

1948 Nov. 18  NCAA rulemaker Lou Little says ‘high-speed body contact is more dangerous’ than old mass play, scribe reports

1948 Nov. 18  NCAA rulemaker Lou Little says forward pass is ‘principal source of football casualties’ scribe reports

1948 Dec. 2  Temple coach says plastic helmets eliminated concussions on team, compared to 14 cases the last season in leather helmets, scribe reports

1950 Jan. 15  ‘physicians must attend school football games and approve return to play for injured boys’ AMA sports consultant Dr. Fred V. Hein says

1951 Jan. 10  ‘football lineman get punch-drunk from too frequent collisions’ syndicated scribe observes

1951 Jan. 10  ‘violent contact to the head causes punchiness, blindness’ syndicated scribe observes

1951 Jan. 10  ‘constant jarring’ can lead to brain damage, syndicated scribe observes

1951 Jan. 10  boxing causes damage to optic nerve, throat, and balance, syndicated scribe reports

1951 Jan. 10  many boxers retire without money or wits, syndicated scribe asserts

1951 Jan. 10  ‘No man can completely modify murder’ syndicated scribe writes

1951 May 17   young boxing champ fears ‘concussions’ and vows to quit before ‘losing marbles,’ becoming punch-drunk:

May 17, 1951,  Lead Daily Call SD
Bratton Points For Win Friday
Thinks Boxing Is Dangerous; Defends Title Against Cuban
By Jack Cuddy
GREENWOOD LAKE,N.Y. (UPI)–On the even of his welterweight title fight, Johnny Bratton said today he regards boxing as a dangerous sport and wants to get out of it “before anything happens to me.”
For that reason the sleek, 23-year-old Chicago negro is grimly determined to beat Kid Gavilan of Cuba Friday night at Madison Square Garden.
“As undisputed champion I can make money fast,” he said.
“I want to make money fast enough so I can retire when 27,” he continued. “By that time I should own a few apartment houses in Chicago and have a steady income for the rest of my life.”
The classy combination boxer-puncher with the cauliflowered left ear and slightly flattened nose already is recognized as 147-pound champion by the National Boxing Association. Friday night’s winner also will win recognition from the New York commission.
FEARS CONCUSSIONS
What does Bratton fear most in the ring?
“Brain concussions,” he answered. “Brain injuries that make you lose your marbles–that leave you punchy.”
No, he never has suffered a concussion, but his jaw has been broken twice and his hands have been fractured several times during his 61 professional bouts.

 

1951 Aug. 31  Texas A&M players serve in face-mask experiment for helmets, led by team’s NATA trainer, scribe reports

1951 Aug. 31  trainer says his experiments with face masks in previous years caused problems for sample players, scribe reports

1951 Aug. 31 NATA trainer hopes helmet mask eliminates concussions on team at Texas A&M, scribe reports

1951 Aug. 31  ‘we can eliminate head-ducking’ rams, says Texas A&M trainer and NATA director:

Aug. 31, 1951,  Baytown Sun TX
Aggies To Be Masked Marvels This Fall
Half of Cadet Team Will Wear Protective Face Gear
COLLEGE STATION (Special)—Not only will fullback Bob Smith wear a mask to protect his face this fall, but possibly half the Texas A and M football eleven will ear protective face gear when it meets UCLA in Los Angeles, September 21.
As the team checks out is equipment September 1, Athletic Trainer Bill Dayton will fit a plastic mask on the helmets. Before the 1951 season is completed, the masks may make a new injury-prevention wrinkle in gridiron history.
Reduction of facial bruises and cuts is one of the reasons why the masks will be worn, but elimination of head injuries and concussions is the hope of the Aggie trainer.
“Many head injuries happen as the result of a player ducking his head,” says trainer Dayton. “We believe that by the use of this face gear, we can eliminate head-ducking, and our players will see where they are going. When they watch their opponents, they are able, by reflexive action, to keep their heads out of the way.”
“We want our boys to run, block, pass and tackle with their eyes open. If they keep their eyes open, then they are not so likely to plunge head-first into an opponent’s knee or helmet.”
The plastic mask, to be used by A and M, completely covers the forehead, nose, chin and most of the cheeks. Molded to fit the face of each players, the mask is attached at the bottom by a strap around the neck and at the top by a pair of thongs. Aggie players will wear the masks and helmets throughout the game, both on the bench and the field.
The Aggie mask had a two-pronged history until fullback Bob Smith had his nose broken in the Baylor game.
While Dayton was trainer at the University of Miami and at Tulane, he experimented with pliable steel face pieces covered with leather. Before Smith wore the leather-covered mask in 1950, Dayton had five players who wore the masks as protection.
But Dayton was not satisfied with the mask because it was too heavy and caused the players’ faces to perspire heavily. Players had some difficulty in breathing, too.
Meanwhile, Dr. M.T. Marietta of Dallas was perfecting a protective face covering in his dentist office. He first designed a plastic mask for hockey players.
The mask, strapped to the player’s head, was intended to protect a broken nose.
When Lindy Berry of TCU had his jaw broken, Dr. Marietta supplied a mask which almost completely housed the player’s head. This experiment was the forerunner of the present plastic masks being tested at A and M.
Smith wore the leather-covered mask perfected by Dayton last season. One week after his nose was broken at Waco, Smith averaged better then eight yards per carry against Arkansas. Then in the SMU game two weeks later, he set a 1950 rushing record of 297 yards on 29 carries. Smith went on to set a new Southwest Conference record of 1,302 yards in 199 carries last fall, wearing a mask half the season.
Smith’s performance convinced he Aggie athletic officials that a player can still turn in a top performance with a broken nose, but it also paved the way for the squad to use the plastic masks. Smith faced did not get scratched, and obviously the mask didn’t hinder his running ability.
Dayton, who is one of the directors for the National Athletic Trainers Association, expects a noticeable decrease in Aggie head injuries as result of the mask.
“it is possible within a few years that every football equipment room will have these masks to issue right along with helmets and shoulder pads,” Dayton said. “Trainers are primarily interested in injury prevention, and I think this is a great step in this direction.”

 

1951 Sept. 7  medical group warns that athletic trainers are not qualified physicians, in presentation at University of Pittsburgh

1951 Nov. 13  Pop Warner League youth football denied use of parks in California town, San Mateo Times reports

1951 Nov. 13 school superintendent says ‘football is physically unsound for children of the 7th and 8th grades’ San Mateo Times reports

1951 Nov. 23  ‘no gladiator football’ for kids until high school, AMA sport Drs. Fred V. Hein and Donald A. Dukelow co-author for Today’s Health

1952 Aug. 22  ‘Brain Damage to Boxers Reported in JAMA’—Tucson headline

1952 Aug. 22  JAMA researchers recommend ‘compulsory brain exams for boxers’ AP reports

1952 Nov. 18  ‘boys today are taught to tackle high and through the ball’ says football coach Lou Little, NCAA rulemaker of Columbia U.

1952 Nov. 25  Look magazine article on ‘helmet block’ in college football ignited debate, newspapers report

1952 Nov. 25  ‘a player making any kind of block or tackle ducks his head’ AP sportswriter asserts

1952 Nov. 25  ‘helmet block’ worse than boxing punch, Texas sports editor asserts

1952 Nov. 28  ‘helmet block a weapon all the way down to junior high schools’ Texas scribe asserts

1952 Dec. 29  ‘The helmet block? I’ve never seen a lineman yet who didn’t use it’ says Rice U. player Kosse Johnson

1953 June 9  ‘boxing and repeated blows to the head may damage the brain and central nervous system’ Dr. H.N. Bundesen writes in national newspaper column

1954: American doctors in ‘sports medicine’ deny boxing causes brain damage and announce their own research

1954 Feb. 15  education associations recommend banning all sports, including tackle football, at elementary and junior-high levels, AP reports

1954 Feb. 15  educators declare ‘boxing has no legitimate place in senior high schools’ AP reports

1955 Jan. 5  employ X-ray and more radiology for every concussion in NCAA football, recommends medical director Floyd Eastwood, PhD

1955 Jan. 5  NCAA football players with ‘serious concussion’ should be barred from further play, recommends medical director Floyd Eastwood, PhD

1955 Jan. 5  weakened, faulty helmets contributed in several football deaths of past season, NCAA medical director Eastwood reports

1955 Jan. 5  improvements needed in helmet design, NCAA medical director Eastwood says

1955 June 10  Dr. Mal Stevens, ex-NYU coach and helmet engineer, says football causes more permanent injury than boxing because of speeding collisions in open field:

June 10, 1955,  Escanaba Daily Press MI
New York Physician Calls Other Sports Tougher Than Boxing
By Jack Hand
NEW YORK (AP) A New York physician today called boxing “relatively safe” and rated football and pro ice hockey as tougher contact sports.
Dr. Mal Stevens, chairman of the medical advisory board of the New York State Athletic Commission, defended boxing against charges of “barbarism” voiced by a British physician in a speech to the American Medical Assn. at Atlantic City, N.J.
“With proper supervision, equipment, coaching, training and officiating, boxing has become relatively safe,” said Dr. Stevens, former football coach at Yale and New York University.
Danger In All
“There is an element of danger in all contact sports,” he said. “I believe there is more chance of permanent injury in football or pro hockey where the contestants rush at each other from a distance and momentum becomes a factor.
The British physician, Dr. James Hamilton Doggart of Moorsfield Eye Hospital, London, stressed the idea that a boxer can get damaging “cauliflower eyes” (hemorrhages in blood vessels of the eye nourishing the retina and lens).
Denies Brain Damage
“Retinal detachment is not peculiar to boxing,” said Dr. Stevens. “When I was a Yale we had three cases of detached retina. One came from football, another was the result of a boy being hit by a squash raquet and third from an exploding seltzer bottle.”
“The British physician said pre-fight physical exams did little more than “separate the cripples and morons.” He also said “one expert has said that probably no head blow is taken with impunity, and each knockout caused definite and irreparable damage.
“We have taken tests of 2,047 license boxers with the electro-encephalogram,” said Dr. Stevens, “and we’re still looking for definite evidence of any brain damage.”

 

1955 Aug. 9  referees in Canadian football ignore head hits as unenforceable infraction:

Aug. 9, 1955,  Ottawa Journal, Ontario, Canada
Westwick’s In The Realm of Sport
A copy of the Big Four bulletin for officials, coaches and clubs sent out the other day by Seymour Wilson is  reminder there isn’t much new or different about the code this year. …
How About That ‘High Tackle’?
Some of these “clarifications” may be holdovers from last year. … Officials “are warned that they must rule strictly and penalize from the start: No-yards on kicks, piling on, clipping, high tackles… If these infractions are called right away the players will realize that they will not be condoned and the games will be easier to play and more attractive to watch.”
How about that “high tackle” again? If they’ve been calling high tackling for the past few years there must be many around the Big Four who can’t recall a case of it. Officials just seem to have let it pass quietly out of their books even though it seems to remain in the bulletins under the heading of clarifications. …
Referees seem to have long since given up trying to separate a high tackle from any other types for the simple reason it’s something of an impossibility. You find some ball carriers running so low that an ordinary sized guard on his knees can reach straight out and not fail to nail his target around the helmet.

 

1955 Sept. 21  American football conducive to brain concussion, says NATA trainer in Canadian pro football

1955 Sept. 21  American football linemen ‘play nose-to-nose and most injuries come out of those line pileups’ says NATA trainer in Canadian pro football

1955 Oct. 23  Cornell athletic trainer co-designs helmets for football and more ‘impact fields’ for university’s business in equipment engineering,  NY Times reports

1955 Oct. 23  Cornell helmets have been ‘field-tested’ by football players for university enterprise since 1951, NY Times reports

1955 Oct. 23  Cornell U. claims its helmets eliminated ‘concussion’ and headaches among sample football players since 1951,  NY Times reports

1955 Oct. 23  Cornell equips football helmets with padding cover ‘for protection of opposing players’  NY Times reports

1955 Oct. 23  story of Cornell-designed football helmets headlined as ‘For Safer Football’ by  The New York Times:

Oct. 23, 1955,  New York Times NY
For Safer Football
Last season twenty-five players died, directly or indirectly, as a result of playing football. The year before it was nineteen. A quarter-century ago, as many as forty-nine died in one year.
In the constant effort to make the game safer, coaches and equipment manufacturers have een turning to science to find lighter, soften and more efficient equipment that will dissipate the impacts of football. For the sport is, and always will be, characterized by rugged bodily contact.
One of the busiest centers for research in football equipment is the Cornell Aeronautical Laboratory, Inc., in Buffalo, a self-sustaining affiliate of Cornell University. While the laboratory is dedicated primarily to research in aeronautics, it maintains an industrial division that experiments in various impact fields, such as football and automobile crashes.
Thus far, in the realm of football, the laboratory’s experiments have produced a new helmet, shoe, thigh guard and shoulder harness. The shoe is already on the market; the helmet should be available to all next season; the shoulder harness and thigh guard are still undergoing field tests.
Most of the research has been aimed at improving the helmet. Blows to the head account for 50 percent of all football fatalities. In its annual report on football deaths last year, the American Football Coaches Association placed much of the blame on the inadequate construction of helmets.
In developing their headgear, Cornell engineers drew on techniques they devised during head-impact research and helmet investigations conducted for the Government. The applied mechanical principles that seem remote from football.
For example, one of the essential features of the new helmet is the so-called “beam pad,” an invention now patented by Cornell Laboratory. Its action is described by its name. Seated inside the helmet’s shell, the beam-pad combines the structural advantages of a beam, which distributes the load, with the force-absorbing characteristics of a true pad material.
The helmet offers other scientific innovations, too. It has a lighter, more rigid shell of insulite material instread of the usual leather or fiber. For the protection of opposing players, the shell’s outside is padded with a resilient substance.
Inside, the helmet also has a suspension system which affords better protection against more types of impact, because of its cradling effect. The suspension straps are made of nylon, instead of webbing, to guard against stretching or deterioration from moisture.
All equipment developed by the laboratory is field-tested by Cornell’s team. Cornell players have been trying the new helmet since 1951, and have not suffered a single concussion since that time. Players who formerly experienced headaches after scrimmage find they have no pain if they wear the helmet.
Frank (Doc) Kavanagh, Cornell’s veteran trainer and a central figure in all of the research, considers the helmet far superior to any conventional type now in use.
The success of Cornell’s football research has led to expansion into other sports. The laboratory has designed new and better helmets for polo players, automobile racers, a protective boxing mat and hockey guards. Its latest project is a helmet for youngsters who play Little League baseball.

 

1956 Sept. 6  MD says prognosis ‘always problematical in head injuries,’ regarding NFL player Vic Janowicz, an automobile casualty, AP reports

1956 Dec. 7  JAMA declares joint mission of the AMA and sports-medicine organs as ‘To Give Athletes More Protection’—California headline

1956 Dec. 7  JAMA declares ‘medical interest in athletics rising and will reach higher in future,’ noting AMA’s 20-year work involving school sports:

Dec. 7, 1956,  Corona Daily Independent CA
Consider Rules To Give Athletes More Protection
CHICAGO–Recent activities of doctors in the field of athletics indicated that medical interest in the field is rising and will become even greater in the future, according to to editorials in a recent Journal of the American Medical Association.
An unsigned editorial, which outlined the AMA’s activities in sports medicine, challenged the profession to increase its activities in preventing athletic injuries. The AMA already has organized a committee on sports injuries, which will meet later this month in Seattle to consider suggestions for certain rule revisions that would give more protection to athletes.
Meanwhile the A.M.A.’s bureau of health education is continuing over 20 years of work with educational authorities to help make school sports and physical education programs safe and wholesome. This is done in meetings with high school athletic groups and educational association officials, articles in Today’s Health, and A.M.A. publication, and pamphlets. …
Safer Equipment
Medical interest in sports is illustrated by research being carried on in such institutions as the aeronautical laboratory of Cornell University. There doctors are working to make football equipment safer.
In the second editorial, Dr. Allan J. Ryan, Meriden, Conn., a member of the A.M.A. committee on sports injuries, listed other recent developments in the field of sports and medicine. These include the decision to appoint a Presidential Council on Youth Fitness at the cabinet level and to create a citizen’s advisory committee to the council, and the organization of the American Medical College of Sports Medicine and the Western Council of Sports Medicine.
Dr. Ryan noted that the appearance of such organizations “gives further indication that we are on the threshold of an even greater interest in the scientific study and development of sport in the United States.”

 

1957 Feb. 19  British Medical Journal states punch-drunk disease or ‘traumatic progressive encephalopathy’ is progressive and incurable:

Feb. 19, 1957,  Oxnard Press-Courier CA
Punch Drunkenness Can Cripple Boxers For Life
LONDON (UPI)—One of the Britain’s foremost brain specialists yesterday called for a full medical investigation of “punch drunkenness,” which he said can cripple boxers for life and lead to “delinquency.”
Dr. MacDonal Critchley warned in a report in the British Medical Journal that “punch drunkenness”—known to doctors as “traumatic progressive encephalopathy”—is:
—More common among boxers than is generally know;
—Incurable;
—Produces physical and mental symptoms which can result in delinquency and cripple a fighter for life.
In the first comprehensive medical report ever published on the punch drunk state, Dr. Critchley made “no plea for or against pugilism.”
But the report’s implications, coming after a demand for the banning of boxing by Socialist member of Parliament, Dr. Edith Summerskill, made certain that it will become a powerful weapon in the hands of foes of boxing anywhere.
The report stated flatly that a punch drunk boxer is in a “progressive condition”, i.e., cannot be cured or even checked.
It mentions cases of painful death and cases of punch-drunk boxers becoming criminals as a result of this “occupational disease.”

 

1959 May 27  American sports MDs refute boxing research of brain damage with JAMA article of their own, sports editor reports

1959 May 27  U.S. boxing MD says ‘the so-called punch-drunk syndrome has been successfully challenged by an overwhelming weight of scientific evidence’:

May 27, 1959,  Salt Lake Tribune UT
Sports Mirror by
John Mooney
Tribune Sports Editor
Question Box
“Which of the three major American sports—boxing, baseball or football—causes the most deaths? And what about the great number of boxers who wind up ‘punch drunk’? Bettey B., Provo.”
ANSWER—Dr. Ira McCowan, in the Journal of the American Medical Assn., asserts, “Many sports authorities, and even some physicians, mistakenly believe the incidence of fatalities and serious injuries is greater in boxing than in any of the other body contact sports.
“The Gonzales report of fatalities in competitive sports, based on a study from 1918 to 1950, found there were more deaths in baseball and football than in boxing in that period. There were 43 deaths in baseball, 22 in football and 21 in boxing.”
Dr. McCowan concludes, “The so-called punch-drunk syndrome has been successfully challenged by an overwhelming weight of scientific evidence. The clinical picture and pathological findings associated with this syndrome are not peculiar to boxing alone, but have been found in the average populace as frequently, if not more frequently, than in boxers.”
Dr. Tony Curreri, of the University of Wisconsin, who studied electric-encephalograms on thousands of boxers, says there are as many “punchy” folks going through life as there are ex-boxers who are hearing bells.

 

1959 Oct. 19  possible death of ‘second impact’ brain bleed in college football, player at Citrus JC in California, AP reports

1960 Jan. 15  Pennsylvania school orders leather football helmets to replace plastics and prevent ‘concussions’  Delaware Daily Times reports

1960 May 10  following young boxer’s death at U.Wisconsin, the Madison faculty’s ban of sport may spread throughout collegiate boxing, AP posits

1960 June 22  boxing MDs and more officials refute research on brain disease in fighters,  NY Times reports.

1960 June 22  ‘Specialists Do Not Agree on The Punch Drunk’NY Times headline

1960 June 22  boxing MDs claim fighters suffer brain damage from falls in ring,  NY Times reports

1960 June 22 former NCAA football coach Dr. Mal Stevens chairs NY state hearing on ‘punch drunk’ boxers:

June 22, 1960,  New York Times NY
Neurosurgeons Study Knockout Physiology
No Lasting Changes in Brain Produced
But Specialists Do Not Agree on the ‘Punch Drunk’
By Robert K. Plumb
Knockout in the boxing ring occurs when the brain’s organizing network is suddenly overwhelmed by nervous signals, two nerve specialists reported here yesterday.
The ring knockout does not produce lasting changes in the brain, the two asserted at a medical conference on injuries and deaths in professional boxing that was sponsored by the New York State Athletic Commission.
However, specialists at the meeting disagreed on the cause of the phenomenon knows as “punch drunk.” One held that a boxer could become punch drunk as a result of repeated knockouts; the other said that knockouts had nothing to do with the condition.
The physiology of the knockout was discussed in studies conducted by Dr. Jefferson Browder, neurosurgeon of the Long Island College Hospital, and Dr. Harry A. Kaplan, Associate Professor of Neurosurgery at the State University of New York, Downstate Medical Center.
Long Study Made
Dr. Kaplan reported that he and Dr. Browder had long studied knockouts at ringside with a view to furthering medical understanding of unconsciousness common in many medical emergencies. They soon decided that boxing, unless a fighter fell and hit head on the mat, produced only a temporary state of affairs in the brain. They maintained that it was different from being hit by an automobile. …
Others at the conference maintained that professional boxing did not have so many injuries or fatalities as other sports.
The chief medical examiner of New York City, Dr. Milton Helpern, reported on autopsy findings of boxers who died in this city after bouts. …
Dr. Helpern said that he agreed with Dr. Kaplan that the usual ring knockout was a temporary thing and that residual injury to the brain usually could not be established as resulting from blows to the head.
Dr. Abraham M. Rabiner, Emeritus Professor of Neurology at the State University of New York College of Medicine, discussed the punch drunk. He said he did not know what caused the condition. However, Dr. Rabiner speculated that repeated knockouts could injure the brain as a series of small strokes could injure it. …
Dr. Marvin A. [Mal] Stevens, chairman of the medical advisory board of the New York Sate Athletic Commission, and Dr. Ira A. McCown, the commission’s medical director, were chairmen for scientific sessions that began Monday and ended yesterday at the New York University-Bellevue Medical Center.
Participants at the symposium went to the weighing-in ceremony before the [Floyd Patterson-Ingemar Johansson] fight Monday night and most attended the  bout. At the conference were ring physicians and other medical specialists, former boxers and boxing officials.

 

1960 Sept. 9  football parents, coaches, and doctors must teach ‘head up’ tackling to youths,  says Army coach

1960 Sept. 23  ‘second-impact’ death of college player spurs Cal Poly football to ban brain-injured athletes from program:

Sept. 23, 1960,  Reno Evening Gazette NV
Cal Poly Slates New Examinations After Grid Death
SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. (AP)—Cal Poly today barred a student from further football activities because of the death of Norton Engen, injured Sept. 16.
Athletic director Leroy B. Hughes said a check disclosed that Benny Martin, first string varsity halfback from San Diego, once had suffered a head injury.
Hughes said Martin would not be permitted to play again.
RE-CHECK MEN
Hughes also said he had insisted that after Engen, 25, was injured all members of his football teams be checked again for any past history of injuries. Only Martin was found to have suffered an injury.
“My entire coaching staff felt quite concerned about the accident to Engen,” Hughes told newsmen.
Dr. George Adlin, who operated on Engen, said surgery disclosed scar tissue from an old brain injury.
Engen’s death was the first football fatality since Cal Poly took up the game in 1919.

 

1960 Dec. 19  ‘pediatricians in AMA oppose football before high school’ TIME magazine reports

1960 Dec. 19  ‘changing the rules doesn’t make football a kid’s sport’ AMA doctor says at conference

1960 Dec. 19  AMA physicians ‘overwhelmingly oppose contact sports for elementary and junior-high school students’:

Dec. 19, 1960,  Amarillo Globe-Times TX
Only Thing Wrong With Sports for Children Is Adults in Charge
More than one million youngsters in the U.S. now participate in highly organized competitive sports programs similar to the Kids Inc. teams play in baseball, football and basketball here in Amarillo. Whether or not such programs are good for the youngsters has long been debated.
The debate was re-opened recently when 100 doctors met in Washington, D.C., for the American Medical Association’s second National Conference on the Medical Aspects of Sports. Results of this meeting, as reported in the medicine section of a recent issue of TIME should be interesting to all parents of boys eligible to participate in these programs.
TIME quotes Dr. Robert R. Macdonald of Pittsburgh as saying, “We have itsy-bitsy leagues of all descriptions, and we don’t have to like them. The overwhelming opinion among physicians is against contact sports for elementary and junior high school students.”
Pediatricians, according to TIME, argue that organized leagues classify youngsters by chronological age rather than by physical maturity. “Children are not little men,” one doctor said at the meeting. “Cutting down the field and changing the rules doesn’t make football a kid’s sport.”
The doctors seemed to have football and baseball at the bottom of their list of sports for youngsters below high school age, recommending such sports as soccer, which require greater physical fitness than football or baseball.
The doctors also criticized parents who instruct children that the “desire to win” is more important than simple participation.
According to Dr. Macdonald, “The only thing really wrong with children’s competitive athletics is the adults who run them.”

 

1961 Jan. 3  ‘seeing a football player lower his head, you worry about battering delicate brain tissue’ MD writes in syndicated newspaper column

1961 Jan. 3  Dr. Harold T. Hyman notes ‘easily crumbled structures of the cerebrum’ in his national column

1961 Jan. 8  AMA convention on Medical Aspects of Sports roundly endorses boxing as beneficial for youths and adults, sports editor reports

1961 Jan. 8  AMA sports-medicine doctor claims invalidity for decades of microscopic pathology on brain damage in deceased boxers, editor reports

1961 Jan. 8  AMA sports-medicine faction leads convention’s full endorsement of organized sports including tackle football, editor reports

1961 March 7  ‘death toll of the school football farce doesn’t mean a thing to parents, teachers, PE instructors, and sportswriters chiefly responsible’ Dr. William Brady charges in national newspaper column

1961 March 7  columnist Dr. William Brady charges that ‘physicians and PE instructors who aren’t afraid will say football is for grown men and not for growing boys’:

March 7, 1961,  Uniontown Morning Herald PA
Personal Health
By William Brady, M.D.
In 1960, twelve persons died of football injuries. Ten of the victims were high school boys, one was a professional player, one a college player.
There are tiresome statistics. Who cares about the death of a growing boy here and there? Think of all the bathos and heroics the boy’s schoolmates, teachers, coaches, friends and neighbors will attribute to him, to say nothing of the pieces about him in the local paper.
The annual toll of  the high school football farce doesn’t mean a thing to parents, teachers, physical education instructors (if any) and newspaper sportswriters who are chiefly responsible for it.
With almost no exceptions, physicians, orthopedic surgeons, and physical education instructors who are not afraid to be counted say football is a grown man’s game and not a game for growing boys. It is dangerous enough for college or university men. The strains and injuries suffered by teen-age boys who have the ill luck to be selected to put on the imitation of the varsity spectacle may handicap a boy indefinitely but he scarcely gets an extra Rah! Rah! from the cheering section for it.
It is understandable that the father of a high school boy generally raises no serious objections to the coach’s picking his son for the team. Either he is afraid for his jobs or his business if he does not conform, or else he takes pride in his boy’s superiority to the boys who do not make the team.
High schools that exact contributions from all the pupils to purchase “equipment” for the football team use the notoriety football gets from the newspaper to conceal from the public the shameful neglect of athletics and physical education in the school. Instead of regular gymnasium work, gymnasium track, which a grown boy needs, the high school pupils in general evade physical education by serving as drum majorettes, members of the band, cheerleaders or unidentified units of the cheering section.
The show put on at the “big game” is strictly corn. There is one thing new—at the celebrations after the game. It is scotch or bourbon. And why not? The pampered juvenile delinquents want to know. It is all right for them to smoke, isn’t it? What’s the harm in having a cocktail or a highball on special occasions?
Parents, teachers, spiritual advisers and physicians seem content to leave instructions and advice about such trifles to crackpots and sourpusses, such as the character who conducts this pediculous column.

 

1961 May 3  estimated 2.5 million football players in the United States, officials report

1961 July 9  Dr. William Brady continues crusade against the ‘unmitigated evil’ of school football in his national newspaper column

1961 July 9  ‘too many boys who play football in high school are crippled for life or killed’ Dr. William Brady observes

1961 July 9  boys and girls pen ‘unprintable’ complaints to anti-football columnist Dr. William Brady, he relates

1961 July 9  Dr. Brady alleges that physicians and school administrators who stand silent on football dangers are either fans or lack ‘the courage to tell the truth’:

July 9, 1961,  Anderson Herald IN
Dr. Brady’s Health Service
Rah! Rah! Rah! Football!
I have received several letters from groups of boys and girls who use unprintable language to express their opinions of me. High school football is an unmitigated evil. The reason why some physicians keep their traps closed about it is that they haven’t the courage to tell the truth. …
From what I have seen in practice I should say high school football hysteria gets too many youngsters in trouble, but this is not the objectionable part of it. I call high school football an evil because (1) football is a game for grown men, not growing boys, and (2) too many growing boys who try to play football in high school are crippled for life or killed.
The reason why some school superintendents or principals keep their traps shut about this evil, or, worse join in the ‘Rah! Rah!’ for football is that they haven’t the courage to tell parents the truth.

 

1961 Sept. 20  AMA sports-medicine MD says ‘It’s un-American and lazy to ban competitive athletics in junior-high schools over alleged hazards’  KC Times reports

1961 Sept. 20  AMA sports-medicine MD recommends routine exams of boys for weeding out inferior specimens imperiled by football, KC Times reports

1961 Sept. 20  sports-medicine advisor for AMA claims football saves boys from ‘wasted hours in taverns’:

Sept. 20, 1961,  Kansas City Times MO
Doctor Has Scorn for Bans on Sports
By Conwell Carlson
“It’s un-American and the lazy way out, to ban competitive athletics in junior high schools because of alleged hazards to the youngsters,” Dr. Thomas B. Quigley of Harvard University, an advisor to the American Medical Association and to the American College of Surgeons on athletic injuries, said yesterday.
Dr. Quigley, a speaker at the Kansas City Clinical conference, said routine medical examinations of football and other sports aspirants will readily screen out those who shouldn’t compete.
“But that takes a bit of effort,” he noted, “and it’s easier just to ban. I am against such bans. The so-called intramural regimented exercises for students is old-world stuff. In America we prefer competition.”
Also, sports early in school life give husky youths a better release for energies than wasted hours in taverns, he added.
In the New England states, schools have physicians assigned to them who examine the students and those found with diabetes, undetected heart weaknesses or other conditions are advised not to compete. Their physical activities in school are tailored to their abilities. The doctor also judges physical development and maturity in respect to sports participation. Players in interschool games are matched according to size and abilities.
The overall health advantages in youthful athletics far outweigh the occasional hazards, he is sure.

 

1961 Oct. 13  American Football Coaches Association president says ‘we must better protect youngsters’ in game, AP reports

1961 Oct. 13  NCAA football medical director says new Cornell helmet ‘works well in preventing concussions’ AP reports

1961 Oct. 17  U.Maryland coach describes plastic helmets as ‘weapons instead of protective devices’ UPI reports

1961 Oct. 17  ‘place restrictions on any football player who has suffered a concussion’ Rutgers U. coach says

1961 Oct. 17  ‘bravely’ contrarian college coaches question helmets, coaching, medical supervision, more issues in so-called safer football for schoolboys:

Oct. 17, 1961,  Shamokin News-Dispatch PA
Sports Parade
By Oscar Fraley
NEW YORK (UPI)–Two of the four horseman ride the nation’s gridirons again today.
They are not the backfield storied under the golden dome at Notre Dame. These are the originals.
Slaughter and Death.
And it is a tragic truism that the yore invited guests, made welcome by a driving need for victory, commercial disdain and a lack of proper medical supervision.
More than 20 football players have died this year already. Why? Because of iron-hard plastic helmets with steel face guards which sacrifice safety for lightness. Because of metal-like shoulder pads which fall in the same fatal category. Because of tackling techniques which place a caused fumble ahead of a player’s neck and, in some cases, because of shoddy medical attention.
“New techniques in coaching may be partially at fault,” says young Tom Nugent, the Maryland coach. “But there should be equipment changes, too.”
Speaks Out Bravely
Nugent speaks out bravely. Three years ago, one of his players died in practice.
“It is one of the most horrible memories of my life,” he recalls grimly.
The new technique he challenges is that of blocking and tackling by “putting your nose on the ball.”
“This means,” he explains, “that the players goes in with his head in a dangerous, upright position. The neck wasn’t built for this kind of wear and tear. But it’s a technique which is supposed to cause the ball carrier to fumble. The price, as you can see, can be fearful.”
Nugent’s admitting that “the manufacturers won’t like it,” calls for drastic helmet changes.
“The way they are,” he asserted, “they are weapons instead of protective devices. They don’t yield. I’d like to see them go back to yielding leather or even have the helmet covered with sponge rubber.”
Agrees With Nugent
John Bachman, the Rutgers coach who has a master’s in political science and a doctorate in education, sided with Nugent wholeheartedly.
“The headgear needs more protection inside as well as on the outside,” he holds. “They, as well as shoulder pads, should be encased in some yielding material.”
Bachman raises the question of whether, particularly in the great number of new high schools constantly springing up across the country, there is competent medical supervision at all times.
“There should,” he insisted, “be restrictions on any player after he has suffered a concussion.”
Kamikaze Tackling
This will raise angry howls in the Southwest Conference but one coach who, as could be expected, asked that he remain unidentified, pointed a damning forefinger at what he termed the “kamikaze tackling” in that area.
“They specialize in it,” he charged. “One man stops the ball carrier but, before he goes down, one or two others do a pivot from a few feet away and then zoom in on the ribs with their helmets. It doesn’t take too much of this to stove in a few ribs or otherwise put a rival player out of action.”
The game is rugged enough at best, as even the purists will tell you, without inviting the two horsemen to go on a dead gallop.

 

1961 Oct. 22  Illinois newspaper writers equate boxing’s blows of brain damage with hits of school footballJacksonville Daily Journal editorial

1961 Oct. 22  Illinois newspaper editorial notes local assumption that football helmets prevent the slightest of brain ‘concussion’Jacksonville Daily Journal

1961 Oct. 22  newspaper’s Sports Editorial demands football mandate for mouth guards to prevent ‘concussion’ and brain damage in young players:

Oct. 22, 1961,  Jacksonville Daily Journal IL
Sports Editorial
Fears, Fatalities And Facts
Since the days of that first football game between Princeton and Rutgers on November 6, 1869, the football helmet has served to protect the head and its contents from injuries sustained in the contact.
As previously examined [in an editorial], the addition of a plastic face guard in recent years, designed to protect the face, has caused extensive damage to the neck and spinal cord. …
Recently when a Routt HIgh School gridder suffered a slight concussion, fans might have wondered how, for a concussion might seem the farther-most injury a football player could receive with the modern helmets with the ribbed inside to protect the head. BUT…
In prize fighting the most sought point of de-embarkation for the opponent is a square shot to his chin.
Unlike the boxer, who can ward off many chin shots without serious effects, the football player hasn’t been required to wear a rubber mouth guard, as the boxer does.
To save the pearly whites? No, to prevent damage to the brain.
Tom Adams, assistant coach of the Triopia Trojans and recent graduate from Southern Illinois University, noted that in the jaw bone structure, the point at which the jaw bone joins the skull at the temple is a very vulnerable spot. …
Adams mentioned that several players on the Trojan squad who have used these mouth pieces have received hard blows under the chin, ordinarily hard enough to cause a concussion, but have not felt the effects.
The JHS Crimsons, under direction of the school officials, have adopted the mouth piece. Next year, all high school players in the state of Illinois will be required to wear a rubber mouth cushion at all times.

 

1961 Oct. 30  AMA committee ‘holds that some gridiron deaths this season might have been prevented by improved helmets’ UPI columnist reports

1961 Oct. 30  anonymous manufacturer claims ‘plastic helmet is a far safer product [than leather] if used and fitted properly for maximum protection’ UPI columnist reports

1961 Oct. 30  UPI sports columnist suggests NCAA officials and ‘profit-minded helmet manufacturers’ contributed to year’s fatality toll among football players:

Oct. 30, 1961,  Redlands Daily Facts CA
Manufacturer defends plastic grid helmet
By Oscar Fraley
United Press International
NEW YORK (UPI)—The nation’s football death toll had rocketed to 26 today and, in the wake of protests over the killing quality of unyielding plastic helmets, certain profit-minded manufacturers stepped hastily into the tragic act.
“Football equipment is in my opinion many times safer than ever before,” writes one manufacturer as result of a recent protest in this corner.
This letter was written at about the same time the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s equipment committee revealed it was planning legislative action against current headgear in January.
The NCAA committee would seem to be equally dilatory in coping with this fatal situation. It admitted it became “alarmed” last year over the sharp increase in head and neck injuries but “took another year to form a judgment.”
Makes You Wonder
A year, it might be added, in which some of the 26 who died might have had better chance to live.
“Accidents seem to be to the wearer of the helmet, not to his opponent,” said the quoted NCAA official.
It is a statement which makes you wonder if it makes a difference in whether the injury happens to the runner or the tackler.
The current furor began when Maryland coach Tom Nugent was quoted here as asserting that the current headgear is “a weapon instead of a protective device.”
He drew immediate support from John Bateman, the Rutgers coach and both admitted—”although the manufacturers probably won’t like it”—it was vital that changes be made.
There is support for this contention in a report of an American Medical Association committee which holds that some of the deaths on the gridiron this season “might have been prevented” by improved helmets and, as the public health watchdog, demanded changes.
Nugent suggested a possible return to leather helmets “because there is a certain amount of give” not found in plastic.
Defends Plastic Helmet
Thus, it is rather surprising to receive a communique from a firm which identifies as “manufacturers of leather and athletic goods” and proceeds to blandly defend the plastic helmet.
“One fact you should know,” this “leather” manufacturer asserts, “is that a leather helmet, far from being soft, had a lining of 100 gauge fiber, which made it at least as hard as a plastic shell. The leather strips across the crown were also hazards, as they could cut.
“The helmet today,” this firm has the audacity to submit, “is a far safer product and if used and fitted properly will provide maximum protection.”
This “leather” firm, in other words, sells plastic helmets.
As for leather necessarily being a hard as iron, the feeling persists that it could be made softer. Boxing gloves, made to intentionally assault another, are soft. And where breathes the man who hasn’t been slugged by a lady’s pocketbook without fatal results?

 

1961 Nov. 4  Penn State football MD says reduce central-nervous-system damage by mandating mouthpieces and collars while removing facemask from helmets:

Nov. 4, 1961,  Appleton Post-Crescent WI
Doctor Favors Dropping Face Masks From Football Helmets
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. (AP)–Dr. Alfred H. Griess, team physician for Penn State’s Nittany Lions, called Friday for dropping facemasks from football helmets and making players use mouthpieces and horsecollars.
Griess’ proposals resulted from a study he and two other Penn State athletic officials are making on the ways and means of cutting down on fatal and near fatal injuries in football.
So far this year there have been at least 28 deaths reported in college and high school gridiron games. Three of these deaths occurred in Pennsylvania.
“We have found that most team doctors feel a great need for changes in the helmets,” Griess explained. “A lot of them feel that the face guard should come off and we should make mandatory the wearing of mouthpieces.”
Griess said a mouthpiece would not only protect the teeth and mouth, but “cut down on facial injuries and reduce concussions, acting as a cushion for the shock of the impact.”
“Horse collars help protect the player’s neck,” he added. “Films of seven football deaths last year showed that five resulted from neck injuries caused when the helmets hit the back of the neck in the cervical area. Horse collars would stop this.”
Helping Griess with the study are Ernest McCoy, Penn State’s athletic director, and trainer Chuck Medlar. McCoy also serves as the head of the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s committee on accidents and safety.

 

1961 Nov. 24  sport columnist addresses ‘second impact’ theory, stating ‘authorities generally agree that a boy with one concussion should never play football’ Pennsylvania

1961 Nov. 22  AMA sports MD announces helmet-sensor study using sample players at Northwestern University:

Nov. 22, 1961,  Circleville Herald OH
Players ‘Wired’ for Sound Probe Cause of Grid Hurts
By John F. Sembower
Central Press Correspondent
CHICAGO, Ill. — Athletes “wired” remotely for sound may give the big answers to what is causing football injuries and even some deaths throughout the nation.
In Northwestern University’s concluding football game this fall there may be several players “wearing” tiny FM transmitters in their helmets, which automatically will transmit data to the sidelines concerning the shocks that are encountered under actual game conditions.
The electronic data will be carefully recorded by Dr. Stephen Reid, Northwesterrn team physician and chairman on an American Medical Association committee looking into the adequacy of football headgear.
He will be assisted by James Aagaard, Northwestern professor of electrical engineering, who is handling the electronics technicalities. Financial support for the expensive venture comes from Northwestern’s Medical School and Evanston, Ill., Hospital research funds.
Dr. Reid is quick to point out that, considering the huge increase in the number of football participants in recent years, he and the committee are far from considering casualty totals as an all-out crisis for the sport, and that they also consider that most of the equipment now in use is safe.
However, any injuries and deaths are considered tragic and something to be filtered out of the sport’s existence completely, if possible.
A committee of the American Medical Association, headed by Dr. Richard Schneider of the University of Michigan, has been laboriously compiling data on 208 direct football fatalities since 1947, and it notes “slowly progressive trend away from abdominal and internal injuries and a corresponding increase in head and spinal cord injuries.”
Also there seems to be an increasing incidence of deaths from hidden congenital causes, such as heart and respiratory conditions which escape detection in the ordinary physical examinations, and aside from the exertions involved ought not to be charged to football directly. By making athletes into “human transmitters” it is hoped that these riddles also will be solved.
Drs. Reid and Aagaard emphasize that their work is not to be confused with the wave of devices built several years ago for the purpose of transmitting information from the bench to the field on game strategy, which now is largely in dispute.
Their device will be much more sensitive and will automatically beam “subjective” information known only by the body itself to special receivers.
It will be more akin to the remarkable electronic belt and recording machine which Prof. Hal. F. Shulte Jr., of the University of Michigan has used to record heart action during games, and the thimble-sized radio transmitter, weighing less than an ounce, which Drs. William Cochran and Rexford D. Lord Jr., of the University of Illinois, are using to probe the most private activities of rabbits, raccoons, opossums, pheasants and mallard ducks.

 

1961 Nov. 27  face bars and plastic football helmets without padded covers likely face ‘doom’ by NCAA observes AP columnist

1961 Nov. 27  coach Woody Hayes says OSU athletic officials have engineered padded covering for safer football helmets, AP columnist reports

1961 Nov. 27  coach Woody Hayes says ‘for some time we’ve experimented on our own with helmet covering’ that involves sample players:

Nov. 27, 1961,  Mexia Daily News TX
Grid Fatalities to Doom Helmets
By Frank Eck
AP Newsfeatures Sports Editor
The appalling rise in football fatalities this fall may have doomed face bars on helmets and plastic helmets lacking outside protection.
There is talk that the American Football Coaches Association will recommend to the National Football Rules Committee of the National Collegiate Athletic Association that such equipment be banned and that a new and safer helmet be mandatory.
The rules committee seldom listens to suggestions by coaches but this time even the rules makers are deeply concerned about the fatalities of the last two seasons.
The nation’s football brains will meet during the 56th annual NCAA convention in Chicago, Jan. 8-13. Uppermost on the agenda will be discussion on how to make plastic helmets and plastic shoulder pads safer for the collegians.
Football injuries have resulted in 29 deaths this season. There have been 21 fatalities at the high school level, six on college teams and two in the sandlots.
Seven years ago, Woody Hayes, Ohio State’s outspoken coach, recommended that helmets be padded on the outside to protect opponents.
“I’m certain my suggestion will be incorporated into the rules for 1962 season,” says the Columbus coach.
“For some time we’ve experimented on our own with outside covering. Our trainer placed strips of soft foam rubber outside the headgear, and they serve to soften the blows. We’ll be the first to adopt any headgear which offers protection both ways—for the wearer and opponent.
“We also feel that something must be done about the extended face bars. They make the headgear too heavy in front and they wobble when hit.
“Plastic headgear is here to stay. We’ve broken 26 this year without injuring the wearer—but some way must be found to protect the opponent. The best method of alleviating the situation seems to be to pad the outside sufficiently to absorb the shock.”
What are the manufacturers doing?
“The manufacturers of football equipment have developed a new shock absorbing material that is a slow recovery vinyl material,” says Joseph Kelly, who coached Xavier of Cincinnati one year and now is vice president of Brunswick Sports.
“The material is three-eighths to five-eighths inches thick. It is used inside and outside of helmets. It has replaced foam rubber. We have used the material very extensively.
“Oklahoma, Ohio State, Cornell, Harvard and Duke are using soft covered helmets with the new slow recovery vinyl. And their incident of injury is a lot less.
“The facemask certainly deserves careful scrutiny. The face guard enables a player to dive face-first into a player’s chest without fear of being hurt.”
“Steps are taken every year to improve equipment. New models are especially designed for safety according to the rule requirements.”
Ed Reutinger, national manager of Wilson Sporting Goods, says:
“Injuries are an everlasting problem for people who write rules of football and manufacturers who make equipment. We not only try to keep up with coaching demands, but we also try to keep ahead of needs by research.”
Wilson also makes a plastic helmet for boys with neck injuries. It contains an exentsion pad to reduce whiplash. The firm also makes a neck roll that is made of polyethelene foam. It is attached to shoulder pads.
Tom Elliott, vice president of Rawlings Sporting Goods, says doctors should make suggestions to the rules committee. he also indicates that some injuries are due to those coaches who tell their players to grab face guards. Says Elliott:
“We think that coaching techniques should come in for review as well as any possible construction changes to eliminate all types of head and neck injuries. We feel that the helmets worn this year are the best helmets every made as far as safety to the wearer is concerned.”
Paul Jones, general merchandising manager for Spalding, says:
“Helmet complaints coming to our attention generally are made by coaches and dealers. They say the shell is too hard, that the edges are unprotected, that helmets cut into the neck area and in some cases this happens without face bars.
“To remedy these complaints, Spalding’s 1962 line has padded leather bindings on the front and back edges and padding under the leather. We have made available outside padding to be cemented to the shell—front and back. We are adding padding inside the helmet. It’s absorb-shock vinyl.
“New form-fitting military-type padding is being added to the chin strap. It’s a form of vinyl.
“On shoulder pads we will add outside padding, if wanted. It will be vinyl. The helmets and shoulder pads still will be plastic.”
The rule makers are bound to take a stand during the NCAA meetings. Everybody seems to agree on one thing—that something must be done to stem the raft of injuries that have occurred on the gridiron this fall.

 

1962 Jan. 7  ‘A boy who suffers concussion playing football should be sidelined for rest of the season’ says prep official on equipment committee, Utah

1962 Jan. 7  ‘We should rule out gang tackling and any tackling above the shoulders’ says prep official on football equipment committee, Utah

1962 Jan. 7  ‘Coaches Unit Outlines Program at Making Football Safer’—Wisconsin headline

1962 Jan. 11  AFCA recommends ‘head up’ rushing, blocking, tackling to prevent brain injuries in football, AP reports

1962 Jan. 11  the American Football Coaches Association recommends coordinating competing helmet ‘research projects’ at NCAA universities to produce a better protective plastic model:

Jan. 11, 1962,  Appleton Post-Crescent WI
Coaches Unit Outlines Program at Making Football Safer
CHICAGO (AP)–A nine-point program aimed at reducing the number of football fatalities, with emphasis on physical conditioning and examinations, was recommended Wednesday night by the committee on injuries and fatalities of the American Football Coaches Association.
Dr. Floyd R. Eastwood of Los Angeles State College, chairman of the committee, said the recommendation resulted from “Unusual increases in the number of fatal injuries in football across the nation in 1961.”
Dr. Eastwood, in reviewing the program to be presented the AFCA general meeting for consideration Thursday at the NCAA convention, said a national survey showed there were 47 fatalities involving football players last season, in sandlot, high school, college and semipro ranks. He said 20 were direct, 18 indirect, and nine classified as non-football deaths.
Direct injuries, he said, cover fatalities attributable to “a traumatic blow to the person, usually to the head.” Indirect fatalities are those occurring from heart attacks, heatstrokes and the like.
Non-football fatalities are those not connected with competition.
The nine recommendations are:
1. Continued attention to maintaining adequate salt balance during practice and game situations. This is aimed at avoiding heat exhaustion.
2. Require thorough physical examination, including electric cardiograms, of all candidates for a team before the first practice session of each season. Dr. Eastwood said 22 percent of heart conditoins could have been diagnosed in advance had the player been properly examined and had an electric cardiogram.
3. Co-ordinated efforts among several research projects on helmet construction with a better and more protective helmet being made available. Dr. Eastwood said the AFCA rules committee had recommended Wednesday elimination of the facemask from the helmet, a shorter and less-imposing facemask if the mask is not banned, and sponge rubber padding at the back of the helmet so it cannot dig into a player’s neck.
4. Acceptance of an improved design of a face-nose guard with rules of its use being established. Grabbing a ball carrier by the face mask, banned Tuesday by the two U.S. pro football leagues, is still permissible in college play.
5. Renewed and greatly increased emphasis on body conditioning during the preseason period, including tumbling, wrestling and weightlifting to counter what Dr. Eastwood called “our push-button age.”
6. More extensive use of the quick whistle by game officials to minimize the piling on of a downed ball carrier.
7. More consistent calls by game officials on illegal defensive blocking, especially the practice of the face block, grasping the face guard, and use of the arm or elbow against the face guard.
8. More emphasis on teaching players to keep their heads up at all times while blocking, tackling and carrying the ball. Dr. Eastwood said he disagrees with those coaches who claim injuries are caused by keeping the head up.
9. A 60-second warmup be required before entering a game or scrimmage at any time. The committee survey, he said, showed that most injuries occur within the first five minutes a player is in the game.

 

1962 Feb. 28  charge dismissed against ‘punch-drunk and legally insane’ ex-champ who tried jailhouse suicide in New York:

Feb. 8, 1962,  New York Times NY
SAXTON CASE DISMISSED
Ex-Boxer Called ‘Insane’ at Time of Burglary Arrest
Burglary charges against Johnny Saxton, twice welterweight boxing champion of the world, were dismissed yesterday in Queens County  Court after he had been declared “punch-drunk and legally insane” at the time of his arrest.
District Attorney Frank D. O’Connor or Queens moved for the dismissal after studying a psychiatrist’s report. Defense counsel had contended that Saxton, 31 years old, had “been left penniless by greedy handlers.”
Saxton was arrested in March, 1959, at a n apartment house at 90-34 164th Street, Jamaica, Queens. He was accused of having broken into an apartment, stolen a $100 fur piece, $5.20 in cash and a box of cigarettes.
While free in $1,000 bail, less than a month later, he was arrested on an attempted-burglary charge in Atlantic City, N.J. He tried to hang himself in jail and was sent to the State Mental Hospital at Ancora, N.J. His current address was given as 432 St. Mark’s Avenue, Brooklyn.

 

1962 April 3  Frank Gifford returns to NFL from retirement that followed his ‘concussion’ from Chuck Bednarik’s hit in 1960: 

April 3, 1962,  Hazleton Standard-Speaker PA
Frank Gifford Returning To Giant Football Wars
By Jim Becker
Associated Press Sports Writer
NEW YORK (AP)—Frank Gifford… will return to action for the New York Giants next season, ending a one-year retirement.
The former Southern California star announced Monday that he is giving up radio broadcasting work in the East to concentrate on his comeback. …
Gifford played nine seasons with the Giants before bowing out temporaritly at the end of the 1960 season, after he suffered a concussion when he was tackled hard by Chuck Bednarik of the Philadelphia Eagles in a late season game.
Last year he combined broadcasting with scouting work for the Giants.

 

1962 Oct. 3  Texas Medical Association wants ban on ‘head or helmet blocking’ in school football, UPI reports

1962 Oct. 3  TMA chairman says ‘chronic damage to the brain, neck or spinal cord’ results from forward colliding in school football:

Oct. 3, 1962,  Odessa American TX
Doctors Condemn Helmet Blocks
AUSTIN (UPI)–The Texas Medical Association today warned that “head or helmet blocking” in football could result in serious injuries and recommended it be discontinued in junior and senior high schools.
The association said it had completed an “intensive investigation” of helmet or head blocking and had concluded that it may result “in serious orthopedic and neurological injuries.”
“Chronic damage to the brain, neck or spinal cord are the residual consequences of this practice,” said Dr. Robert G. McCorkle of Austin, chairman of a special TMA committee, “and death can result if the injury is severe enough.”

 

1963 April 9  Woody Hayes says ‘head up’ technique or theory formulated among coaches, trainers, and sports doctors, Iowa columnist reports

1963 June 12  ‘tackle football is coming to be accepted for junior high players’ CQ Researcher observes

1963 Sept. 27  ‘punch drunk’ prevalent in ex-boxers, Medical Tribune reports

1965 Oct. 31  prep football coach’s TBI test clears boy for remaining in homecoming game; then he dies:

Oct. 31, 1965,  Odessa American TX
Barstow Grid Player Dies From Injuries
BARSTOW (Staff)—A 16-yearold Barstow High School halfback died in the Brewster County Hospital in Alpine Saturday night of head injuries suffered Friday afternoon in a football game at Fort Davis.
He was 10th-grader Ruben Bustillos, son of Mr. and Mrs. Jose Bustillos of Barstow.
Young Bustillos was injured in the Fort Davis homecoming game Friday which saw his home team, the Barstow Bears, downed 50-0 by the Fort Davis Indians.
G.E. Grubbs, Fort Davis coach, said:
“I believe he was hurt in the third quarter.
“He (Bustillos) had received the ball on a kick and ran to about the 15-yard line. He met the Fort Davis boys and was spun around.
“Then it seemed like he was hit head-on.
“Barstow called for time and their coach came out on the field and talked to the boy. I remember seeing him (Bustillos) holding up his fingers like his coach was asking him to count them—like he wanted to make sure the boy was okay.
“But two plays later his coach called him out of the game. I saw the boy walk toward his bench and sit down on the grass beside it.
“I later hear he went into convulsions and they called an ambulance.”
 Members of young Bustillos’ family said he was born in Pecos and had played football about two years.
They said services are tentative but probably would be held Monday. Pecos Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.
Survivors include his parents; one sister, Mrs. Juanita Galindo, Barstow; one brother, Mike Bustillos, working in Midland; and a grandmother, Mrs. Anthony Bustillos, Barstow.

 

1967 Aug. 5  AMA press release demands ‘head up’ and chest-out ‘technique’ to prevent brain trauma in tackle football

1967 Aug. 5  football officials note teaching and enforcement of the ‘head up’ theory in forward-colliding sport is already problematic:

Aug. 5, 1967,   Altoona Mirror PA
Dangerous Tactic
Sports Officials Call End to ‘Grid’ Spearing
CHICAGO—A group of coaches, physicians, and sports officials have joined the American Medical Association in calling for an end to football “spearing.”
Spearing is the tactic in which a blocker or tackier uses his head as a battering ram. It’s dangerous, both for himself and for the person he hits.
The football authorities called for coaches to emphasize correct, head-up blocking and tackling, and for strict enforcement by officials of the rules against spearing.
When polled by the American Medical Association’s Committee on the Medical Aspects of Sports, the group was unanimous in warning against spearing. The AMA committee asked for their comments when recent studies showed that head and neck injuries continue to constitute a very high percentage of serious injuries in football.
Said Notre Dame football coach Ara Parseghian: “I can’t begin to tell of the number of clinics where I have lectured on the (spearing) problem. We don’t teach this at Notre Dame; and over the years, I have done everything within my power to influence others to coach against it.”
A tackier can inflict a tremendous amount of punishment by driving his helmet into an opposing ball carrier. Moreover he endangers himself, because his head and neck take the force of the blow. Serious injury and even death have resulted from damage to brain areas or the spinal cord.
In the correct, head-up tackle, the player uses his shoulders, arms, and chest to stop the ball carrier. In a “spear” or “butt tackle,” he drives into his opponent with his head. By spearing, the tackier may prevent the ball carrier from advancing a few extra inches—if he tackles him. With his head down, however, he not only risks serious injury, but is more likely to miss the tackle because he has a harder time seeing where he’s going.
“Many neurosurgeons are appalled by coaches permitting or even deliberately teaching the devastating techniques of ‘spearing,’ ‘stick-blocking,’ and ‘headbutting,’ ” said Richard C. Schneider, M.D., an Ann Arbor, Mich., neurosurgeon and member of the AMA Committee on the Medical Aspects of Sports. He pointed out that death may be only 30 to 60 seconds away if the blood vessels draining the brain are damaged by a heavy blow, or if hemorrhaging begins within the brain.
In the neck, the spinal cord is approximately the size of a man’s ring finger. It lies within the bony spinal canal, an easy victim of bruising or cutting if neck vertebrae or cervical discs are forced out of place. Dr. Schneider said.
Such an injury may result in death or permanent paralysis of arms and legs and loss of bladder and bowel control. Thirty such cases were reported during the football seasons of 1959 through 1964, he said.
Studies of fatalities indicate that football has a good safety record, considering that virtually a million players are involved each fall. It could be even better, however, if head and neck injuries could be reduced. In 1966, head and neck injuries were responsible for 23 of the 24 fatalities directly attributed to injuries in college and high school football.
“Strict enforcement by officials of the rule against ‘spearing’ is important,” said Donald B. Slocum, M.D., chairman of the AMA committee and orthopedic consultant to the University of Oregon football team. “While every infraction may not be discernible, those that are should be rigorously penalized—particularly those that occur on second impact when a runner already has been tackled,” Dr. Slocum said.
Although rules committees on all levels have voted for stricter enforcement of the “spearing rule,” many players continue to spear in blocking and tackling, either inadvertently or as a definite tactic, said William E. Newell, executive secretary of the National Athletic Trainers Association and head athletic trainer at Purdue University.
Players should be selected and trained more carefully, he said, particularly boys at two physical extremes—those with long, thin necks and those with short, stubby necks.
“Protective equipment is no guarantee against serious or even fatal football injuries,” Newell said. “With proper attention, however, injuries from the so-called spear or butt block can be eliminated or greatly reduced in football at all levels.”
Said Clifford B. Fagan, executive secretary of the National Federation of State High School Athletic Associations: “There is absolutely no place in interscholastic football for ‘spearing.’ Responsible athletic administrators and football leaders everywhere deplore the fact that a small number of coaches teach it. The high rate of serious injury which results from ‘spearing’ makes it self-evident that the teaching of it must not be tolerated. There are a great variety of safer methods which are as effective as spearing and infinitely safer.”
Elimination of spearing “would certainly cut down the number of fatalities in football,” said L. W. Combs, M.D., director of the student health center, Purdue University, and a leader in the Athletic Medicine Section of the American College Health Association.
“It has been disappointing for me as a team physician at a university to realize that some high school coaches are teaching spearing as being a sound football practice,” Dr. Combs said. “At the college level, we are very much aware that this technique makes the player much more vulnerable to injuries of the head and neck. The headgear has been highly developed by equipment manufacturers with the advice of physicians, trainers, and others as a protective gear. It is entirely unfitting, however, that some coaches persist in teaching its use as an offensive and defensive weapon.”
“The primary problem is the present coaching techniques of ‘butt’ tackling or blocking. It is impossible for the rules committee to legislate ‘coaching techniques,’ ” said O. B. Murphy, M.D., of Lexington, Ky., University of Kentucky team physician and representative of the AMA committee of the N.C.A.A. Rules Committee.
“In any case,” he said, “the fact remains that since the advent of the hard helmet and lace piece, coaches have felt that the head and face are adequately protected. This, however, affords no protection at all for the neck which is subject to injury through this repeated ‘butting’ technique.”
Said Murray Warmath, football coach at the University of Minnesota: “Spearing will never disappear from the game until we quit coaching it and until we absolutely disallow its use on the part of our men.
“It isn’t the first man who makes the tackle,” Warmath said. “It’s that second tackier. He puts his head down, closes his eyes, and piles into the man who’s down with one intent, and that’s to maim and cripple.”
Since 1960, most of the football deaths resulting directly from football participation have been caused by head and neck injuries, said Carl Blyth, Ph.D., of Chapel Hill, N. C, chairman of the N.C.A.A. committee on football safety and president of the American College of Sports Medicine.
“The practice of spearing is condemned by all responsible persons truly interested in the game of football and the welfare of its participants,” he said.
The AMA committee has waged a continuing campaign for prevention of injuries to the head and neck since it sponsored a “National Conference on Head Protection for Athletes” in Chicago in 1962. The conference recommended that spearing be outlawed, but the practice persisted.
“Perhaps the only answer is the creation of public awareness of this problem to the point that a player who uses spearing will be branded as guilty of unsportsmanlike conduct,” said a spokesman for the committee. “Anyone who would deliberately set out to injure his opponent, by spearing, while at the same time endangering his own life must be lacking in moral values and intelligence,” he said.
The AMA Committee on the Medical Aspects of Sports called on all team physicians to discourage spearing, urged coaches to teach against the tactic, and warned players of the dangers of the practice. Concerted action to rid the game of spearing can make football a better game for all concerned, the committee said.
—AMA News Release

 

1968 April 3  Fifth Circuit appellate court hears expert testimony of ‘chronic traumatic encephalopathy,’ brain damage of impacts afflicting former soldier, for his lawsuit against the U.S. Army  Nagell v. United States, 392 F.2d 934 (5th Cir. 1968)

Copyright ©2015 for historical arrangement by Matthew L. Chaney

Matt Chaney is an author, editor, and consultant on public issues in sport, specializing in American football. Chaney, MA in media studies, is a former college football player and coach whose books include Spiral of Denial: Muscle Doping in American Football, self-published in 2009Chaney’s study for graduate thesis, co-published with the University of Central Missouri in 2001, analyzed print sport-media coverage of anabolic substances in football from 1983-1999. Email him at mattchaney@fourwallspublishing.com or visit the website for more information. 

The 1890s: Brain Risks Confirmed in American Football

Brain Injury in American Football: 130 Years of Knowledge and Denial

The 1890s: Cerebral Risks Confirmed on Gridiron

Part One in A Series

By Matt Chaney

Posted Tuesday, July 28, 2015

As American football officials tell the story today, brain injury among players is a fledgling issue, identified only in recent years, the 2000s.

Administrators, coaches, trainers, doctors, and researchers of contemporary football say they have only begun to grasp brain risk for players, while otherwise declaring no need for alarm. Officials say parents and children must not worry because dangers are exaggerated and countermeasures are in place.

The game embraces “concussion awareness” as never before, committing unprecedented dollars to research and prevention. “Heads Up Football,” for example, the program said to teach headless hitting to youths, is a household term for its $45 million in development and publicity funded by the NFL and players union.

But are traumatic brain injuries [TBI] and policy-making actually newfound for the collision sport?

Is the football institution—generations of administrators, coaches, trainers, doctors—really just comprehending TBI among players and what might be done? That’s the official claim, anyway, especially for legal defense against lawsuits filed by former players and families.

Historical events tell a different football story, meanwhile, in an extensive review of news databases by this investigator. Generally, the factual past conflicts with official versions proffered today.

Because the dilemma of head injuries inherent for tackle football—brain “concussion” foremost, broadly defined for varying states of severity—has reared regularly in public since the Victorian Era. Periodic controversies have spanned three centuries and affected most decades of the game, including the 1890s, 1900s, 1920s, 1930s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, and 2010s.

Along the way, football has seen every type of brain trauma in players, consistently, predictably. Countless cases publicized since the 1800s have ranged from debilitating headaches to fatal hemorrhaging, and officials have tried much for preventing casualties while managing “return to play” of injured athletes, if never realizing success.

Several outright failed initiatives have been recycled, repackaged and promoted anew in periods over the continuum—like old “head up” theory, publicized in 1925 but presently sold as cutting-edge, Heads Up “technique.”

ChaneysBlog presents a series on the history of football collision, brain injury, and policy, with this first article examining football in its formative phase, the latter 1800s—when officials made promises of safety reform that echo yet.

So-called protective helmets, rule changes, medical supervision, proper coaching, and safer colliding have been promoted for a century and longer in American football.

1892: Gridiron Violence, ‘Flying Wedge’ Ignite Public Furor

As American football’s first injury crisis festered in 1892, the Harvard University team stoked controversy, unveiling its “flying wedge” blocking formation against rival Yale during the most publicized game of the year.

Returning a kickoff, two wings of Harvard players sprinted downfield on the attack, leading the ball carrier. At last instant 10 Harvard men converged in a V-wedge, “flying into Yale’s right wing like a crimson simoon,” a writer recounted. Twenty yards were gained on the return, a substantial run for grinding “mass” football of the time.

“What a grand play!” proclaimed The New York Times, for “a half ton of bone and muscle coming into collision with a man weighing 160 or 170 pounds.”

“The trick was so pretty that even the Yale men were disposed to applaud,” reported The New York Evening World. Yale “coachers” pronounced the latest wedge scheme “as one of the finest plays ever seen.”

Critics of football, in turn, deplored the flying wedge as epitome of gratuitous violence in sport, and on behalf of higher education no less.

“The fatal twisting of the neck of a football player and several other horrifying details in the football news… add to the growing demand that unless the leaders of the game themselves will ‘regulate’ the playing as they promise and profess to do, the police shall,” The Boston Advertiser editorialized. “The public cannot stand these harrowing casualties.”

“That the rules governing intercollegiate football must be changed seems to be the general opinion of the sporting public and those college graduates who are making a constant study of the great game,” asserted a national commentary. “The increased opportunities for accidents and the brutality which has marked many of the recent big games have made radical changes necessary.”

Football supporters laughed, contending dangers were exaggerated, led by Harvard dean of engineering Nathaniel S. Shaler, a former player. “I have never known a single man, personally, to be killed or permanently hurt in the game,” Shaler said. “The death rate in football is way down.” By comparison, Shaler noted that horse transportation and boating had killed nine of his friends.

The Charlotte Observer editorialized “that there is a good deal of humbuggery in all the recent clamor about the dangers of football,” continuing that boys “are liable to get hurt at almost any game in which they engage—unless it be croquet.”

“This question of football is a matter of family government rather then the public’s business,” the newspaper continued. “If the parents are willing for the son to play football and take chances, it is none of the public’s affair. After the player passes 21, it is nobody’s business but his own.”

Football advocacy did not impress many Americans. Some wanted “foot-ball” banned from college campuses that hosted it in pursuit of financial gain and prestige, a quarter-century after students organized the game at eastern universities.

Opposition flourished in higher education and the popular press, pressuring game policy-makers to act, particularly Walter Camp of Yale University, the coach, referee and rule-maker who would be known as the Father of American Football.

Camp headed the Yale coaching staff enamored with mass plays like the flying wedge, but he knew football suffered for its image as a sanctioned brawl. “The protest… by the faculties of a large number of colleges is having its effect,” he acknowledged.

The game was dangerous and barbaric at eyesight, and no one could calculate the casualty numbers, undoubtedly high, as football expanded west through schools, colleges, and athletic clubs.

The sport had begun as an “open” game of rugby sprints and passes, but rule changes led by Camp in the 1880s established a line of scrimmage between opposing teams of 11 men each, and ball possession for one side at a time. Possession was retained for gaining five yards in three “downs.”

Rules legitimized “interference,” or blocking for a ball carrier, then “low” tackling. Offensive planning evolved to emphasize brutish players for “momentum” starts, clustered in walls and wedges, to make running strikes at a defense.

Analyst Michael Oriard observed that the rule allowing tackling below the waist “virtually eliminated open-field running, led to increasingly brutal (and boring) mass play, altered the very shape of football players by tilting the advantage overwhelmingly toward sheer bulk, and necessitated the development of padded armor to protect the newly vulnerable players.”

A news writer panned the Harvard-Yale game in 1893, complaining that “the great battle did not bristle with interesting plays. There was a constant pile in the middle of the field, from which it was half the time impossible to pick the man with the ball.”

Hazardous tactics created repulsive scenes. Players pushed and pulled their ball carriers for yardage, inflicting injury. Elbowing abounded, along with grabbing, tossing, trampling, and punching. A New York reporter noted a “rule disqualifying a man who uses his clenched fist is strongly advocated.”

“The players on the line often sparred with one another, shoved, or even slugged one another before the snap of the ball,” wrote historian John Sayle Watterson. “Guards and tackles could take up positions in the backfield because the rules did not specify the linemen had to be at the scrimmage line.”

“Once a player left the game, he could not return. Hence, injured players often staggered around the field until they collapsed or asked to be taken out of the game.”

At end of the 1893 football season, officials could dally no longer on reform. “There is quite a popular demand for the abolition of the flying wedge and other dangerous mass plays in football,” stated a Kansas writer.

The New York Times editorialized: “A game in which some of the players are almost certain to be knocked senseless is a game in which some of them are very liable to be maimed for life or even to be killed outright.” The Times pegged injuries as mere elemental byproducts, proclaiming “no game so extremely perilous should be permitted to be played.”

Camp weighed in, as supreme powerbroker of football’s maturing enterprise at American universities. Camp said daily practice sessions posed higher risk than games, but he voiced support for new rules to “remove the so-called brutalizing character” of competition.

“There is no doubt that the game as played the last year or two has been attended with a great deal of danger to the players,” Camp stated. “In improving from the old [Rugby Union] game we have admitted the interference [blocking], which is the element of danger in the game. The Englishmen look upon our style of playing with a great deal of abhorrence. Yet it is just that style that has commended the game to the American people and aroused such a great interest in it.”

Camp suggested a “convention” of football representatives from colleges could address the questions, and thus it materialized.

Newspapers soon announced “five football experts” would gather to discuss, draft, and ratify new rules. The 34-year-old Camp was named to the committee, obviously, while the others were likewise young “football men” and former players of the universities represented, Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Pennsylvania, and Wesleyan.

“The football reform movement at last begins to assume a tangible shape,” noted The Evening World, optimistically.

The anointed experts released their new rules in spring 1894, football’s first in the mission of safety for players. Among changes, a kick receiver could signal “fair catch” for avoiding contact; there would be “less use of hands and arms obstructively”; piling on a man when down would be penalized; and a “linesman” was added to field officials.

The focus of attention was Rule 30 (c.), reading as follows: “No momentum mass plays shall be allowed.” An enthusiastic news commentator said “anxious parents, friends and companions” of players could now rest easy, as if football’s dreadful “wedge” action were eliminated.

But that depended on definition and interpretation. “A momentum mass play is where more than three men start before the ball is put into play,” stated a news report. “Nor shall more than three men group for that purpose more than five yards back from the point where the ball is put in play.”

The public expected much from anti-wedge policy, yet football’s safety code produced negligible results during the 1894 season, with collisions still violent and injurious throughout. Critics howled in derision of officials.

New York Evening Post editorial ripped the incorrigible violence of college football, chiding the hypocrisy—or calculated rhetoric—of organizers and supporters who tried to label boxing the only barbaric pastime. The Post opined:

There is one characteristic of the new football which all those who promise us its reform seem to overlook, and that is that it is the only athletic sport which brings the whole bodies of the players into violent collision.

In short, is not the distinction between the ring and college football as played Saturday a distinction without a difference? Is not the attempt to make a [perceived] difference a bit of sophistry of which the champions of the game ought to be ashamed? It is true [the boxer] plays a game which consists in wasting his adversary’s strength so that he can no longer resist.

But how does this differ from college football? Is not the slugging of the enemy’s best men so as to close their eyes, strain their hips, break their noses, and concuss their brains, and thus compel them to withdraw from the field, exactly the pugilist’s policy?

Chicago Tribune editors denounced alleged gridiron reform. “The Football Slugging Match,” the newspaper headlined after Harvard versus Yale. Brutality was “the conspicuous feature of the game,” the report began.

“It was played under new rules, but the new rules were formulated not so much to make the game a test of skill, agility, and endurance as to invite personal encounters and increase the opportunities for slugging. That they worked well is shown by the list of maimed victims. Seven men were more or less severely injured.”

North of the U.S. border, The Winnipeg Tribune followed American debate over tackle football as the sport was introduced in Canada. “And the game is seriously threatened,” the newspaper editorialized, “for it is impossible to ascribe the violence of the contest to any special kind of tactics.”

“Last year the flying wedge and momentum players were made the scapegoat for all the accidents of football. The public was easily deceived… The papers are asking the university authorities what they propose to do about the matter.”

A Chicago preacher wanted impact changes, Rev. J.J. Tobias, who denounced amoral football and collegiate administrations before his Episcopal congregation. “Is football essential to manly sports? Certainly not for physical culture…,” Tobias scoffed, “for our gymnasiums and athletic clubs afford every facility.”

“[Football] is called a science…,” he continued from pulpit, mocking Walter Camp’s frequent claim, “yes, the science of disabling, wearing out, or killing by violent personal concussion of the antagonist. It is the science of brute force.”

Rev. Tobias doubted the courage of universities for standing up to the “football associations” so affluent and omnipotent on campuses nationwide, backed by exploding fan base.

“It is a lack of real moral manliness on the part of the governing powers,” he decried. “There is a mania and rivalry for large numbers on the campus rolls which makes presidents timid and under a compromising policy. It is a betrayal of a holy trust.”

“Will they be brave enough to face the howling mob, or do they shift responsibility?”

1894: Talking Points in Official Denial of Football Injuries

If health reform fell short of protecting football players, the official talk and committee meetings proved to protect the game itself. Policy-making could hardly alleviate risk and casualty for individuals, but rhetorical spin, committee posturing, and suspect cures would ensure survival of the football system.

Cultural historian Michael Oriard analyzed the politics and communication in play, a century after Walter Camp seated himself to direct young coaches and rule-makers he anointed as “experts” for reversing the bloodshed.

“Fewer than a dozen young men, all representing elite universities and relatively privileged classes, controlled the game during those crucial early years of its development,” wrote Oriard, an English professor and former player in college and the NFL, for his book analysis titled Reading Football [1994]. “The creators of American football seem to have had power but little control, as they revised the rules again and again.”

Unavoidable injuries stalked officials who were hapless to find legitimate solution.

“The chronicle of rules made, broken, amended, circumvented, amended again, abused again, in endless cycle, seems to reveal a game that developed without intention, by simple necessity after an initial accident,” Oriard concluded of the football’s first half-century, after his research of Golden Press newspapers and magazines.

“Once the scrimmage line and the five-yard rule were instituted (by young men unable to anticipate the consequences), subsequent revisions were required to guarantee them, then to modify them as they became unworkable.”

Officials’ revision of injury information also occurred, involving early incidents of brain trauma.

A rash of athlete calamities befell Yale football in 1885. Aspiring player John Arnot Palmer collapsed and died of a brain aneurysm, one day removed from football practice. Most doctors at autopsy believed “violent exercise” of the sport led to the blood vessel’s bursting, according to first news. Yale physician William O. Ayres contested their conclusion, however, dismissing football as a factor; the pathology findings instead indicated kidney disease spurred Palmer’s cerebral bleed, Ayres announced to press.

Following the death, two Yale players collided with “fearful force” at practice, injuring one. Halfback W.R. Crawford was “knocked off his feet, landing heavily on his back and head,” reported The Chicago Inter Ocean. “He was removed to his room and medical aid summoned.” Crawford lay “unconscious for about two hours,” the newspaper continued. “He is reported… as being all right.”

Yale football officials, headed by Camp, were described as “reticent about the affair.”

Camp, if never experiencing brain trauma himself in football, evidently saw the condition as a player, coach, and referee. Writing of his freshman year as Yale player, 1876, Camp recalled “stunning” an opponent with his tackle, causing momentarily unconsciousness. Thirteen years later, Camp refereed a college game in New York when a Wesleyan player was “knocked insensible” and continued competing. And numerous Yale players and opponents were publicly identified as concussion casualties during Camp’s decades at the university.

Evidence suggests Camp understood both danger of brain injury and potential ramifications for tackle football. A recorded game incident of TBI ended up omitted from his 1894 book, Football Facts and Figures, which Watterson [2002] ripped as “a resoundingly pro-football polemic” containing “a barrage of football propaganda.”

“Anyone who read Camp’s book, especially the introductory excerpts, might come away wondering what all the critical full was about. According to the ‘facts and figures’ so authoritatively interpreted, no one suffered permanent injuries, and all but a cranky handful agreed that football’s virtues outweighed its shortcomings.”

Camp had solicited input from players, and one recalled suffering brain trauma. Former Penn captain William Harvey wrote to Camp that he suffered “serious injury” during a game in 1883, when “I was knocked insensible but recovered in about fifteen minutes.”

But Harvey’s record of brain concussion was ignored for publication of the book, which would be “cited for decades as reliable evidence supporting continuation of the game through controversy and reform,” observed modern researcher Emily A. Harrison.

“Harvey’s response was included in Football Facts and Figures, but only in part,” Harrison revealed of her investigation. “On his original letter, preserved in Camp’s papers at Yale University, Harvey’s description of his head injury has been blatantly crossed out in crayon.”

No one could control football violence, but public perspective could be shaped, and a template of official rhetoric was printed in concert with Camp’s book.

Eugene L. Richards, Yale math professor and father of a Bulldogs football player, writing for Popular Mechanics in 1894, outlined the talking points of safer football that endure today, including the following assurances:

Qualified trainers and doctors will patrol sidelines.

State-of-art medical care will treat the rare grave casualties.

Injury tracking will cut rates already in decline.

Coaches will properly train players.

Medical prescreening for every player.

Experts will research and ratify rules.

Referees will enforce rules of the experts.

Players will follow rules of the experts.

Richards’ timeless essay of football advocacy channeled further assertions of Camp:

News media exaggerate gridiron injuries.

Football teaches teamwork and courage, builds mind and body.

Football is part-and-parcel of a complete education.

Football saves urban or underprivileged boys from the streets.

Football teaches manhood to boys everywhere.

Football provides healthy catharsis for male aggression.

Serious casualties are genetically predisposed to injury, too weak in their resistance.

Not surprisingly, Richards also penned the introduction to Camp’s book.

“Walter Camp worked with fellow supporters of football to stave off critics and to create a climate of opinion favorable to the college game,” Watterson wrote.

Harrison noted: “Camp and the [rules] committee set to work saving the game through persuasive selection of evidence, technical reform, and pressure on college administrators and faculty.”

Yale football men apparently exerted campus clout at New Haven in 1894, for a football revolt over the notorious game with Harvard. The Associated Press reported anonymous members of the Yale faculty said “pugilistic brutality of the game must be stopped” and they would ensure cancellation of the university’s pending game with Princeton.

Campus football leaders immediately refuted the story, announcing Princeton remained on schedule. “Captain Hickey of Yale and his football [teammates] are back to hard practice again,” newspapers stated. “The report that was circulated, saying the Yale faculty would forbid the game with the Tigers… is denied.”

1890s: Football Brain Risks Documented in News

Camp’s description of TBI symptoms in an opponent he tackled in 1876 stands among earliest reported incidents of American football, according to texts available in electronic search. Newspapers publicized “concussion of the brain” in football stories by 1885, such as the year’s aforementioned incident at Yale, the practice collision that concussed a player.

In period lexicon, the term concussion could mean anything from cerebral dysfunction to lethal hemorrhaging. Journalists routinely attributed concussion to players who were rendered comatose or killed, but many doctors knew the condition typically presented with symptoms such as headaches, confusion, memory loss, “delirium,” and temporary unconsciousness, if any.

And medicine of the late 19th century encountered concussed football players galore. The gory spectacle achieved wide appeal for its colliding combatants, fighting headlong over a ball—“contact ballet… annihilation hanging in the balance,” Oriard wrote—constituting a fertile culture for brain impacts that likely topped horseback riding, among riskiest endeavors.

“For the idea of the modern football captain…,” intoned The San Francisco Morning Call, praising the game, “is to fling such a force upon the holder of the ball that [the ball carrier] shall be knocked down, and probably knocked senseless.”

“EIGHT PLAYERS KNOCKED SENSELESS,” blared a newspaper headline in 1891, after Purdue University defeated Wabash College, 44 to 0. During another game in Indiana, a football-playing college professor “fell on his head and was knocked senseless.”

Men and boys were “knocked senseless” in football from Manhattan Island to the Hawaiian Islands, newspapers revealed, and many more were medically diagnosed with “mild” or “slight concussion,” such as Harvard captain Bert Waters in 1893. The star guard was injured against Yale and removed from the game, then sidelined for his team’s season finale versus Pennsylvania.

A Minneapolis football crowd of 1894 witnessed a “peculiar feature” when University of Wisconsin quarterback Theron Lyman bumbled around behind center, forgetting signals and directions, beset with his repetitive brain injuries. “He did the same thing at Chicago, and it is due to a concussion of the brain some time ago,” reported The St. Paul Globe.

That season’s infamous Harvard-Yale game—with Camp serving as umpire—produced a “slight concussion” for Fred Murphy, a Yale tackle rendered unconscious for hours. Murphy returned to football practice within days and played in the next game.

Many if not most head injuries in football’s plodding scrums occurred of rips, falls, kicks, and crushes. In 1895, Central University halfback Will Lyon took a foe’s foot to his head and was transported by coach ambulance to the team hotel. “There he lost consciousness and did not regain sensibility until about 7:30 o’clock last evening,” reported the Sunday morning Louisville Courier-Journal. “It is thought he suffered slight concussion of the brain, but will be able to leave for Richmond today.”

Many doctors loved football and medical schools fielded teams nationwide. In 1896, the “football eleven” of the Chicago College of Physicians and Surgeons met Beloit College for a brawling contest in Wisconsin. The Daily Tribune described the game as “one of the wickedest in the matter of slugging that was ever played anywhere,” continuing:

The doctors outweighed Beloit and seemed to want to kill someone and do it quickly and so began slugging from the start and it was not long before the rough work was not confined to one side by any means. …

As the [scoreless] game was drawing to a close Hansell, one of the doctors, who had put up a fine game as left half-back, began to act queer and was taken off the field, when he became unconscious and lay in that condition for several hours, but is recovering now. Some think he suffered from concussion of the brain.

The Yale team doctor diagnosed at least one concussion casualty that season, halfback Hamilton F. Benjamin, who was flattened against Princeton and “kicked in the forehead,” stated a news report. Benjamin “received a contused scalp and slight concussion of the brain, injuries not necessarily serious.”

A headshot rocked a Chicago schoolboy quarterback in 1899, causing “temporary insanity,” per a report. “He raved several hours before he could be calmed. It is feared he suffered concussion of the brain.”

Medical authorities referred to a “second consciousness” for victims of brain concussion. Doctors said the injury was “frequent in football, when a player is sometimes knocked out, apparently recovers, plays out the game, and comes to himself only after a considerable period, remembering nothing in the interval,” reported The New York Times.

1900: Do Football Helmets Cause or Prevent Trauma?

By 1893 in New York City, capital of football universe, “an epidemic” of long-haired men struck a fashion statement. “On the streets, in the theatres, in cafes, and everywhere where people gather together, may be seen flowing locks adorning the heads of men of all kinds,” The Boston Post relayed. “This capillary profusion is particularly noticeable in the case of young men.”

Football players with press popularity had started the trend, although initially not for looks; they simply believed that growing hair long protected them from head injuries on the gridiron. “From the time he begins practice early in the fall until the last goal has been kicked in November, the collegiate player does not indulge in the luxury of a hair cut,” stated The New Orleans Times-Picayune. ”This hirsute matting does not add to his personal attractiveness, but it protects the player’s head from cold and injury.”

Princeton All-American quarterback Phil King drew media attention for his blonde curls’ covering ears and eyes like “a huge chrysanthemum.” King bragged to writers he could “butt a stone wall” without concern of skull fracture or brain concussion.

Hair padding aside, football already favored firmer countermeasures for protection above neckline. Harvard players wore the patented Cumnock nose mask, designed of rubber by a former team captain, and the material had been taken further by a contemporary player, Charles Mackenzie at Princeton, a talented, injured backfield mate of King.

The speedy Mackenzie was attempting a football comeback from brain trauma, after a physician sidelined him a year for “a severe blow on the head… which if repeated the doctor fears might result seriously,” newspapers reported. Mackenzie now donned “a head protector made of hard rubber and can go into the thickest of the fight without fear of any serious result.”

Other types of football “headgear” or helmets were developing too, but protection for ramming athletes remained elusive.

In 1896, for example, the University of Kansas football team added William Baine, a Sioux Indian recruited away from Haskell Institute. Baine was stocky, fast, intelligent, but at KU he suffered multiple brain injuries.

On Oct. 31, Baine was “laid out by a fierce tackle” against the Kansas City Medics, stated a news report. “After that he did not know what he was doing. The doctors said he was in a bad way and feared concussion of the brain.”

Baine’s symptoms of “slight concussion” persisted the next week, recalled the Kansas quarterback decades later, Dr. Bert Kennedy, a dentist. The KU coaches were former players at Princeton, where padded “harness” to cover head, ears, and nose had been constructed for years. Kennedy said “we fashioned a padded canvas headpiece to protect [Baine].”

“It was the first football helmet I ever saw.”

That Saturday Kansas met rival Nebraska and Baine scored his team’s first touchdown. Then KU played to hold the lead: “We were trying to stall and I called a right end run merely to get the ball in the middle of the field,” Kennedy said. “The Indian protested that his head ached and he couldn’t run. But he traveled 60 yards to a touchdown so fast the Nebraskans never laid a hand on him.”

The Kansas squad beat Nebraska but unfortunately would experience a worst-case scenario of repeated brain injuries in football—victimizing an opposing player, Bert Serf of Doane College.

Serf was trampled by a Kansas “rush line” on Nov. 14, attempting a goal-line tackle. He did not regain consciousness and died that night. “The injury was to the back of his head, and concussion of the brain doubtless caused his death,” reported The Lawrence Weekly World.

“The attending physicians are confident that [Serf] died largely from the effects of a previous injury. It is known that in a game at Tarkio, Mo., he was seriously hurt, and from that time he should have been taken off the gridiron.”

Serf apparently played without headgear despite his “similar concussions,” but Baine’s helmet could not have shielded his repetitive trauma, either.

Baine played college football almost a decade for various institutions, often as a mercenary athlete—and with a progressively “primitive temper,” observed historian Tom Benjey. Once Baine was ejected from a game for raging and throwing the football at a referee’s face.

Baine died at 29, while firing a pistol during a drunken binge in his native Fort Sisseton, S.D.; a night watchman shot him to death. “William Baine’s short, but eventful, life ended violently,” wrote Benjey [2008]. “One cannot wonder if his ‘mild concussion of the brain’ had anything to do with his end.”

A football death in 1897 refueled debate over brutality. University of Georgia player Von Gammon died of brain injury sustained in a game, incurring outrage of football critics. The Pittsburgh Daily Post opined:

A conservative medical journal, the Philadelphia “Medical Record,” makes a weighty deliverance against football. The “Record” holds that the game as now played ought not to be allowed, on the grounds that it can no longer be viewed in the light of innocent recreative amusement, with harmless and healthful athletics as its object; but that, even with “slugging” ruled out, it is “productive of the greatest variety of surgical injuries to every part of the body,” and that the effect of such injuries is life-long in a large proportion of cases.

The Georgia legislature hastily passed a bill to ban football, which the governor considered for a month before declining to sign it. The governor said his decision finalized on letter from the dead player’s mother, imploring him to keep football alive for the state.

The next year, a helmet manufacturer released a model that “completely protects the head and ears,” announced a news item. “The crown of it is made of tough sole leather, filled with air holes and lined with soft felt. It is believed that the helmet will be generally worn by members of all the big teams this year.”

But TBI continued on football fields, and coaches and doctors clearly understood the gravity of such injury, if not the biological mechanisms. And “protective” equipment only exacerbated health risks, with adoption of stiff leather helmets and metallic masks, along with hard pads for shoulders, elbows, hips and knees

“It has been charged that these things have been brought into use not so much to provide protection for the wearers as to inflict injury upon opponents, and there is a general cry that there have been more injuries and bruises this fall because of this armor than ever before,” The Fort Wayne Daily News reported in 1900, continuing:

Cameron Forbes and Ben Dibblee, Harvard’s leading coaches, say that a good headpiece gives to a man increased confidence and tends to make him strike an opponent with his head instead of his shoulder in bucking the line.

The Princeton coaches, on the other hand, favor all kinds of helmets and harness. They argue that headpieces are necessary because the injuries to the head are generally of a far more lasting and serious nature than those received in other parts of the body.

As the 1890s brought American football’s first crisis over brutality, the turn of the century would mark “The First Concussion Crisis,” which is title of Emily A. Harrison’s ground-breaking review for American Journal of Public Health in 2014. Harrison researched the article while completing her doctorate degree in science history at Harvard.

“Contrary to popular opinion, concussions are not a recent discovery in football, and this recent upwelling is not the first coming of the concussion crisis in American sports,” Harrison cautioned. “It emerged more than a century ago, in the very first decades of football.”

Matt Chaney is an author, editor, and consultant on public issues in sport, specializing in American football. Chaney, MA in media studies, is a former college football player and coach whose books include Spiral of Denial: Muscle Doping in American Football, self-published in 2009. Chaney’s study for graduate thesis, co-published with the University of Central Missouri in 2001, analyzed print sport-media coverage of anabolic substances in football from 1983-1999. Email him at mattchaney@fourwallspublishing.com or visit the website for more information.

NFL Deaths Reflect Inept Care and Record-Keeping

Since 1960 at least 16 NFL players have died of injury, a game-related condition or a possible link to football, impacted by inadequate medical management. Meanwhile, “public football” stokes a hot Q&A with Irv Muchnick, the iconoclastic sports journalist whose new book chronicles fall of the game as we know it.

By Matt Chaney

Posted Saturday, February 28, 2015

In 1960 America, a football player was not only exposed to lethal injury and illness of the extreme sport. Once a casualty, he was vulnerable to shoddy medical response as well, beginning in professional football.

A worst-case scenario unfolded October 9th in the new American Football League, amid a sweltering Sunday on the Texas seaboard, where the Houston Oilers hosted the New York Titans—the NFL’s Tennessee Titans and New York Jets franchises today, respectively.

Air temperature topped 90 degrees with dense humidity for the 1 p.m. kickoff at Jeppesen Stadium, and early in the game Howard Glenn, an offensive guard for New York, was struggling to stay on his feet.

Teammates thought heat was affecting Glenn in the first quarter, when he complained repeatedly in huddles. Titans offensive tackle Ernie Barnes urged Glenn to stay in the game since coaches wouldn’t allow him to stop and sit. Team trainers would support the coaches, Barnes reminded his buddy, and no doctor made the road trip from New York.

Collisions on the field were viscous, meanwhile. Football’s head-on contact had steadily increased since advent of hard plastic helmets during World War II. Face bars became standard by the mid-1950s, when physics, technology and human will converged to make head bashing commonplace in the game.

In 1960, Howard Glenn donned a double-barred face mask on his helmet. The muscular 6-foot-2, 245-pounder fired low into foes at scrimmage, neck forward and face-first—in the law of modern football—and sometime around halftime at Houston, two opposing linemen smashed Glenn between them.

Clearly injured, Glenn rose unsteadily. No stretcher was available on the Titans sideline so a teammate helped him off the field, but head coach Sammy Baugh ordered Glenn back to the huddle, witnesses later told The Houston Chronicle.

Accounts vary whether Glenn played in the second half, which he basically spent on the sideline. A spectator recalled seeing Glenn wandering near the Titans bench in a daze, unattended.

No one realized Glenn’s neck was broken, with a fractured cervical vertebra just below his brain.

Trainers helped Glenn to the locker room after the game. He undressed and sat nude on a metal folding chair, clutching a towel and quivering in labored breaths. A teammate, Art Powell, yelled at the trainers: “Why in hell don’t you get a doctor to him?”

Glenn deteriorated rapidly. The Associated Press would report he became “belligerent in the clubhouse then hysterical” as he fell from the chair, convulsing.

Two Houston doctors were summoned and Glenn was finally taken to a local hospital at 5:30 p.m., while rest of the New York team headed for the airport.

Within an hour Titans players learned Glenn had died, as their plane sat on a runway, and tackle Ernie Barnes wept in his seat. The two young black men had bonded as friends in Glenn’s short time with the team, especially for art, a mutual love. Now Barnes remembered their final scene together: Glenn stricken on the locker room floor as teammates rushed out from showers, dripping wet.

“The news shook my heart,” Barnes later wrote. “The hurt deepened and all I could see in my mind was Glenn’s body lying in the water on the cement floor. He died a lonely death. It took time and reasoning for me to get over Howard’s death… it enters my mind often.”

Authorities were perplexed for Howard Glenn’s case, initially. According to a Houston team doctor “Glenn wasn’t hurt in the game or… his injuries were not serious enough to be noticed,” reported The AP.

Some Titans officials readily discounted football as a factor, speaking with media that first night, and many observers believed heatstroke caused the fatality, Barnes among them.

But the next day an autopsy revealed Glenn’s neck had crumbled apart in the hours after injury, primarily because Titans staff failed to recognize or diagnose. Harris County medical examiner Dr. Joseph Jachimczyk said “the fracture was very near Glenn’s brain and did happen during Sunday’s game,” reported The AP. “He said death was not instantaneous because the edges of the fractured bone had to cut the spinal cord before death occurred.”

Jachimczyk remarked, “The unusual thing about these cases is not the quickness of death but that the victims even live at all.”

Glenn was buried at Louisville Cemetery in Mississippi, his native Winton County. Besides AFL experience, Glenn played for the New York Giants of the NFL and the Hamilton Tiger Cats in the CFL. Earlier, at Linfield College in Oregon, Glenn starred in football and track and field.

Following the tragedy, Barnes requested his release from Titans brass. “I told them I didn’t want to play on a team like this,” he said. Barnes retired from professional football in 1965 and his career as an artist blossomed; he died in 2009.

Contemporary blogger Bill McCurdy concluded that Glenn in 1960 was “a victim of the times and what can happen to those who play football under the worst of circumstances—or even the best of conditions.”

*******

In American football today, detection and treatment of heartbeat arrhythmias and more cardiac malfunctions in young players remain inadequate, most experts agree. But football was primitive about managing cardiac risk during the Vietnam War era.

The NFL was no exception for lax action despite exploding revenues and expanding resources over TV rights and its merger with the former AFL. No uniform policy for cardiac management existed, basically.

League and franchise officials certainly knew young athletes suffered “heart attack,” in the catch-all term. Medical literature was plentiful by 1970 while sports pages and television reported cardiac incidents from multiple activities, regularly, led by basketball and football. Historically, two NFL players had died after games, Stan Mauldin and Dave Sparks, in the decade following World War II.

Moreover, the Detroit Lions had experienced recent cardiac fatalities off the field. Promising Lions tackle Lucien Reeberg, 21, died in the 1964 offseason [see below] while free-agent line prospect Ed Schreck, 23, was briefly under contract before he succumbed during heart surgery in 1968.

Yet the Detroit franchise stood unprepared for a third event, in 1971, and this time on national television. Chuck Hughes, 28, a 6-foot, 180-pound wide receiver for the Lions, was naturally gifted to catch a football. But a genetic heart defect stopped the blonde Texan on Oct. 24, apparently triggered by physical exertion.

Nearing end of the Sunday NFL telecast, Chicago at Detroit, Hughes dropped face-down after a pass pattern, “twitching uncontrollably,” a witness said, as a crowed of 54,419 “silently watched.”

Television viewers were horrified. “They turned the TV cameras on him [Hughes] for us until the spirit left him,” Barnard Collier would write for Esquire magazine, “and then they turned away.”

Time was precious for Hughes but Lions doctors had to be waved onto the field, by Bears linebacker Dick Butkus, because of a silly league rule. Then they could only roll Hughes over, pound his chest and deliver mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, unsure about his distress. An off-duty anesthesiologist charged out of the stands, like he could help.

While the Lions had prepared meticulously for playing the Bears, down to practicing Sudden change! for a turnover, no medical procedure was in place for sudden cardiac collapse of a player.

The impromptu treatment of Hughes was crude, futile, pathetic. Apparently there was no electronic defibrillator machine, state-of-art treatment for cardiac victims, on the premises at Tiger Stadium.

The football player was dying, his wife Sharon realized from the stands, and she began screaming. “After what seemed forever, Hughes was placed on a stretcher,” spectator Richard Bak later recalled.

An ambulance came onto the field and Sharon Hughes was summoned from the stands for ride to the hospital. But with everyone loaded, ambulance drivers groped for the misplaced ignition key. At this point Sharon figured it was too late for her husband.

“She stared at what the doctors were doing and she watched as Chuck’s ear turned slowly black and blue,” Collier recounted for Esquire. “Now she knew that Chuck was beyond reviving. After that, time slowed so much that hurrying did not matter. She kept thinking about their marriage and how much Chuck was in love with football.”

At the hospital, defibrillator shocks were administered but no heartbeat restored. Machines kept Hughes alive until he was pronounced dead at 4:41 p.m., an hour after the Lions game ended.

Team doctors still couldn’t pinpoint cause of death, whether it occurred at the heart or brain. “I’ve never seen anything like it in professional football,” said Dr. Edwin Guise, Lions physician.

Franchise owner William Clay Ford expressed bafflement. “I’m horrified and shocked. He [Hughes] was a great player and a great person,” Ford said.

An autopsy confirmed hardened arteries caused the coronary malfunction in Hughes, who had family history of heart disease.

In fact, Hughes had been tested for heart trouble months before his death, by cardio specialists at Henry Ford Hospital. Hughes was hospitalized again for chest pains in the preseason, after being crushed by tacklers in an exhibition game, but tests were negative and he returned to the football field.

Sharon Hughes, widowed with a toddler son, ultimately won a settlement of undisclosed amount from Ford Hospital. Her lawsuit against the facility and unnamed doctors alleged a heart problem had been detected but “they willfully and wantonly” failed to inform Chuck.

“The defendants well knew that Hughes was a professional athlete and as such was required to engage in strenuous physical activity not advisable for one who had suffered heart damage,” the complaint stated.

Sharon Hughes also won a $43,250 claim for workman’s compensation. Insurance representatives of the Lions, bound to indemnify the franchise for court losses and costs, had argued the death of her husband was unrelated to football.

*******

From 1960 to 2010, at least 16 active or contracted NFL players died of a) football injuries, b) game-related conditions or c) possible link to the sport.

The annotated cases below are deaths of those players in the NFL and former AFL, collected in my ongoing review of news reports on casualties in football history. The incidents are harvested largely through electronic search of news databases.

I make no medical claim of the information and little for its scientific value. This qualifies as raw data, news content, comprising case leads in need of expert follow-up by multi-disciplinary specialists of medicine and science, particularly for establishing or dismissing a football link in the majority of incidents.

No qualified epidemiological team has ever been assembled and funded to reliably assess fatality rates of vast American football—none—despite a purported entity at the University of North Carolina, the so-called National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research,  funded by the American Football Coaches Association, the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the National Federation of State High School Associations, and the National Athletic Trainers’ Association.

The NCCSIR has no facility of street address on campus. Officials have declined to answer my email queries since 2011.

Presently, 8 of 16 NFL cases below are omitted from “total” football statistics self-published by the sports academics representing UNC in Chapel Hill. None of the cases involves cancer, drug overdose or suicide. Likely some omitted cases can be verified as game-related, still, by credible researchers. Others probably cannot be accurately assessed for a football link, either way.

Deaths of NFL and AFL players in the last 55 years include the following cases available in news reports:

1960: Howard Glenn, 26, a 6-foot-2, 245-pound offensive guard for the New York Titans, of the AFL, died on Oct. 9 of a broken neck sustained in a game with the Houston Oilers. [See story above.]

1960: Ralph Anderson, 24, a 6-4, 225-pound wide receiver for the San Diego Chargers, was a rising star in pro football and subject of a “tampering” lawsuit against his AFL team by the Chicago franchise of the NFL. But the talented athlete was diabetic, challenged to stay in the lineup, and in early November he missed a Chargers game. Anderson came back with big performances but was stricken again as he lay down on Friday night, Nov. 25. Anderson was found dead the next morning, and an autopsy ruled diabetic seizure as the cause. The athlete was survived by a 3-year-old daughter, and when the Chargers later played in the AFL championship game, the team voted that Anderson’s share of player proceeds be presented to his girl. Head coach Sid Gillman also gave his share to the child. Sources: Associated Press and United Press International.

*The death of Ralph Anderson was either missed or deemed unrelated to football by game-funded reviewers. His case is not included in 1960 football fatality data posted without scientific vetting on a website from UNC-Chapel Hill.

1961: John Sherer, 20, a 6-3, 240-pound defensive tackle on the inactive list of the New York Titans, had foregone college football at the University of Miami after being drafted by the AFL. Sherer was a schoolboy legend in his native Pennsylvania, where he led a team of prep all-stars to victory over a squad of standouts from other states. Sherer barely missed making 1961 Titans roster, cut on the last day in training camp, so he played semipro football in hopes of getting a call from New York during the season. But on Sept. 26 Sherer collapsed and died following a gym workout in Philadelphia, of a reported heart malfunction. Sources: New Castle News and Associated Press.

1963: Stone Johnson, 23, a 6-1, 180-pound running back for the Kansas City Chiefs, AFL, was touted as one of the fastest men in pro football. Johnson had been a sprinter for the U.S. Olympic team in Rome and a football player for Grambling College. He left college football after being drafted by the AFL, but he suffered a broken neck as a Chiefs rookie, trying to tackle in an exhibition game against the Houston Oilers on Aug. 31. Emergency surgery stabilized fracture of the C5 vertebra and Johnson was placed in traction, but the spinal-cord nerve bundle was damaged and he died on Sept. 8. Some in football alluded to individual fault for the tragedy. Game officials were touting “head up technique,” their new theory for headless hitting, and the Football Coaches Association’s anointed death researcher chimed in, Floyd R. Eastwood. As a PE professor who went by “Dr. Eastwood” with the press, this college teacher held only a PhD in education, far short of a medical or science doctorate and follow-up certifications. Nevertheless, Eastwood routinely promoted untested concepts for casualty prevention in football—parroted widely by sportswriters—that placed responsibility primarily on individuals, not the system. Following Johnson’s death in 1963, Eastwood said “degree of skill” could dictate mortality of a football player, without mentioning the field physics of forward colliding in shatterproof headgear and pads. “Most injuries are sustained while blocking or tackling and if more players were trained properly in these respects, fatalities would take a sharp decline,” Eastwood declared. Sources: Associated Press and United Press International.

1964: Lucien Reeberg Jr., 21, a 6-4, 300-plus offensive tackle for the Detroit Lions, NFL, was a rising star publicized as the “baby-faced giant” of pro football. But Reeberg was unhealthy, ballooning as high as 317 pounds. Hospitalized in Detroit, Reeberg died of cardiac arrest caused by chronic kidney disease on Jan. 31, 1964. Reportedly the Lions had wanted Reeberg evaluated for weight loss when he mentioned blood in his urine to a nurse. Team physician Dr. Richard Thompson said, “The disease [uremia] will crop up one day and not the next, and as a result of this, the young people tend to ignore the disease.” Reeberg, a native of Bronx, N.Y., had played college football for Hampton Institute, which he left after being drafted by the NFL. In 2011, blogger Bill Dow interviewed Reeberg’s old roommate, former Lions linebacker Ernie Clark. “Lucien was Christmas morning,” said Clark. “I think about him all the time, and after he passed away my heart really wasn’t into football and I’ve never been the same.” Sources: Jet magazine, Blog.DetroitAthletic.com, Newspaper Enterprise Association, Associated Press and United Press International.

*The death of Lucien Reeberg was either missed or deemed unrelated to football by game-funded academics. His case is not included in 1964 football fatality data posted without scientific vetting on a website from UNC-Chapel Hill.

1965: Mack Lee Hill, 25, a 5-11, 235-pound running back for the Kansas City Chiefs, averaged 5.2 yards a carry over two seasons in the AFL. Nicknamed “The Truck,” Hill suffered torn knee ligaments in a game and underwent surgery on Dec. 14. Complications developed, spiking Hill’s temperature to 108 degrees and causing respiratory distress and convulsions. Hill died on the operating table of a pulmonary embolism, blood clotting blocking lung circulation, attending doctors told the AP. But differing expert opinion followed, regarding a football link or none, as in hundreds of player deaths since the 1960s. The Kansas City Star reported that an autopsy by hospital pathologist Dr. O. Dale Smith involved “interesting speculation” to blame a rare form of heatstroke unrelated to football. Smith noted further research was needed, but he concluded “that the very strength of young Hill, especially his powerful musculature, contributed to his vulnerability to a temperature crisis in his body” during anesthetic and surgical stress, The Star reported. Football-funded analysts like Eastwood, however, apparently classified the Hill case as game-related of “indirect” cause.

1969: Frank Buncom Jr., 29, a 6-2, 235-pound linebacker for the Cincinnati Bengals, was a three-time all-star in the AFL and looking forward to the new season. Then blood clotting lodged in his lung arteries early on Sept. 14, Sunday morning of the opening game. Buncom’s gasping rousted his roommate in the team hotel, but the athlete died before medical help arrived. The linebacker and his wife Sarah had an infant son, Frank Buncom III, and an education trust fund for the child was established by players of the Bengals and the San Diego Chargers, Buncom’s former team. Decades later, 2015, the late AFL star’s grandson, Frank Buncom IV, committed to play college football for Stanford University. Sources: UTSanDiego.com, Associated Press and United Press International.

1971: Charles “Chuck” Hughes, 28, a 6-foot, 180-pound wide receiver for the Detroit Lions, died of a coronary attack suffered during a game against the Chicago Bears on Oct. 24. [See account above.]

1979: James Victor “J.V.” Cain, 28, a 6-4, 225-pound tight end for the St. Louis Cardinals, was “a perfect physical specimen” who passed a preseason physical “in great shape,” reported The Associated Press. But Cain collapsed in humid 85-degree weather the night of July 22, after running a pass pattern without contact at training camp in St. Charles, Mo. Team doctors and trainers administered cardiopulmonary resuscitation to Cain, working without a defibrillator machine. “When [75 players] saw that CPR was started, it just got dead silent,” said Cards spokesman Steve Curran. “At one point, Coach [Bud] Wilkinson had the players on a line in prayer. They kept yelling, ‘Come on, J.V., come on, J.V.’ There were tears. It was very emotional.” Cain, a 6-year team veteran, was pronounced dead at a local hospital 90 minutes after he was stricken on the football field. A pathologist concluded the cause of death was cardiac arrest from an “extremely rare congenital condition” known as myocardial fibrosis. Sources: Associated Press, United Press International and Washington Post.

*The death of J.V. Cain was either missed or deemed unrelated to football by game-funded academics. His case is not included in 1979 football fatality data posted without scientific vetting on a website from UNC-Chapel Hill.

1980: Melvin Johnson Jr., 25, a 6-foot, 175-pound running back for the Kansas City Chiefs was an undrafted prospect the team had a penchant for signing and developing, like Mack Lee Hill before. Unfortunately, Johnson ended up mindful of the Hill tragedy [above] when he too died during routine surgery in Kansas City, in his case for a wrist fracture of football. Surgeon Dr. James Whitaker said cardiac arrest caused the death. Johnson had ranked among the nation’s fastest teenagers during high school in Louisiana, and he played college football for the University of Colorado. The Chiefs signed Johnson as a free agent in 1979 but he spent the season on the disabled list, never appearing in an NFL game. “We had very high hopes for him,” said Chiefs spokesman Doug Kelly. “He had good ability and a great deal of speed. We thought his chances of making the team [in 1980] were very good.” The deceased athlete’s younger brother, Troy Johnson, later played four seasons in the NFL. Sources: United Press International, Salina Journal, Thibodaux Daily Comet and HoumaToday.com.

*The death of Melvin Johnson Jr. was either missed or deemed unrelated to football by game-funded academics. His case is not included in 1980 football fatality data posted without scientific vetting on a website from UNC-Chapel Hill.

1983: Larry Gordon, 28, a 6-4, 230-pound linebacker for the Miami Dolphins, was a highly regarded player who helped lead his teams to playoff victories and a Super Bowl, flashing brilliance throughout his seven-year career. Dolphins coach Don Shula still expected greatness from Gordon, his former No.1 draft pick from Arizona State gifted in athleticism and physique. On June 25, amid desert heat at 6 p.m., Gordon was jogging in preparation for upcoming NFL training camp when he collapsed near a relative’s home in Arizona, said police. Gordon, a Florida resident married with two children, was pronounced dead at a Phoenix hospital. An autopsy by medical examiner Dr. Heinz Karnitschnig identified the cause as congenital heart disease, idiopathic cardiomyopathy. “His coronary artery was in perfect shape. He didn’t have a heart attack,” said Bob Edwards, of the Maricopa County morgue. Toxicology exams found no drugs in the body; specifically, no cocaine was detected in a gall bladder sample. In 1986, as cocaine toxicity killed athletes in the NCAA and NFL, the question arose publicly regarding Gordon’s case. His brother Ira Gordon, a Phoenix drug counselor and former NFL player, told The Arizona Republic that evidence of cocaine use was found in a bedroom that Larry occupied at time of his death. Ira said he had personally requested the autopsy and toxicology assays that tested negative for narcotics. Sources: Arizona Republic, Miami Herald, Associated Press and United Press International.

*The death of Larry Gordon was either missed or deemed unrelated to football by game-funded reviewers. His case is not included in 1983 football fatality data posted without scientific vetting on a website from UNC-Chapel Hill.

1998: Leon Bender, 22, a 6-5, 300-pound draft pick at defensive tackle for the Oakland Raiders, suffered fatal mishap at his agent’s home in Atlanta on May 30, following team mini camp. An epileptic, Bender died on a bathroom floor at some point before a scheduled workout. Autopsy results were inconclusive while toxicology results were negative for drugs and alcohol. Bender had talked on the phone to family members until 3 a.m., including his wife Liza, before being discovered dead about noon. Bender’s epilepsy wasn’t lethal in itself, and a single episode couldn’t be detected postmortem—neither could some forms of cardiac malfunction. What was known, a grand mal epileptic had no body control in a seizure, which Bender’s family members believed he experienced in the bathroom then suffocated for his landing position and obstructions. Leon and Liza Bender had a 2-year-old daughter at time of his passing. Source: Associated Press.

*The death of Leon Bender was either missed or deemed unrelated to football by game-funded academics. His case is not included in 1998 football fatality data posted without scientific vetting on a website from UNC-Chapel Hill.

2001: Korey Stringer, 27, a 6-4, 335-pound offensive tackle for the Minnesota Vikings, reported to training camp as an All-Pro from the previous season. Oppressive heat enveloped most of the country as the Vikings opened workouts on Aug. 1 in Mankato, Minn. Several players struggled through drills and Stringer faltered and vomited, having to sit out. Next morning, Stringer was back on the field in full pads until collapsing amid 98-degree temperature and stifling humidity. By the time Stringer was transported to a hospital he was comatose with a body temperature of 108 degrees. Organs began failing, including both kidneys, until finally the heartbeat stopped, unable to be revived. Stringer was pronounced dead about 2 a.m. on Aug. 3, and public debate erupted. Vikings coaches met with media while Stringer’s teammates were kept off-limits for interviews. Head coach Dennis Green suggested the players preferred public silence. “It’s a private thing and they deserve their privacy,” said Green, who snapped at a reporter for questioning whether team medical personnel should be available. “We chose not to,” Green replied. “I’m not going to discuss that… so you can step back.” Offensive line coach Mike Tice said a newspaper photo spurred the tragedy, not decisions of the coaching staff, by shaming Stringer when camp opened, picturing him doubled over at the sideline, looking weak. So the prideful Stringer came back the next day “out to prove to people that he was a leader and that he wasn’t going to let anybody embarrass him like that,” Tice said. “It’s very unfortunate that he worked himself to death.” Elsewhere, football’s anointed death researcher, exercise professor Fred Mueller at UNC, withheld blame of Vikings staff when pressed on CNN by news anchor Carol Lin. “I just heard about this… I don’t really know any of the details,” said Mueller, demurring as the so-called expert who’d agreed to discuss the case on international television. Despite heavy evidence of heatstroke and negligence on part of the football system, “Dr. Mueller”—funded by football organs, with his PhD in education—speculated about the individual, Stringer, saying “there’s a possibility it could be attributed to some other health problems.” But Mueller would have to include this highly publicized death in his next “study” from Chapel Hill. Postmortem investigation including autopsy left no question that heatstroke killed Stringer, driven by lack of policy and prevention on part of the Vikings and NFL. Heat illness plagued every football level, contributing to deaths of an arena player, college player and a high-school player the same week as Stringer, and critics assailed the sport. Football officials had promised since 1960 to eliminate heat illness that experts declared was completely preventable—but practices and games had only come to start earlier in hot weather, over decades, and necessary measures weren’t standardized such as sideline ice bath in a kiddie pool. In August 2011, Kelci Stringer settled her final lawsuit against parties found culpable of her husband’s death, including the NFL and helmet maker Riddell. That same summer at least seven high-school football players and one coach collapsed and died from July 22nd to September 1st.  Lawsuits followed, targeting schools and personnel for wrongful death of football heatstroke—a decade after Korey Stringer in the NFL. Sources: St. Paul Pioneer Press, New York Post, Associated Press, CNN, CBS News, ESPN.Go.com., Carlisle Sentinel, Reading Eagle, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, WSVN-TV, Miami Herald, Florence Morning News, Rivals.Yahoo.com, KDAF-TV, WTEV-TV, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, WSB-TV, WXIA-TV, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, KLRT-TV, KRIV-TV, ABC News and Dallas Morning News.

2005: Thomas Herrion, 23, a 6-3, 315-pound offensive lineman for the San Francisco 49ers, collapsed and died on Aug. 20 following a night exhibition game amid cool weather at Denver. An autopsy determined ischemic heart disease caused the death, blockage of a coronary artery. Greg Aiello, NFL spokesman, said Herrion “may be a case of an unfortunate hereditary condition that is not easily detected, even by the regular and thorough cardiac screening used by NFL clubs.” Herrion was clinically obese by criteria of the Body Mass Index, like a horde of NFL athletes, and controversy flared again over his death. So league officials changed their story regarding the plethora of 300-pound players, upwards of 500 behemoths in training camps every year, compared to less than 10 on record prior to 1970.  Earlier in 2005, year of PED hearings in Washington, NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue and cohorts told Congress the herd of mammoths wasn’t because of widespread doping, drugs like anabolic steroids and synthetic growth hormone, but for a modern wave of “fat” athletes. They told politicians like senators John McCain and Henry Waxman that drug abuse producing artificial specimens in the NFL was an epidemic of the past resolved by “steroid testing.” Pot-bellied players had taken over, said league and union officials. But their excuse flip-flopped months later, when media criticized obesity in the league that impacted health of Herrion, as chronicled in my book, Spiral of Denial: Muscle Doping in American Football: “Now officials contended the NFL primarily featured muscled specimens with low body fat, so the league could argue BMI standards were an invalid application for its athletes. League medical liaison Dr. Elliot Pellman said the question of obesity among players still had to be answered by research. The league was commissioning its own studies. ‘There’s a 1-in-200,000 chance that an individual the age of Mr. Herrion will suffer a sudden death,’ Pellman said. ‘It happens, and no one knows why it happens.’ Pellman said obesity was a cultural problem, not football’s. Officials dismissed a study, based on the BMI, that concluded virtually all NFL players were overweight or obese. Bears nutritionist Julie Burns said NFL players were abnormally muscular humans. Taglibue said, ‘We have athletes that are fitter than most people in society, bigger than most people in society, and doing things that are different and more demanding than many people in society.’ PEDs, meanwhile, did not apply. ‘Huh?’ remarked Sam Donnellon, the Philadelphia Daily News, on mixed messages from the league.” Additional sources: Contra Costa Times, Associated Press, NBC News and CBS News.

2007: Damien Nash, 24, a 5-10, 220-pound running back for the Denver Broncos, knew well about cardiac disease. Nash’s close older brother, Darris, 25, had a heart transplant for dilated cardiomyopathy, discovered for his cardiac episode while playing basketball. So Damien, training during the offseason at home in St. Louis, hosted a local fundraiser for the Darris Nash Find A Heart Foundation. Damien played a portion of the charity basketball game featuring his NFL and college friends then greeted people in the crowd. Festivities moved to Nash’s home in Ferguson, Mo., but he suddenly collapsed. Damien Nash was pronounced dead at a hospital, and initial autopsy results were inconclusive. Family members suspected a cardiac problem, but cardiomyopathy like his brother’s normally wasn’t genetic, said doctors. Such damage likely would have emerged already in Damien, for his life and job in elite athletics. And he passed several heart screens by NFL teams that his agent trusted as thorough. Damien did not drink nor use drugs, said family members, and toxicology results came back negative. Cause of death remained “undetermined” in the final report, issued by the St. Louis County Medical Examiner’s Office. “It was a natural death of cardiac origin,” said a spokesman, “but we were unable to determine an exact origin.” Nash and his wife, Judy, had a 7-month-old daughter at time of his death. Sources: Associated Press, Denver Post and NPR.org.

*The death of Damien Nash was either missed or deemed unrelated to football by game-funded academics. His case is not included in 2007 football fatality data posted without scientific vetting on a website from UNC-Chapel Hill.

2010: Gaines Adams, 26, a 6-5, 258-pound defensive end for the Chicago Bears, was an athletic specimen who had been drafted No.1, fourth overall in his college class, by Tampa Bay. Traded to Chicago midway through the 2009 season with 13.5 career sacks, Adams wore the label of “bust” but kept potential intact, like a 4.55-second speed in the 40, with no serious injuries or apparent heath issues. But weeks following season’s end, on Sunday morning, Jan. 17, 2010, Adams collapsed at home in Greenwood, S.C., and was pronounced dead at a local hospital. Autopsy found that cardiac arrest of an enlarged heart killed the athlete, who had no such family history. Relatives and friends were shocked. “I am honored to have been able to know [Gaines Adams] and to have been his teammate,” said Bucs center Jeff Faine. “A truly bright soul.” Sources: Sarasota Herald Tribune, St. Petersburg Times, Associated Press and ESPN.com.

*The death of Gaines Adams was either missed or deemed unrelated to football by game-funded academics. His case is not included in 2010 football fatality data posted without scientific vetting on a website from UNC-Chapel Hill.

*******

Football’s on-field tragedies of Howard Glenn, in 1960 at Houston, and Chuck Hughes, 1971 at Detroit, framed the period’s dangerously inferior medical planning and response for players of all ages.

During the Vietnam War era, America’s sparse emergency-care system led to more football deaths than any other factor, according to my review of severe casualties appearing in news. I’ve collected thousands of fatality and survivor cases, including about 350 player deaths from the 1960s and about 275 from the 1970s.

The subsequent reduction of football fatalities isn’t measurable in close terms, much less absolute numbers, say independent experts. Undoubtedly, however, the trend is due primarily to society’s widespread establishment of EMT crews, modular ambulances, life flights, emergency rooms and trauma surgery.

Within the game, the NFL has improved its own medical management—but not to the point of effecting “safer football” like officials claim today.

“Anyone with two eyes on a Sunday afternoon [in season] can see that’s not so,” said Irv Muchnick, the investigative journalist and independent blogger with cunning for exposing dark underbellies of sport-entertainment conglomerates.

Muchnick thoroughly dissects football ugliness, amid contemporary crisis for the game over brain injuries. He focuses on ill-resourced outback levels below the NFL, particularly the public schools and municipal “youth” leagues with millions of juveniles colliding in helmets and pads. Many American kids play tackle football on public property before they enter first grade, while they cannot legally drive a car until age 16 nor buy cigarettes until an adult.

Change looms, as Irv Muchnick chronicles in his new book, Concussion Inc.: The End of Football As We Know It, published by ECW Press of Canada. In an email Q&A for ChaneysBlog, Muchnick addresses football problems and more, notably his current co-investigation, with independent journalist Tim Joyce, of sexual assault in U.S. Swimming:

Q1. Discuss your new book, the circumstances drawing you into the football issues by 2010.

Basically, it went like this: In late 2009 my book on the Chris Benoit murder-suicide came out. The book immediately got inserted into the 2010 U.S. Senate race in Connecticut between Democrat Richard Blumental and Republican Linda McMahon. Blumenthal is a liar who claimed military service “in Vietnam,” when in fact he had a cushy stateside Reserves stint during Vietnam. McMahon is the wife of Vince McMahon and the former CEO of WWE. She poured $50 million of their wealth from this publicly traded company into the failed race against Blumental, and $50 million more into another failed Senate race two years later, against Chris Murphy. Such sterling choices in our democracy!

Alerted by the fine early work on football by Alan Schwarz in The New York Times, and aware that I had a unique perspective on and reportorial resources for the concussion crisis story, I waded in, and by late 2010 I had “rebranded” my blog, naming it Concussion Inc. I answered only to a crazy boss: me.

Benoit had been the first CTE study announced in 2007 by Chris Nowinski’s Sports Legacy Institute and Center for the Study of CTE in Boston. (The Benoit study was done by Bennet Omalu — now coming to the silver screen, but back then being written out of the story not just by the NFL but also by Schwarz, Nowinski, and Cantu, the Northeast Gold Dust Trio.) Chris Benoit’s father and now my good friend, Mike Benoit, had insisted throughout my research for Chris & Nancy that I was underplaying brain disease and overplaying drugs and other generic explanations for his family’s tragedy, and I came to see how right he was.

From there, all the connections flowed—principally Dr. Joe Maroon of UPMC … and WWE, and the NFL, and anti-aging huckerism, and the goofy hype for resveratrol supplements, and his proximity (at minimum) to the steroid/HGH abuse on the multiple-champion Steelers.

There was no major publisher market for the book I was writing, so like the late Red Smith, I undertook my “daily spelling lesson” at what I jokingly call ConcussionInc.net LLP. The topics and the obsessions were spontaneous responses to the news of 2010-11-12. My main narrative interest was in exposing the interlocking ecosystem of problems and commercial “solutions.” I hope that readers come away convinced that safe tackling, better helmets, better mousetraps are the filtered cigarettes of the 21st century. I credit a little-known fellow native Missouri writer by the name of Chaney with a game-changing insight on how state “concussion awareness” laws are not just bullshit, but jiu-jitsu bullshit— magically creating new private profit centers from the public trough, principally our public high schools.

Along the way, I jousted a couple of times with Bob Costas, an acquaintance-friend from the St. Louis sports mafia. The book collects and reorganizes all this material the way books are supposed to do: to put the author over.

In all seriousness, there’s some stuff there that I’m very proud of. No other journalist has gone deep with the story of Dave Duerson’s role on NFL-NFLPA disability benefits board. No one else has called out the Congress of Neurological Surgeons for giving Roger Goodell a standing ovation before his lame speech at their convention. No one else documented how the Centers for Disease Control accepted unprecedented private funding from the NFL for the federal government’s “concussion education campaign,” or how the National Institutes of Health helped Maroon and his cronies develop their phony, for-profit ImPACT program to the tune of millions in research subsidies.

Q2. What is “public football”?

There is an answer, perhaps not as flip as it sounds, that all of football is truly “public” football—up through and including the NFL, a phony nonprofit that gets municipal subsidies for stadiums (plus other things). Since this situation will probably get worse before it gets better, as the industry has both the federal National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control in its pocket, I expect that within a few years the Super Bowl will be coordinated with the Presidents’ Weekend national holiday: the regular season and playoff schedule will have expanded yet again, so that fans don’t have to go to work the Monday after the game.

The thrust of what we mean by public football, however, is taxpayer-funded programs at the professional sport’s feeder levels. I say go ahead and allow all the fools who want their sons to play club and private school football. But let’s get our public school systems out of it. “Death of football” ideology is wishful thinking, but with new levels of “awareness” of traumatic brain injury—and with the failed prevention costs and litigation flowing from that awareness—the goal of stamping out public football in this targeted way is achievable.

Q3. Furthering this point, you’ve been characterized as bent on banning football. But isn’t that a simplistic view of, or strategic response to, your argument in the debate?

I’m not out to ban football. Prohibition of just about anything is too blunt an instrument. It’s not fair to the zealous and it doesn’t work.

But adult statecraft involves more than simply rambling about personal choice. I find it amusing that many of those who accuse people with my viewpoint of “having an agenda” are blind to their own as they grasp at commercial rearguard initiatives, such as helmet technology, more “professional” coaching of kids, or tail-chasing Zackery Lystedt state laws. We don’t ban boxing, but it has a somewhat saner footprint on our culture than it used to have. We don’t ban tobacco, but cigarette marketing is curtailed and kids are protected.

Last rejoinder to this straw-man argument: I refuse to play the game of having to prove my bona fides before I can join the football debate. Put your guns down and let’s talk about football as an activity, not as a religion. I’m not an expert—thank God. But it’s better to have common sense than no sense at all.

Q4. Compare the “blogosphere” with traditional daily news media, when it comes to reporting and analyzing public issues in sport.

Let’s stipulate that new media and mainstream media types are simply blaring their bugles from different formations of the same march against human folly. I know that, minus the filter of an editor, I’ve shown my own ass plenty of times. It doesn’t matter if the public learns the truth about football from me or The New York Times or Professor Hieronymus Buttocks. And if Schwarz hadn’t started doing what he was doing in 2007, you and I are not even having this conversation today.

But did Schwarz and The Times take anything close to the number of shots downfield they should have? Give me a break. When Schwarz wrote about his buddy Chris Nowinski getting a $1 million NFL grant, the story all but giggled like a schoolgirl. After Bennet Omalu fell out with Bob Cantu, Schwarz basically blacked the former out of coverage, while quoting the latter in the venture-capital hype for Xenith, a space-age helmet company. In his account of the fed investigation of Riddell’s promotional claims, Schwarz treated the lying Joe Maroon with kid gloves. Schwarz’s takeout disclaimer on the death of the Cincinnati Bengals’ Chris Henry was cringeworthy; The Times quoted NFL’s latest consulting face, Dr. Richard Ellenbogen, to the effect that sometimes bad behavior is just bad behavior, and Schwarz reminded readers that nice white quarterbacks, like Steve Young and Troy Aikman, who also had sustained concussions, were not “on C block.”

Eventually Schwarz became associate producer of a documentary funded by the billionaire developer of the King-Devick Concussion Test.

I don’t want anyone to think I’m picking on Schwarz. Jim Litke, the national sports columnist for the Associated Press, has done some great stuff on how Roger Goodell co-opted Mommy sports bloggers with cornball clinics on “safe tackling.” But AP analysis of how state Lystedt Laws “lack bite”—thank you very much—are just playing “gotcha.” Nowhere do I see a single passage about how these laws were designed, in the first place, to offload football industry liability onto the public sector.

In an age of rampant advertorial, you’re daft if you don’t acknowledge that bloggers, social media, what have you, can be a useful check and balance.

Q5. Discuss your co-investigative series with Tim Joyce on sexual predator coaches and athletes in U.S. Swimming.

Swimming is the right next book in several respects. Because it’s a niche sport, Tim and I have more of the field to ourselves (though outlets like ESPN, of course, which for the most part ignore the story, do manage to “big foot” us from time to time).

Just as a large segment of our boy population is getting systematically brained in football, disturbing numbers of girls are getting raped at all rungs of our Olympic sports system. As with concussions, we are less interested in being designated cops than in following the money. The profiteers of so-called amateur sports and the nonprofits of “Child Abuse Inc.” play defense much faster than the public realizes or perhaps cares.

But to get down to business: 400,000 kids, 12,000 coaches — you don’t need an advanced degree in statistical analysis in order to extrapolate from the scores of known and under-reported cases; to factor in the forms of denial and cover-up; and to conclude that this is, bar none, the largest-scale molestation narrative outside the Catholic Church. It makes Penn State look like a garden party by comparison.

The hardest part to explain is that every institution has its own sick dynamic. In swimming, it’s not willy-nilly opportunistic pedophiles. Rather, there is a unique power imbalance. Most often it’s a 30-something male coach and an early or mid-teens star girl swimmer, who is emerging from the physical and emotional changes of puberty, and is desperate for adult approval, college scholarship, Olympic glory. Parents are asleep at the switch; they are totally invested until something bad happens to their own kid.

The rippling societal costs, in terms of life-long cases of eating disorders, substance abuse, and broken relationships and families, are incalculable. Yet all we see above ground is NBC’s feel-good patriotic package for a fortnight every leap year summer.

With the Rio Games upcoming, Tim and I are going deep with the story of Brazilian national Alex Pussieldi, who is the Rowdy Gaines of swimming coverage on the country’s SporTV network. Two years ago Pussieldi fled South Florida, where he had gotten his start in American coaching under the recently deceased Hall of Famer Jack Nelson, whom Diana Nyad credibly accuses of molesting her for years at the Pine Crest School in Fort Lauderdale. In the course of reviewing thousands upon thousands of pages of discovery documents USA Swimming tried to suppress, Tim and I told the full story of the cover-up by that organization as well as local police, city government, and the Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, of Pussieldi’s 2004 physical assault and Peeping Tom practices against a Mexican boy who was swimming and being boarded by him. Pussieldi was a major creep and international human trafficker, and his rise to prominence was aided by former USA Swimming president and conflicts-crazed consultant Dale Neuburger, who steers contracts with foreign national teams to coaches like Michael Phelps’ guy, Bob Bowman. Neuburger also was an architect of swimming’s scam offshore insurance subsidiary, the “United States Sports Insurance Co.” in Barbados. ESPN’s Outside the Lines still won’t tell its viewers, but all this is under investigation by the FBI and the Government Accountability Office.

Q6. The U.S. Swimming scandal is monumental with much yet to uncover and untold victims in need of light. So it doesn’t sound like you’re returning to football analysis anytime soon, not in your former diligence that produced the new book.

That is correct. The football follies are now out there for all to see and interpret. Geez, our friend Bennet Omalu is about to be portrayed by Will Smith. I’ll continue to comment on a connection or two as we move along–and of course I reserve the right to change my mind–but the focus of my energy is swimming and Rio ’16.

Q7. For what may be called the “genuine iconoclast” writer in sports issues, it appears there’s often little competition on reporting a problem, however terrible, because few media are willing to probe and pay the price to do so. Correct?

Yeah, no doubt I’m a little bit nuts, and I don’t have the excuse of having played football. Maybe I should have gone straight and gotten a real job, but it’s way too late for that. My name is on a Supreme Court case involving writers’ rights in new media, and Concussion Inc. is my third book, and I’m proud of those things. They’re not rewarding financially, but they’re rewarding.

Matt Chaney is a writer, editor, teacher and restaurant cook in Missouri, USA. Chaney’s 2001 MA thesis at the University of Central Missouri involved electronic search for thousands of news reports on performance-enhancing drugs in American football, a project inspired by his experience of injecting testosterone as a college player in 1982 (Southeast Missouri State). Email him at mattchaney@fourwallspublishing.com. For more information, including about Chaney’s 2009 book Spiral of Denial: Muscle Doping in American Football, visit the homepage at www.fourwallspublishing.com.

Football Officials Alerted to Brain Damage, Concussion—80 Years Ago

Contemporary experts of law and medicine in sport discuss an historical news period, 1928 to 1933, when football officials learned of brain risk to players, understood research questions—and even devised a sideline concussion test

By Matt Chaney

Posted Saturday, January 31, 2015

During football season in 1928, late October, American sports pages headlined ominous findings of fledgling research on brain damage in boxers:

“’Punch Drunk’ May Apply in Other Sports”

“American Medical Association Publishes Article Raising Question”

The accompanying news report quoted Dr. Harrison S. Martland, of Orange, N.J., whose newly published case studies of deceased boxers revealed a “punch drunk” syndrome to become known as “chronic traumatic brain injury.”

Utilizing microscopic pathology, Martland had identified diseased brain cells of boxers “due to single or repeated blows on the head or jaw,” he said, warning that likely all athletes of contact sport were at risk.

Research avenues were obvious and urgent for football leaders and officials of more activities in America.

“The condition can no longer be ignored by the medical profession or the public,” Martland said, long ago—and wowing experts today.

“Dr. Martland’s observation was spot-on,” said Bob Fitzsimmons, legendary sports attorney, during an email exchange this week. “Unfortunately it took over 80 years to follow his advice, even though the problem was right before us all the time.”

“If only the stakeholders in football would have heeded Dr. Martland’s warnings in 1928…,” said Paul D. Anderson, sports-injury lawyer and professor, “the science of football-related brain injuries would have been exponentially advanced and numerous lives could have been protected.”

“Instead, the stakeholders and guardians of football were willfully blind.”

Here is full text of the 1928 Associated Press report published in Sports sections nationwide:

NEW YORK, Oct. 20 (AP)–The “punch drunk” condition of boxers has stepped into the medical field for determination whether others than boxers get it.

The American Medical Association has issued in its Journal an appeal by Harrison S. Martland, M.D., of Newark, N.J., to find out the nature and extent of this state, which he says fight fans describe as “punch drunk, cuckoo, goofy, cutting paper dolls or slug nutty.”

The symptoms in slight cases are a “very slight flopping of one foot or leg in walking, noticeable only at intervals, or a slight unsteadiness in gain or uncertainty in equilibrium.” In severe cases “there may develop a peculiar tilting of the head, a marked dragging of one or both legs, a staggering, propulsive gait.” Finally, marked mental deterioration may set in.

“I am of the opinion that in punch drunk there is a very definite brain injury, due to single or repeated blows on the head or jaw. I realize that this theory, while alluring, is quite insusceptible of proof at the present time.”

Dr. Martland suggests that if punch drunk exists in the form he suspects [then] it afflicts others than boxers and that establishment of the facts is important to courts and labor compensation boards in handling head injury cases. He foresees disadvantages in the field which may be opened for “so-called expert testimony” and says:

“While most of the evidence supporting the existence of this condition is based at this time on the observations of fight fans, promoters and sporting writers, the fact that nearly one-half of the fighters who have stayed in the game long enough develop this condition, either in a mild form or a severe and progressive form, which often necessitates commitment to an asylum, warrants this report. The condition can no longer be ignored by the medical profession or the public.”

The Martland story is a “great” artifact, said Fitzsimmons, who represented family members of Mike Webster, the deceased, brain-damaged NFL lineman at center of landmark court action a decade ago. The Webster estate won $2 million in retroactive disability payments from the league and players union, setting legal precedent for claimants of brain injury from football.

Harrison S. Martland paved the evidential path. The pioneer sport neuro-pathologist, longtime medical examiner of Essex County, N.J., was also known for identifying disease states in workers of radium processing. Martland compiled boxing case studies until his death in 1954, and authorities of football like Fitzsimmons feel indebted.

“Much still needs to be done but I am encouraged by the numerous doctors and scientists who are now studying and researching CTE,” Fitzsimmons said. “Advances are being made and hopefully treatment is not far off.”

Two modern pathologists are prominent for their postmortem series on football players, beginning with former Pittsburgh ME Dr. Bennet Omalu, a friend and colleague of Fitzsimmons who’s now a county medical examiner in California and subject of a feature film in production.

Following Webster’s death at age 50 in 2002, Omalu delivered the groundbreaking micro-autopsies identifying chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, in brain tissue of the Steelers icon and more deceased NFL players.

At Boston University, Dr. Ann McKee has found brain disease in 78 of 82 NFL players analyzed postmortem, damage of impacts including hallmark tauopathy. “We have known about CTE since the 1920s, when it was first associated with boxing,” McKee said, speaking recently in Texas.

“CTE results in memory loss, mood swings, change of behavior, and sometimes suicide.”

Dr. Lester Mayers, a New York physiatrist and author of journal reviews, is versed in the literature lineage of brain trauma in athletes dating to boxing’s earliest. “Dr. Martland cautiously pointed out that evidence of [the boxing] affliction was anecdotal at that time,” Mayers stated this week in email.

“Since then, many studies of professional and amateur boxers utilizing a variety of [research] techniques have found that greater than 50 percent suffer substantial brain damage and disability. The significance of these findings is that the extent of brain damage correlated best with the number of non-concussive impacts experienced by the fighters over their careers.”

“There seems to be an obvious parallel with the current experience unfolding in football.”

Mayers knows the football maw close range, as former medical director for athletics at Pace University, where he treated casualties of all games. Mayers doesn’t see much if any wiggle room for football and its inherent violence, regarding improvement for so-called safety.

“Anyone who watches football games at any level from the sidelines, junior through professional, will observe the constant occurrence of head impacts intrinsic to the game—500 to 1,000 per season according to Helmet Impact Technology,” Mayers observed.

“I believe that when the extent of resulting brain injury and disability is better documented in future studies that football participation will decline substantially, placing the future of the game at risk.”

Some researchers, typically funded by football interests, say more studies are needed to draw conclusions about collision risk for the brain. They note longitudinal studies have yet to be performed on living players—without adding that football organizers have avoided exactly that research since Martland’s call 87 years ago.

Central New York clinical psychologist Dr. Don Brady, PhD, PsyD, NCSP, researches sport concussion and provides consultation for NFL retirees, their families, and other athletes. Brady has studied the literature of sport-related concussion for three decades, devouring Martland but taking his review deeper, back to 19th century research. Dr. Brady rebukes the notion that accumulating discovery isn’t documenting football danger.

Information such as the 1928 Martland news “serves to further thwart attempts by concussion revisionists and manufacturers of doubt to ignore, deny, minimize and sanitize the existence of adverse medical history accounts…,” Brady stated in email, “that pertain to brain injury or concussion in sports and other life aspects.”

“Concussion history literature of the 1800s and early 1900s is rich with documentation on the adverse effects of both sport and non-sport-related concussion.”

Attorney Paul Anderson concurred, discussing historical information in context of present-day lawsuits by thousands of former NFL players and families.

“Dr. Martland’s [1928] statement is another bullet in the plaintiffs’ chamber when they seek to prove the NFL knew or should have known about the long-term, devastating effects of repeated blows to the head,” Anderson, representing family of late college player Derek Sheely in an NCAA lawsuit, wrote for ChaneysBlog.

For more regarding what football organizers have known about brain trauma, and when, see below the annotated timeline of news articles from 1982 to 2001, first posted at ChaneysBlog in 2012.

*******

Public fallout for Dr. Martland in 1928 emanated primarily from boxing circles.  “His brains are scrambled from taking them on the chin,” cracked a dim pugilist, unwittingly affirming Martland theory [and, no, the doctor wasn’t a boxer].

Martland won more support than opposition for his conclusions about chronic TBI in boxers. A powerful opinion leader in Martland’s camp was Dr. Morris Fishbein, widely known official of the AMA, for his four decades in spotlight as editor of Journal of the American Medical Association.

Fishbein endorsed the boxing research in this installment of his syndicated newspaper column, “Daily Health Talk”:

Punches in Prize Ring Often Injure Brain

By Dr. Morris Fishbein

Pugilists know the condition that results from a terrific pounding in the prize ring in which the recipient of the mauling suddenly finds himself unable to move his legs, dizzy, or as it is commonly expressed, “out on his feet.”

Dr. Harrison S. Martland recently read before the Pathologic society of New York a discussion of the condition called “punch drunk,” which the fighters themselves all characterize by the terms “cuckoo,” “goofy,” “cutting paper dolls,” or “slug nutty.”

He points out that the condition usually affects fighters of the slugging type who are usually poor boxers and who take considerable head punishment, seeking only to return a knockout blow.

It usually takes the fighter one or two hours to recover from a severe blow on the head or jaw. If he has been “punch drunk,” he may notice later a flopping of one foot or leg in walking, and sometimes mental confusion lasting several days.

Dr. Martland is convinced that the condition called “punch drunk” results from a definite brain injury due to a single or repeated blows on the head or jaw which cause multiple small hemorrhages in the deeper parts of the brain.

In the late stages, therefore, the disease resembles the condition known as shaking palsy or Parkinson’s disease.

He has presented microscopic studies of the brains of persons who have developed this condition, showing the pathologic changes which occurred in the brain, and which substantiate his point of view.

Furthermore, he presents the names of 23 fighters who have been “punch drunk,” and their present condition indicates the permanence of the physical changes.

The AMA and JAMA already stood opposed to boxing at outset of the Depression Era, and membership immediately adopted Martland studies for accruing argument.

AMA ethical policy then and now essentially outlines Hippocratic creed of Do no harm, or When in doubt, protect the patient. To recommend avoidance of pugilism, especially for children, amounted to simple rationale for America’s leading medical body.

But AMA and JAMA simultaneously supported dangerous football, curiously or hypocritically [see news timeline below for the dichotomy in recent decades].

Fishbein himself publicized perhaps the first sideline concussion test, apparently referencing a 1933 NCAA publication detailing the protocol, Medical Handbook for Schools and Colleges: Prevention and Care of Athletic Injuries.

Fishbein addressed traumatic brain injury in football and symptoms to watch for, reporting the following in newspapers:

Most serious of all [football] injuries are those affecting the brain and the skull. A concussion of the brain means that the brain tissue actually has been bruised, with possible small hemorrhages in the tissue.

The first sign of such injury is loss of memory for recent events. The least important sign is a slight dizziness. But coaches and trainers should not, however, be unimpressed when a player comes out of a sudden impact with another player merely slightly dizzy or dazed.

The first thing to do in any such accident is to put the player immediately at rest, to determine extent of the injury. When a player has had a head injury, he should be put into a reclining position, questioned as to the headache and dizziness and given the test as to his memory for recent events.

If he cannot remember the names of his opponents, which side is on the offensive, the score, the day of the week, or similar matters, it is not safe to permit him to play again. If, however, he merely is dizzy, he should be permitted to stand and move about, to determine whether he has lost his sense of balance.

Any sign of a loss of sense of balance is serious, and the player should be removed from the contest.

Fishbein was channeling the NCAA publication, undoubtedly.

Kansas City attorney Paul D. Anderson has studied the 1933 NCAA document. And he keeps seeing perfect fits of additional information, then and now, like the historic news items about Martland, the AMA, and brutal sports.

“The doctors [from 1928 to 1933] clearly identify a causal link between football-related head blows and punch-drunk syndrome,” Anderson surmised.

*******

A 2007 episode of Friday Night Lights on NBC centered on a lawsuit against a high-school football coach, for failure to instill “proper tackling” in a player who ended up paralyzed by a helmet hit. This TV show was based on fact, not fiction.

Heads Up, football coaches and wives, because you’re legally liable for the theory of “head up” or headless hitting by players, the alleged “technique” and accompanying rules proven inapplicable and unenforceable since at least 1976.

Yes, coaches are legally responsible for ensuring that headless hitting is applied in tackle football, which is, lest anyone forgets, a forward-colliding frenzy that pits large, helmeted combatants to ram each other. No one can actually teach and instill Heads Up nonsense, of course, revived by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and league offspring USA Football.

Nevertheless, coaches of all levels are integral to the show of “proper technique.” The vast majority serve public lip service, promoting Heads Up for every gullible news reporter, of the legion.

Meanwhile, the unfortunate few coaches—and their families—become legal shields for King Football, as targets for lawsuits. Individual  homeowner’s insurance becomes exposed for paying potential settlement or damage award, among liabilities.

Since 1971, coaches, colleges, schools, youth leagues, local government and helmet makers have been sued over “head up” or “proper contact”—and with no backing of the prime purveyors like Goodell, who quickly acknowledge lacking scientific proof for Heads Up when pressed.

Lawsuit plaintiffs—from whom Goodell effectively insulates—are player casualties of football’s predictable severe injuries, calamities occurring much more frequently than reported by game-funded “studies” posted on a website from University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

Contemporary plaintiffs include a former NAIA college player, Nathaniel Seth Irvin, whose lawsuit alleges he suffers concussion damage “as a result of bad coaching and improper helmet use” during the 1980s, reports The Chicago Tribune.

In California, the mother of a quadriplegic former Pop Warner player is suing coaches, their wives, and youth-league organizations. Crystal Dixon alleges in the court complaint that her son, Donnovan Hill, was paralyzed in Pop Warner football for “a negligent tackling technique he was taught and instructed to use by his coaches.” Hill was 13 when paralyzed during a game in 2011.

Defense attorneys replied: “To encourage aggressive play in football is simply to encourage participants to play the game as it should be played.”

Such lawsuits could also target football players and referees.

I played and coached in college football 30 years ago, when the so-called anti-butting rule of the NCAA and national high schools—supposedly banning the striking of a helmet facemask for initial contact—was already a joke.

And we coaches at Southeast Missouri State didn’t have to specifically instruct players to ram. We only lined them up to play the dumb game, which inherently dictates head-on collision between opposing players, clashing from opposite directions. This is a very simple matter of modern football covering law–ramming–because of natural physics and shatterproof head armor.

The idea of chest-bumping and “shoulder leverage” in football with modern helmets isn’t only impossible. It is quackery for the public presentation today. And every football official above low-informed knows it, especially coaches who played.

Yet cultural authorities like the American Medical Association have espoused “head up” versions first devised by a coaches association in 1961, then pumped by AMA press releases in 1967—despite medical literature’s lacking a peer-reviewed article on the concept, still, much less one credible researcher to sign his or her name.

No Heads Up theorist claims responsibility yet, not academically, scientifically or legally.

That should say everything for anyone.

*******

This year’s Super Bowl City serves as ‘Cautionary Tale’ for subsidizing sports and more questionable entertainment ventures.

Read past the hype or rhetoric about being an “NFL City,” and Glendale, Ariz., is almost bankrupt for building stadiums and hosting events like the Super Bowl. And monetary shocks spread further, affecting greater Phoenix and taxpayers across the state.

“To fiscal conservatives, Glendale serves as a cautionary tale for suburban cities across the United States that want to throw public money at professional sports projects,” note Associated Press writers Josh Hoffner and Jaques Billeaud, for this week’s must-read analysis.

“Overall, it’s a bad move for cities,” said Kurt Altman, attorney for the Goldwater Institute. “As much as they say it’s going to make the city a destination, it just doesn’t.”

A mathematical reality confronts any region for public giveaways to the NFL and other sports like the NHL (the garage league utterly underwritten by American taxpayers):

There can be no public payoff unless a sport franchise imports new consumers and industry from out of state. But that never happens.

The glittering civic toys of subsidized stadiums and entertainment districts merely steal in-state customers from local businesses, those paying full taxation and operating without government aid.

Even a region’s temporary injection of Super Bowl fans, corporate sponsors and major media produces negligible return for public coffers—or just more red ink.

In Glendale, the tax-paying citizenry will lose millions this week over the Super Bowl, says Jerry Weiers, the mayor tasked with sorting out a sports mess left by predecessors in city government.

The municipality is dropping “huge amounts of money on overtime and police and public safety costs associated with hosting the Super Bowl but getting very little in return,” report Hoffner and Billeaud.

Elsewhere, Missouri, does Gov. Jay Nixon get it about public subsidy for the NFL?

Jay Nixon proposes dropping a half-billion dollars in state resources on yet another football stadium in St. Louis—only 20 years after taxpayers opened a new dome for the Rams, a project still carrying millions in debt.

Does the Missouri governor need help, or logic, to ascertain necessary and priority need for appropriating public assets?

Supplement: News Timeline on Brain Trauma in Boxing, The NFL and NCAA

Articles from 1982 to 2001

By Matt Chaney, 2012

1982, Dec. 4:  “Dangerous Games That People Play,” by Ira Berkow, New York Times. News commentary discusses risk and injury of hazardous sports and activities in the United States, citing a report of the American Medical Association [AMA]. Berkow notes, with boxing under renewed threat of elimination in America, that brain injuries are well-known in football too, comparing the gridiron’s “almost casual list of the maimed… those [players] suffering the routine concussions, neck injuries and assorted broken segments of the anatomy.” Berkow writes: “There are more deaths occurring in college football and in motorcycle racing and in sky-sailing than in boxing. Relatively few [authorities], it seems, have vigorously propounded abolishing any other sport besides boxing since 1905…”

1983, Jan. 14:  “Physicians’ Journal Calls For a Ban on Boxing,” by John Noble Wilford, New York Times. News analysis discusses JAMA editorials urging ban of boxing in America, CAT-scan studies of living boxers revealing “brain damage,” and response of boxing officials, including their proposals to reduce risks. “Editorials in today’s issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association urged the banning of boxing in light of new evidence suggesting that chronic brain damage was prevalent among fighters,” Wilford writes. In Britain, a study of living boxers, professional and amateur, determines chronic brain damage is “most predictable” for a career in the ring.

1983, Feb. 15:  “The Ring Commission Hearings,” by Jim Lehrer, Monica Hoose, and Peggy Robinson. MacNeil/Lehrer Report [transcript]. PBS Television show addresses congressional hearings on boxing in Washington, with replays of day’s lawmaker questions and witness testimonies on Capitol Hill. Discussion includes boxing deaths and more notorious beatings of the 1970s-80s, arguments on potential ban or government regulation of a continued sport, so-called safer boxing conducted as “a science,” and an AMA doctor’s pointing to tackle football in America for producing severe head injuries as well. “I think a similar kind of injury occurs in any contact sport,” says Dr. Russell H. Patterson, Jr., neurosurgeon and AMA official. “Football is a good example, and we’ve seen some serious head in juries in football. … The blow is the same whether it’s in boxing or in football. It’s just in boxing it’s small, repetitive blows but maybe spread over many years and almost daily in its occurrence.” Robert Lee, U.S. Boxing Commission president, says, “The past year, 1982, has been filled with controversy with all too many people calling for a ban on boxing. Yet how many of these same people call for a ban on high-injury sports such as skiing, football, hang-gliding, auto racing, scuba diving or mountain climbing?”

1983, June 12:  “Boxing and The Brain,” by David Noonan, New York Times. News analysis discusses the following: boxing hearings and debate; medical literature since 1928 and physiology of brain injury; child fighters such as a 13-year-old who died of brain injury; concepts of safer boxing like “body punching”; noticeable speech difficulties of boxing great Muhammad Ali, age 41; and Dr. Ira R. Casson, a Long Island neurologist conducting a study series on boxers who would later work for the NFL. The known permanent brain damage of boxing includes “a clinically diagnosed condition called dementia pugilistica, also knows as chronic encephalopathy of boxers and best known as punch-drunk syndrome,” Noonan writes. “As the information about chronic encephalopathy in boxers has accumulated over the years, several distinct clinical symptoms and their apparent pathological causes have been identified.” Casson—who someday would lead NFL studies on brain injury—views radiological imaging of Ali’s brain, for Sports Illustrated, and says, “That’s the kind of CAT scan that I’ve seen in a number of former and long-term boxers.”

1983, June 20:  “Doctors Debate What To Do About ‘The Sweet Science,’ ” by Brenda C. Coleman, The Associated Press. News report discusses AMA proposal to eliminate publicly funded boxing, convention debate over the proposal, a new study that finds repeated blows causes brain damage in boxers, and similar research on college football players. “Any sport whose objective is to injure another human being is an abomination,” says internist Dr. William F. Dowda. “There’s absolutely no moral justification for a sport that condones a brain concussion.” Differing viewpoints were heard on convention floor, including from Dr. Russell H. Patterson, Jr., AMA official and chairman of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons [AAN], who says research shows brain damage is “not a problem” among amateur boxers. “Patterson also pointed to a study of 11 Eastern colleges that showed the incidence of accumulated head injury in football was at least as high as in boxing,” Coleman reports.

1983, June 23:  “AMA Delegates: Ban Amateur Boxing,” no byline, Washington Post. News report discusses debate over the formal AMA call to eliminate boxing in municipal leagues, schools, colleges and more government entities such as the military, along with establishing federal regulation of professional boxing. “The AMA’s action comes at a time of increased interest in boxing regulation following the death last November of South Korean fighter Duk Koo Kim of head injuries…,” The Post reports. “I think their [AMA delegates’] position is unreasonable,” says Sig Rogich, chairman of the Nevada State Boxing Commission. “I think if they’re going to categorize risk factors in boxing as a professional sport, then they should use the same philosophy with other sports.”

1984, May 7:  “Concussion Routine in Other Sports; Boxing Safety Praised,” by James Christie, Toronto Globe and Mail. Commentary discusses the following: growing outrage over boxing, led by doctors who want downsizing or bans in America, Canada and Britain; Canadian measures for “reasonably safe” boxing, including sidelining knocked-out fighters for 30 to 60 days; and need for concussion protocol in other sports, particularly tackle football. “This is one of the biggest problems we’ve had at the university level,” says Dr. Bruce Stewart, neurologist and medical director of the Ontario Athletics Commission. “People get knocked out routinely in football, get revived and could be back in for the next series of plays. What this does is demonstrate to me that in boxing we’re being properly cautious about the welfare of our athletes.”

1986, Nov. 7:  “Johns Hopkins Begins Boxing Study,” no byline, The Associated Press. News report discusses pending research, a four-year study of amateur boxers and football players in select cities, for assessing brain damage among control groups and evaluating neuropsychological [NP] testing for possible method of early detection. “A 14-member research team will travel to three or four cities in the South, Southwest and Eastern seaboard to locate boxers, football players and youths in the same age group as the athletes who do not play contact sports and can serve as controls in the study,” The AP reports. “Col. Don Hull, the president of the USA Amateur Boxing Federation, said information gathered from the study will be important to all amateur sports.” Dr. Walter Stewart, epidemiologist at The Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, says, “We are going to collect data and let the chips fall where they may.”

1986, Nov. 10:  “The Agony Must End,” by Paul Zimmerman, Sports Illustrated. News analysis discusses NFL injuries that “continue at an unacceptable rate,” including “fractures, concussions and bruises that play havoc with America’s No. 1 sport.” While some football-funded researchers claim a safer tackle game at hand, designed to reduce head and spinal injuries in particular, the armored, high-speed violence of pro football—collisions administered and absorbed, impacts head to toe, and other physical stresses that discombobulate—is unprecedented danger for the SI writer Zimmerman, a former college player and game historian, and Miami Dolphins head coach Don Shula. “Some of the collisions I’ve seen are really severe,” Shula says. “I’ve been happy for quite a while to be on the sidelines.” Zimmerman has interviewed numerous muscle dopers in the NFL and NCAA, and blames anabolic steroids and other powerful prescription drugs, like pain-killing shots and pills, for bloodshed in the modern game. “The result is higher-speed collisions by larger people, a ferocity of hitting never before seen in football or any other sport,” Zimmerman writes.

1987, Feb. 26:  “Boxing Doctor Says Peril Exaggerated; Other Sports Said Riskier as Brain Study Launched,” by Al Sokol, Toronto Star. News analysis discusses the following: boxing controversy as medical associations recommend  downsizing or banning the sport; measures for less risky or safer amateur boxing; danger of tackle football, and a Johns Hopkins longitudinal study on young boxers that includes American football players as a control group. “The stand against boxing taken by both the AMA and the Canadian Medical Association comes partly from the intuitive sense that getting hit in the head by a punch is not healthy and partly from a growing body of scientific evidence,” Sokol writes. Dr. George Ginter, a Kentucky anesthesiologist and pro boxer, says, “I totally disagree with the American Medical Association’s stand regarding the neurological damage resulting from boxing. College and pro football rank higher than boxing in terms of causing long-term disabilities.” But Boston neurosurgeon Dr. Robert Cantu supported the AMA perspective, as vocal opponent of boxing and staunch football advocate himself, promoting ideas and rhetoric of “safer” tackle football in America—and destined to someday lead an NFL-funded research team verifying brain damage in deceased football players, teens and older. Commenting on boxing in 1987, Cantu dismisses touted measures of “safer” pugilism. “A doctor at ringside is like a priest at a hanging,” Cantu says. “Neither improves the safety of the event.”

1989, March 9:  “Boxing Causing Dozens of Military Hospitalizations Yearly, Study Finds,” by Brenda C. Coleman, The Associated Press. News report discusses debate over injuries in Army boxing and research, which finds head injuries responsible for 68 percent of hospitalizations in the military sport. “Evidence that boxing produces irreversible brain damage is now as indisputable as the link between cigarette smoking and lung cancer,” the researchers state. Navy boxing coach Emerson Smith disagrees, as chairman of a safety committee overseeing amateur fighting. “Since they have mandated gloves and headgear that we did research on for all boxing programs in the United States, the injury statistics are far, far less than probably all your contact sports,” Smith said. “In football, you have the kids that are paralyzed, the kids that die. I don’t believe there’s any high school or college… where you have contact sports where you’ll eliminate all serious injury.”

1989, March 10:  “Boxing Safety Studies Disagree,” by Steve Woodward, USA Today. News report discusses conflicting outcomes in studies on brain risks of young boxers, with results of research commissioned by the U.S. Amateur Boxing Federation portraying the sport in “safer terms” than the Johns Hopkins study, published by JAMA. Boxing advocates questioned the number of brain injuries cited in the JAMA article, suggesting it too high and wondering if many study subjects were unfit to box in the first place. Johns Hopkins researcher Dr. Walter Stewart responds thusly: “Clearly I would say that some people should not be boxing, just as some should not be playing football.”

1990, May 22:  “Head-High Tackles: How Long Can Footy Have Them?” no byline, London Herald. News analysis discusses Britain’s boxing controversy and increasing concern for brain injuries across contact sports, particularly rugby or Australian Rules football, where some clubs already employed “baseline” NP testing. “Boxing people, when confronted with the claim that their sport is unreasonably dangerous, inevitably point the finger straight at [rugby] football as a sport more likely to give an athlete brain damage,” The Herald states. Rugby officials rebuke the allegations, noting their safety measures and declaring relative few concussions occur. An anonymous neurosurgeon, identified as a former rugby player, says high hits were the single threat and could be outlawed by new rules. “The real problem in Australian Rules is not the normal game; it’s the excessive violence and shirtfronts. As long as everyone does things sensibly and the king-hits are kept out of football, the risks are minor.”

1991, Jan. 19:  “Jabs Cause The Brain Damage,” no byline, South Australian Advertiser. Aussie news commentary discusses the following: boxing as gladiatorial sport in western civilization, violence as public spectacle or popular culture; apparent Parkinson’s symptoms in Muhammad Ali; crystallizing medical consensus that repetitive, sub-concussive blows cause long-term cognitive impairment; and injury comparisons, boxing and other activities such as American football. “The controversy over boxing is fueled more by emotional and moral questions than by any overwhelming death toll,” the Advertiser piece opines. “Even though more than 300 professional boxers have died in the past 20 years, a recent American survey put its fatality rate at .13 boxers per 1,000 participants—compared with .3 for college football [players], 1.1 for scuba divers, 5.1 for mountaineers, 5.6 for hang gliders, 12.3 for sky divers, and 12.6 for horse racing [jockeys]. The recorded [boxing] injury rate also is low. In the United States a two-year study of 6,000 amateur boxing bouts revealed an injury rate of 1.43 percent, compared to a rate of 4.75 percent for professional boxing and 46 percent for high school football, a figure which would probably translate quite comfortably to Australian Rules or rugby in Australia.”

1992, December 7:  “Toon Out,” by Albert Kim, Sports Illustrated. News report discusses sudden retirement of NFL receiver Al Toon and his “postconcussion syndrome,” other cases of severe brain injuries in pro football, and ever-increasing awareness within the sport of potential long-term dysfunction for casualties. “Although there is no evidence to show that concussions [in football] can lead to permanent brain damage, most medical experts believes that repeated blows to the head can have dire consequences,” Kim reports. Richard Weiss, team doctor for the Buffalo Bills, says, “Think about boxing. Suffering a large number of concussions over a period of years more than likely leaves some permanent residue.” The “normally articulate and quick-witted” Toon, as Kim describes, is subdued, groggy and suffering memory loss a few weeks following his ninth diagnosed concussion in eight NFL seasons. “There are some inherent dangers in playing football…,” Toon says. “But when you get something like this [concussion syndrome], you’ve got to take it more seriously. You’ve got to think past just, Can I play on Sunday?”

1994, Jan. 28:  “Neurologist Discusses Concussions on The Gridiron,” by Noah Adams, All Things Considered[transcript]. National Public Radio show discusses growing attention to concussions football as Super Bowl nears, including public speculation of long-term brain damage to players, with interview of Dr. Peter Tsairis, team neurologist for the New York Giants. “Are there retired players who… have permanent damage because they had too many concussions?” Adam poses to Tsairis, concluding the show. “I don’t know how many of these players go on to develop dementia,” replies the Giants doctor, “which is a term that we use where there’s permanent structural change on a molecular level to the—to the brain that they cannot remember certain things, when they lose their memory. And you see this a lot in boxers who’ve gone on after their years in boxing and developed dementia problems. We don’t have that much experience with football players who’ve had multiple concussions. I don’t know of any article that’s been written on the subject. I know it’s been done with boxers, but not with football players.”

1994, Jan. 28: “That’s Enough for Buffalo Linebacker Cornelius Bennett,” no byline, Agence France Presse. International news report discusses injuries for Super Bowl teams, including Dallas quarterback Troy Aikman’s widely publicized memory loss of a concussion sustained during the previous week’s NFC title game. The report states: “When told a boxing trainer would suggest six weeks of rest after a concussion, Aikman said, ‘Did you tell him I have a Super Bowl to win? I’m not given the luxury of waiting til then.’ ” Jim Kelly, Bills quarterback, admits “second thoughts” about his brain injuries, especially given the decades of publicized concussions to NFL quarterbacks. “I’ve had six or eight of them and it’s a scary, scary feeling,” Kelly says. “You don’t know where you are at. The emptiness in your mind, let alone your gut, comes when you wake up trying to figure out why everybody is staring at you. It makes you wonder, ‘Is the game worth it?’ But it is.”

1994, Oct. 29:  “Illinois Firm Gives Aikman New Protection,” by Lorraine Kee, St. Louis Post-Dispatch. News commentary discusses star names who’ve suffered concussions in NFL, past and present—including Toon, Merrill Hoge, Roger Staubach, Harry Carson, Joe Montana, Aikman—and a doctor’s linking football to boxing for brain trauma and damage. “Of course, concussions aren’t news to these guys [NFL players],” Kee writes. Aikman says, “You have to be somewhat concerned by concussions, but it’s something you just have to deal with. I don’t want it to get out of hand. I want to live a normal life after pro football.” Dr. Kenneth R. Smith, neurosurgeon at St. Louis University Hospital, says, “It’s kind of like boxing injuries; if you get knocked out a lot of times, your brain will eventually have some diseased process going on. Usually, when the natural nerve cells die, they do not recover.” The specialist adds that multiple impacts to head and spine “could produce a permanent injury and a whole series of these could lead to a possible degeneration later on in life.”

1994, Nov. 1:  “Not Just Boxers [Who] Can’t Answer The Bell,” by Stephen Brunt, Toronto Globe and Mail. Canadian news commentary identifies hypocrisy in supporters of tackle football, including American neurologists, who condemn boxing for brain damage while claiming to see little or none in their nationalistic collision sport. “Professional boxing exists on the verge of extinction…,” Brunt writes. “What is thriving, though, is the greatest sports-entertainment complex in the world, the game that owns Sunday afternoons, NFL football. … What’s the difference between that and being knocked out in a boxing match?” Brunt notes lengthy layoff for concussed athletes in boxing, unlike football, where “after a quick whiff of smelling salts” the injured return to contact, then the writer poses: “Does a 300-pound lineman making full, head-to-head contact have as much brain-jarring impact as a perfectly timed blow delivered with a gloved fist? You’d have to think so. Does the football helmet offer sufficient protection? Obviously not sufficient to prevent players from routinely having their bell run… And when that same helmet becomes the top of a projectile hurtling through space, it also contributes to the damage done.” Football supporters criticized boxing for intent to injure, implying sanctity of their sport, but “watch [NFL lineman] Bruce Smith bearing down on [quarterback] Joe Montana,” Brunt intones, “and then try to convince anyone that his purpose is anything other than doing as much damage as possible. Just as in boxing, there is a direct reward for disabling a foe…” In conclusion, Brunt heckles American medicine and science for obvious see-no-evil perspective regarding NFL dangers: “So where is the AMA now, why isn’t professional football being cast as the last refuge of barbarianism, the way boxing is? Probably because football is not a fringe activity run by the Don Kings of the world, but a mainstream colossus. Probably because football is so tied to corporate and academic institutions and is run by bright, white lawyers. … Probably because the same people who would be doing the condemning have a brother or father or son who has at some level been involved in the game. In other words, probably because of divisions of taste, and class, and money—not [violent] content.”

1994, Nov. 5:  “Staff Is Ready for Severe Hits: Impact of Concussions Isn’t Lost on Vikings Doctors,” by Curt Brown,Minneapolis Star Tribune. News report discusses concussion awareness in an NFL franchise, including for symptoms like headache, blurred vision and memory loss, knowledge expanding among medical staff, coaches and players of an NFL team in 1994—tumultuous year of publicized brain-injury cases for the league, especially of star quarterbacks flattened on television. “If I could give players any advice, I’d say don’t ignore the signs,” says Hoge, a year after retiring for multiple concussions, such as the re-bleed or “second impact” brain injury that rendered him comatose, hospitalized in ICU. A concussion “can c