Marquise Gaddy, a football player at Winston-Salem State University, severely injured his spine and neck after colliding with a teammate in practice.
Devon Gales, a Southern University wide receiver and member of the special teams unit, fractured his spine Saturday against while covering a kick against Georgia.
Just a little more than a month into the 2015 season, three high school football players across the country have died after sustaining in-game injuries. Others, like Texas junior high school football player Jasiel Favors, have been paralyzed or concussed or had their limbs mangled in some way.
Football is exciting, stimulating and breathtaking. It is a sport designed — like all of them — to take advantage of our natural tribalism and yearning for self-worth.
The sport, unlike few, is one that places the very individuals we put all of our hopes, dreams, bragging rights and fantasy football results in constant peril.
When an athlete like Gales lay motionless on the field, the all too familiar scene of players representing both teams taking a knee and praying silently to whatever god they believe in that the injured has the ability to function takes place. Spectators in the bleachers sit or stand in stunned disbelief at the horrific sight in front of them.
Once the athlete is removed from the field by first responders, the games and the practices – as always – continue. The violence and carnage returns like the broken body that was on the field moments before never existed.
We are desensitized to it all. We accept it comes with the territory; the injuries, the big hits, the concussions and the shattered bodies that sometimes have to be rushed to a hospital from the field of competition and sliced open by surgeons to save them.
I’m not the first, nor will be the last person to sound the football-is-dangerous alarm. You know that already. The players, parents, coaches and everyone else also understand this. It’s why we recklessly attempt to equate football to war and use military jargon to describe the game. Maybe because football is so much like war with the prospect of horrific injuries and death a sobering reality.
We used to pray that our young men come home in one piece after a tour of duty in some foreign land where they’d be in the midst of bullets and missiles. Now we do the same before sending them off to a football field.
But that won’t stop me from wincing upon witnessing an extraordinary collision between two or more armored bodies on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
I think about that athlete’s current physical state after absorbing such blows.
I think about how difficult it will be for each athlete in the days after battle attempting to recover so they can do it all over again the next week. I think about that athlete’s life once the competition is a distant memory.
I especially think about Gaddy and Gales, college kids who took all the risks for free so that we can brag or vent on social media or message boards after conquests or defeats.
Kids like them play this game of chance while millions of dollars are made off them in exchange for throwing their bodies into each other on Saturdays and they get no compensation in return.
They don’t have the safety net of a pension, union or a multi million-dollar contract to fall back on, which places these devastating injuries in further perspective.
I hope Gaddy and Gales able to live the lives they dreamed of upon recovery even though football — a game that provides a vehicle for dreams to be realized — nearly took them away.