Category Archives: Brain Injury History in Football

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

Copyright ©2016 by Matthew L. Chaney

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

The historical texts and notes on football issues previously posted here in timeline were publicly available only for a term. The collections are now in reserve by the researcher for future use. The following remain posted:

Chaney, M. (2016, Dec. 21). ‘Safe Football Failed in 1880s, Talking Points Lived On. ChaneysBlog.com

Chaney, M. (2015, July 28). The 1890s: Brain risks confirmed in American football. ChaneysBlog.com.

Chaney, M. (2016, Jan. 30). 1900-1912: ‘First Concussion Crisis’ for beloved football. ChaneysBlog.com.

Chaney, M. (2016, May 11). ‘Heads Up’ theory, football helmets and brain disease, 1883-1962. ChaneysBlog.com.

Chaney, M. (2016, May 31). Teddy Roosevelt loved football, except when it brutalized his son. Sports.Vice.com.

Chaney, M. (2016, Nov. 29, 2016). “Slaughter of the innocents”: When D.C. considered banning high school football. Sports.Vice.com.

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

Copyright ©2016 for historical arrangement by Matthew L. Chaney

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

Copyright ©2016 by Matthew L. Chaney

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.