The documentary “Football High” details the contradictions between the desires of coaches to win and the best interests of their players when it comes to handling of medical conditions (specifically concussion and heat stroke). Both of these conditions can influence a player’s health for years, if not their entire lives, as some of the suffering that NFL players have gone through after the end of their careers can indicate. The documentary “Football High” uses emotional and ethical appeals to point the viewer toward the folly at work in the management of athletes when they are injured.
Concussion is a severe injury that does not always show its effects in the short term. In some cases, it takes players a while to recover from concussion sufficiently to where they can perform on the field. However, there have been other cases in which players retrieve enough functionality to be able to return to action, but their brains were still significantly at risk because of the trauma. The effects of returning to action too soon are not always known, but the rash of mental problems that have hit NFL (and NHL) players years after their careers are over shows that coaches and trainers, even at the youth level, need to pay more attention. The fact that the trainer takes a player out of action for what he terms a “brain injury” but then determines that the player “would be fine” and “could return” at another point in the game shows that the health of the player is only a secondary concern (“Football High”). The awful gap between the guess that a brain injury has taken place and the conclusion that the player is going to be “fine” and can get back into the game goes against best practices in concussion management, and that gap creates an emotional shock in the viewer, who cannot believe how callous the trainer is.
The ethical appeal in “Football High” appears during the interview of the coach of the player who had had to come out of the game with that brain injury. The coach suggests that “if the game got closer” then the player might have gone back into the game. The fact that the coach – who has been trained to have the best interests of his players in mind – would have put the outcome of the game over the player’s health creates an ethical appeal in the mind of the reader. The coach is the leader of the team but must take a long-term approach. Instead, the fact that the team might lose appears to be more important than whether or not the player will have neurological problems down the road because he went back into the game too quickly.
The documentary “Football High” takes a harsh look at the ways in which football coaches are often far more interested in their own win-loss record than they are in the health of their players. In the documentary, players suffer from both heat stroke and concussion, but these potentially tragic conditions seem to just fade away in the minds of their coaches. In contrast, the coaches just seem like they want to win at all costs, slamming players right back into action instead of ensuring that they get the long-term care and help they need.
“Football High.” Online video clip. Frontline. WGBH Educational Foundation, 12 Apr. 2011. Web. 03 May 2016.