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Fourth Down and Inches: Concussions and Football's Make-or-Break Moment

Fourth Down and Inches: Concussions and Football's Make-or-Break Moment

by Carla Killough McClafferty

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


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?

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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. (Sept.)�
Children's Literature - Jean Boreen
This excellent and timely text on injuries in football should be a game-changer for some readers as they contemplate the very serious repercussions of the types of traumatic brain injuries prevalent in the sport. Beginning with a history of football injuries, the author takes us through the reactions to the dangers inherent in football from the death of Von Gammon in 1897 while playing football, to current understandings of brain injuries brought about by playing contact sports. I knew that players had died while playing football but before reading this book, did not know that an average of 20 young men a year died playing college football through the 1910's. The author spends more of the book looking and talking with contemporary football players—both amateur and professional—and their families who have been impacted by their loved ones brain injuries/deaths. She also reports on medical studies that have provided doctors and football with important information on ways to better protect players; that said, there is no way to deter brain damage as long as football involves one person hitting another. The concluding sections of the text provide symptoms of concussion and an extensive bibliography for those who would like to learn more about this topic. This is a must buy for any school library. Reviewer: Jean Boreen, Ph.D.
Kirkus Reviews
A well-researched and readable informational text on sports concussions provides a strong case for greater understanding and awareness of their long-term effects. Concerns about concussions in sports, especially football, have been increasing over the years and are particularly critical for young athletes. Worry about the violence and potential for serious injury have been part of football's history almost from the beginning. It was close to being banned in Georgia after the death of a University of Georgia student in 1897. The sport's possible brutality merited the attention of President Theodore Roosevelt in 1905, when he invited representatives from Harvard, Yale and Princeton to a meeting at the White House. But it survived and thrived. Improved technology, heightened awareness and high-profile cases of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (brain injury) have served to focus attention on the problem. In addition to providing historical context, McClafferty provides a clear and highly readable narrative by weaving in stories of affected athletes and researchers studying the problem. Along with the engaging writing, this volume has an arresting design that uses a catchy page layout, bold graphics and an excellent selection of photographs. A lofty level of research is reflected in the extensive backmatter, which includes source notes, an index, a bibliography and further reading as well as a medically approved list of concussion symptoms and return-to-play recommendations. An important read for young athletes and the adults who care about them. (Nonfiction 11-18)

Product Details

Lerner Publishing Group
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
9.80(w) x 9.80(h) x 0.50(d)
1070L (what's this?)
Age Range:
11 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Carla Killough McClafferty writes nonfiction books for young readers. But writing is not the first career for McClafferty, who is a Radiologic Technologist. Her work as an author began with her debut book, Forgiving God, an inspirational book that deals with the death of her youngest son, Corey. Next, she turned her attention to writing nonfiction for readers in upper elementary, middle school, and high school. Her first three books in this genre were published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux: The Head Bone's Connected to the Neck Bone: The Weird, Wacky and Wonderful X-ray, Something Out of Nothing: Marie Curie and Radium, and In Defiance of Hitler: The Secret Mission of Varian Fry. Her latest book is The Many Faces of George Washington: Remaking a Presidential Icon (Carolrhoda).

Her books have been recognized for excellence by the Junior Library Guild, Outstanding Science Trade Books for Children by the CBC, New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age List, IRA Children's Book Award Winner, a NCTE Orbis Pictus Honor Book, ALA Best Books for Young Adult List, ALA Amelia Bloomer Project List, NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book, National Council of Social Studies/Children's Book Council Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People, Booklist Top Ten Sci-Tech books, NCTE Orbis Pictus recommended book, an International 2008 Society of School Librarians International Book Award Honor Book, Cooperative Children's Book Council (CCBC) Choices 2009 list, Arkansas's 2008-2009 Charlie May Simon Reading List, and received a starred reviews in School Library Journal, Booklist, and Jewish Book World.

McClafferty is a popular speaker for both children and adults. She has presented at a wide variety of local, national, and international venues, providing workshops and keynote addresses at events which include ALA, AASL, NCTE, IRA national and regional SCBWI conferences. She lives in North Little Rock, Arkansas.

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