Football Took My Birth Father Too Soon It Will Not Take My Son

It takes a family to raise an athlete #SportsparentZ

You probably know I am a Sportsparent to AAU Illinois Wolves and Whitney Young Magnet High School baller Skyler Nash (#SportsparentZ), but do you know about my sports heritage? My father Chuck Holton played for the Harlem Globetrotters, which makes my son’s basketball career very understandable right? However, I was adopted. My birth father, Greg “Grape Juice” Johnson, was a high ranking football player for the University of Wisconsin-Madison and was also drafted by the Miami Dolphins but only played semi pro with the Racine Raiders. I don’t know very much about him, not because I don’t want to but because he died too soon. He died of dementia in March of 2010.

I only met Greg once, in the summer of 1997, when I was pregnant with my first child, Skyler. I had sought him out because I wanted my future kids to know their medical history. So much of health is reliant upon prevention. As an adopted person I don’t have the benefit of my full family health history to provide me with a road map of the potential medical land mines that could lie ahead for me. I wanted a better outcome for my children. Unfortunately by the time I met Greg he was already fully symptomatic and far removed from reality. It was terrifying for me. Swollen with my first child I feared that dementia would be one of the land mines he would have to navigate through as a result of my genes. But as stories have come to light about the fate of football players I have come to realize that my birth father’s story was not written on his family tree but on the football field. Let’s face it, athletes don’t lose their memories in their forties and die before they cross 60 because of natural causes, they get pushed..or rather hit, shoved and concussed.

My very athletic son excelled at many sports before he settled on basketball. He even played one season of flag football. He was great. Fast, agile, intelligent. He looked at home on the field. And then he got hit. Now I had been navigating this kids’ bumps, bruises, breaks and bleeds for years already. (Skyler is my ER baby.) I was a pro. I didn’t flinch. I stood at the ready on the sideline with a compress and an ice pack. I wasn’t put into action until after Skyler ran the length of the field bleeding all over himself and the ball. Nevertheless, he completed the play and everyone was jubilant, because hey, that’s football. Afterward I patched him up and smiled brightly, congratulating his courage, but silently I said a prayer to the Sports Gods above to put basketball first and firmly in his dreams. It worked and I am grateful.

Look, it’s not that I think football should be abolished. I enjoy a good game. But we can’t ignore these injuries and their immediate and long term ramifications. Football players aren’t just dying after a long career, their dying even before they get a chance to start one. Unlike me and my family medical history we actually know more. We know that limiting the exposure to potential head injury through rule changes and helmet improvements protects players. We know that stringent rules about medical attention and observation and rest after a concussion could save lives. We know that after decades of hard professional play retired football players require special care to protect them from violent episodes and premature death. We know all of this so we have to do better. We simply must eradicate these medical land mines. Our kids should leave the game on the field, not their lives.

 

SMILE On!
Miss Lori

Read more about this subject on CNN.com/Living. If you enjoyed this post please read other Miss Lori health posts such as 8 Things To Do After Your Kid Loses a Game, Miss Lori Is a Sports Mom With Her Snack Bag Ready, and Miss Lori Wants You To Hydrate Your Way to Better Health.

Miss Lori can be found at MissLori.TV, Wearetherealdeal.com, TheChicagoMoms.com and now on BABBLE.com with her new blog SMILING On With Miss Lori. You can also see her Activating to Be Great at Miss Lori’s CAMPUS on Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, TOUT and LinkedIn.

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