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October 03. 2012 9:19PM

Dover tackles retired doctor's idea to ban football due to brain injuries

DOVER — A retired physician who played as a tight end during his high school and college days believes the district should bench the football program due to the dangers of brain trauma.

About five months ago, School Board Member Paul Butler, 68, who worked as a surgeon for more than three decades, wrote district officials that “football was a dangerous game and we should consider abandoning it.”

Butler said officials flatly disagreed. After doing more research into the cumulative damage of traumatic brain injuries, Butler said he brought up his concerns again at Monday night’s meeting.

“I think this stirred up a hornet’s nest,” Butler said.

On Wednesday, School Board Chairman Rocky D’Andrea said officials have no plans to cut any sports program. D’Andrea said he’s heard from numerous parents who have said the district would be “crazy to cut football.”

He also said he has issues comparing Dover to the National Football League, or singling out one sport.

“You’d have to talk about all sports,” D’Andrea said, noting that more concussions occur during soccer than football, but injuries can happen in any sport, including swimming.

D’Andrea said the district feels student safety is paramount.

“Dover’s one of the strictest (districts) with sports injuries,” D’Andrea said, adding the School Board would not make a decision without studying the matter further.

Athletic Director Peter Wotton said Butler’s concerns caught sports officials off-guard.

“This kind of hit us upside the head,” Wotton said.

He said Butler cited incidents in the National Football League in which professional athletes were allowed to play while injured. Wotton said Dover has a long list of steps injured players must follow before they are allowed to return to the field. He stressed this is especially true with concussions and brain injuries.

But Wotton said there is no way to prevent all injuries.

“Injuries in sports — it’s going to happen,” Wotton said. “There’s a tradition which will never end.”

Butler said Wednesday that after hearing from residents, he is willing to entertain flag football as an acceptable compromise.

In addition to football, Dover offers baseball, basketball, cheering, cross country, field hockey, gymnastics, ice hockey, lacrosse, soccer, softball, tennis, track & field and swimming.

Butler said football is the only one he would prevent young athletes from playing.

“None of those sports — other than football or boxing — intentionally inflict damage to the head,” Butler said.

jquinn@newstote.com


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