NEW YEAR'S TRADITIONS My family and I don’t have a lot of New Year’s traditions, but with us living in Southern California, watching the Rose Parade on TV and then watching the Rose Bowl is about as close as it gets. Thousands of roses spill into Pasadena as two of the best collegiate football teams in the nation prepare to square off for the “granddaddy of them all” on the first day of the new year. The Rose Bowl’s Rose Parade takes place about 25 miles away from us. For those who don’t know, gaggles of bands, organizations, and American “royalty” pool together in Pasadena and adorn their floats, instruments, and outfits in hundreds of thousands of roses and other floral decorations. The whole day is an accumulation and celebration of the previous college football season, and despite other teams playing in bowl games after the Rose Bowl, I think it’s the most popular and coveted game in all of college football. I enjoyed football some as a kid, but really became enthralled with it by high school. I’m not sure what it was about the game that intrigued me, but the physicality drew me in, and even today, I love how complex it can be. There’s so many intricacies and strategies that go into it, and I enjoy watching these unfold during the game.
I actually never played a down of organized football until my first year of high school. I wound up playing offensive tackle, and I had the chance to join my Fresno State Bulldogs on the field as a walk-on redshirt freshman for a few weeks during my first year of college. I never did play for the Bulldogs, but it was a pretty cool experience to practice with them for a few weeks. Since then, I’ve been passionate about the team. Fresno is a large college town with a huge devotion to its teams; especially the football team. While I was in college, I’d often attend the tailgates and football games with my friends, and it was always an exciting atmosphere. Today, I still try to catch Fresno State games when I can, and my family has also become a big fan of UCLA and the Los Angeles Rams. My sons never really took an interest in playing tackle football, and though they enjoy watching the sport, they’re not intense about it. My youngest son plays flag football, and it’s always fun to watch him play and enjoy himself. As a physical therapist, it might surprise some of my patients to find out just how much I enjoy football. There’s plenty of risk in the sport, as athletes may collide into one another at high speeds, and newer research
and awareness on the effects of concussions have some parents and experts worried. I completely agree with these studies and understand the fears, as I share much of those as well. I also believe that football is a great sport. It’s physically and mentally challenging, and if players are well- protected, play clean, and learn the proper ways to tackle, the sport will continue to improve and be safer. As someone who didn’t start playing tackle football until high school, that’s a route I would encourage other parents and players take. Concussions take a toll on everyone, but there is increasing research on youth football having a dramatic effect on brain health of young players. For parents who are worried about their child playing football, it might be best to start them in flag football and not introduce them to tackle football until the age of about 12 or 13. A summary of recent research by Boston University on this topic can be found online at www.bu.edu/ research/articles/youth-football- linked-to-earlier-brain-problems/ In my personal experience, I’ve also found that switching from being an athlete to a career in physical therapy, and helping athletes perform and heal, is also a good choice. –Mark Nowlin
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