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Honoring Declan

James Greene | Wednesday, November 3, 2010

You want to do something significant to memorialize Declan Sullivan? Don’t think about doing something for videographers. Rest assured, new regulations will protect them. Instead, do something for those he cared about but who are still quite unprotected: football players. Evidence is growing that not only professional but college and high school players are experiencing cognitive and emotional harm as a result of head injuries, even when these fall short of a concussion. For example, a recent Purdue study of 21 Indiana high school football players published in the Journal of Neurotoma showed that eight suffered significant cognitive and neurological changes after a season of football even though only four of them had suffered a concussion.

If Notre Dame cares for its players, who generate so much revenue for it, it will become a leader and test its players before and after the season to see if disturbing neurological, cognitive or emotional changes have developed. If they have, it will treat the matter as a crisis, and take whatever measures are necessary to protect its players. Is there a better way to honor Declan than to dare to discover uncomfortable truths and be willing to take whatever difficult actions they imply?

Some might say that following my suggestion would be a political exploitation of Declan’s death. That the suggestion has a political dimension I do not deny. I would argue, however, that the investigation of a question about the harmful consequences of a culturally entrenched and economically powerful institution is not an act of political exploitation but of political courage.

James Greene

alumnus

Class of 1971

Nov. 1