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SL Interview: Director Josh Greenbaum and His Film on Youth Golf

October 9, 2013

la84_SL_101013_Short_GameHow young is too young for competitive sports?

That is one of the many intriguing questions that director Josh Greenbaum addresses in the course of “The Short Game,” a feature-length documentary that chronicles the lives of eight elite youth golfers as they compete at the U.S. Kids Golf World Championship in Pinehurst, N.C. The annual three-day tournament is considered to be the largest in the world for players 12-and-under; the film focuses on the action before and during the 2012 tournament.

The eight subjects in the film are youngsters from South Africa, France, China, the Philippines, and the United States. All of them are either 7 or 8 years old. Interspersed with footage from the tourney and interviews with the children and their parents are interviews with golfing legends: Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Chi Chi Rodriguez and Annika Sorenstam.

The result is a fast-paced film that is funny and affecting. It is also a film that will serve as a cautionary tale for parents, coaches and children alike — especially those who would dare to follow in the footsteps of Tiger Woods and Michelle Wie.

“The Short Game” is Greenbaum’s first effort as a director of feature-length documentary films. He grew up in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and attended Cornell University (with a year abroad at Oxford University). He worked at a TV station in Park City, Utah, where he directed an hour-long documentary about a 100-mile mountain-bike race in the Wasatch Mountains, before attending the graduate film program at the University of Southern California. He and his wife are the parents of 15-month-old twin girls.

Behind Greenbaum on “The Short Game” is an experienced Hollywood brain-trust that includes executive producer David Frankel (director of “The Devil Wears Prada”), music composer Mark Mothersbaugh (founder-lead singer of DEVO), executive producer John Battsek (producer of “One Day in September,” which won the Academy Award for Best Documentary in 2000), and executive producer Justin Timberlake (singer-actor-erstwhile golfer).

“The Short Game” has made the festival rounds — it won audience awards at the SXSW and Maui film festivals — and recently enjoyed a brief theatrical run. It premieres via Netflix in December.

SportsLetter spoke to Greenbaum recently from his home in Southern California.

–David Davis

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A Concussion Care FAIL

October 9, 2013

In what the Sports Legacy Institute is calling “this year’s worst example of high school concussion care” a high school wrestler at the Illinois High School State Wrestling was allowed to continue to compete despite showing obvious concussion symptoms.

From SportsLegacy.org:

On February 16, 2013, a high school student-athlete named Cody Minnick, then an undefeated sophomore at Coal City High School (Coal City, IL), competed in the Illinois High School State Wrestling 1A Finals. On a takedown less than 20 seconds into the match, Minnick takes a hard blow to the head, struggles for several seconds to continue, and then gestures to the official to stop the match.

He’s then given blood time while he lies face down on the ground, not moving, for over two minutes. Minnick is surrounded by an extensive team of what appear to be athletic trainers, coaches, and officials. Four minutes after the injury, Minnick is able to stand for a balance assessment. On the first attempt he fails the test, nearly falling over, which is a positive sign for a concussion. However, he is allowed to continue the match against all published medical guidelines and Illinois state law.

Blood time, indeed.


HS Football Player Dies After Head Injury

October 8, 2013

A West Virginia high school football player died this weekend, days after a receiving a head injury during a game.

From West Virginia MetroNews:

South Harrison High School football player Dylan Jeffries died Sunday, nine days after suffering a severe head injury during a football game …

… The popular kid in the No. 22 Hawks jersey was rushed via Health Net to Ruby Memorial Hospital Sept. 27 from the football game between South Harrison and Lincoln high schools. He suffered a blood clot to the brain which caused him to collapse. For the past several days he had been in a medically induced coma.

He was 17.


NFL Concussion Documentary

October 7, 2013

la84_sl_100713_FrontlineThis Tuesday, October 8, PBS’ Frontline will air the first of a two-part documentary called “League of Denial: the NFL’s Concussion Crisis,” which examines the claims of former NFL players that the league has covered up the risks of football-related brain injuries.

From Frontline:

Drawing on the forthcoming book League of Denial by Steve Fainaru and Mark Fainaru-Wada of ESPN, the film will explore what the league knew and when, what the truth is about football’s effect on the brain, and what can be done.

The film, League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis, will air on FRONTLINE on October 8 & 15. Check your local listings here.


And the Hits Just Keep on Coming

October 4, 2013

Research continues to illustrate how dangerous it is to expose young football players to continued blows to the head.

Studies released by researchers at the Virginia Tech-Wake Forest University School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences reveal that “football players as young as 7 sustain hits to the head comparable in magnitude to those absorbed by high school and adult players, and most of the hits are sustained in practices, not games,” according to the New York Times.

From the Times:

In the first of the four studies, 19 boys ages 7 and 8 were found to have absorbed 3,061 hits to the head during the 2011 and 2012 seasons, with 60 percent of those hits coming in practice. The players sustained an average of 9 hits per practice and 11 in games, which are less frequent. Although none of the boys received a diagnosed concussion, they absorbed 11 hits of 80g of force, or greater, a level that represents a higher risk of concussion.

“This study demonstrated that some head impacts at this level are similar in magnitude to high-severity impacts at the high school and collegiate level,” the authors wrote.

A second study tracked three teams of players from 9 to 12 for one season. Nearly 12,000 hits were recorded, or an average of 240 per player. Again, players absorbed more hits during practice, and at higher acceleration rates than younger players. As a result, “these data suggest that rules designed to restrict player contact in practice are capable of reducing head impact exposure in youth football,” the authors wrote.

This latest research supports earlier commentary and research done on this subject:

http://www.sportsletter.org/sportsletter/2012/02/some-head-impacts-in-youth-football-can-be-severe.html

http://www.sportsletter.org/sportsletter/2011/02/concussion-concerns-bring-changes-to-youth-football-coaching.html

http://www.la84.org/pediatric-sports-medicine-expert-opposes-kids-tackle-football/

http://www.la84.org/sportsletter/sl-interview-dr-robert-cantu-speaks-out-about-concussions-in-youth-sports/