When the 1905 football season ended, nineteen players were dead and countless others were critically injured. The public was outraged. The game had reached a make-or-break moment—fourth down and inches. Coaches, players, fans, and even the president of the United States had one last chance: change football or leave the field.
Football's defenders managed to move the chains. Rule changes and reforms after 1905 saved the game and cleared the way for it to become America's most popular sport. But they didn't fix everything.
Today, football faces a new injury crisis as dire as 1905's. With increased awareness about brain injury, reported concussions are on the rise among football players. But experts fear concussions may only be the tip of the iceberg. The injuries are almost invisible, but the stakes couldn't be higher: the brains of millions of young football players across the country.
Award-winning author Carla Killough McClafferty takes readers on a bone-crunching journey from football's origins to the latest research on concussion and traumatic brain injuries in the sport. Fourth Down and Inches features exclusive photography and interviews with scientists, players, and the families of athletes who have literally given everything to the game.
It's fourth and inches. Can football save itself again?
McClafferty (The Many Faces of George Washington) sounds a dire warning about the dangers of playing football, especially at the youth level. As the first four of the book's 16 chapters point out, controversy surrounding football is as old as the sport itself: "As the number of football-related injuries and deaths grew during the 1905 season, even Roosevelt wondered if this would ultimately lead to the death of the game." The author, who readers later learn lost her toddler son to successive head injuries, presents story after poignant story of high school and professional players who suffered brain damage or worse. Among their profiles are details of research studies, photos of MRI images and damaged brain tissue, and explanations of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and second-impact syndrome. The book builds a damning case against playing high-risk-of-concussion sports, though the narrative doesn't preach: "This is not now and will not ever be a simple issue," writes McClafferty in closing. This thoroughly researched and of-the-moment work concludes with appendices that include concussion symptoms and return-to-play guidelines. Ages 11 18.