Paul Butler, New Hampshire School Board Member, Wants To Ban Football In Dover

Oct 03, 2012 | Updated Oct 03, 2012

New Hampshire school board member Paul Butler's proposal to ban football from Dover and its schools has surprised and upset the community.

Butler, a retired surgeon and former high school and college football player, said at the board's meeting Monday that an effort to ax the high school football program is the "moral" and "ethical" thing to do, given recent studies that show the dangers of the contact sport, My Fox Boston reports. Butler pointed to research suggesting that concussions on developing brains could lead to lasting impact, including possible brain damage, depression and dementia.

"I'll do my best to try to convince the other members of the school board that it’s a dangerous game and that we should abandon it," Butler told WHDH. "Football, unlike hockey, unlike lacrosse -- both of which are violent games -- football is the one where the head gets repeatedly banged."

A new film and book by ex-professional wrestler and Harvard football player Christopher Nowinski, for example, examines "football's concussion crisis" through research and stories of personal experience. Also in recognition of the dangers of sport, California last week became the first state to require financial protections for students who suffer career-ending injuries in the state's top college sports programs -- mandating academic scholarships to students who lose athletic scholarships due to injury.

And while Dover Athletic Director Peter Wotton tells the Associated Press that players are supervised by doctors and coaches are teaching safer tackling, Butler tells WBZ-TV that current efforts are not enough. He adds that he hopes his community can be swayed by research, as Americans eventually were on issues like smoking and seat belts.

"I know it's a little radical and I'm not sure I'll be able to accomplish it because it's such a part of our culture," Butler told the station. "If we're hurting our brains as youngsters in a game that we love, it hurts us later in life."

But in a statement tuesday, Dover School Board Chair Rocky D'Andrea emphasized that Butler's comments do not reflect the opinion of the board, and his proposal is not currently on the board's agenda to potentially adopt as policy.

A town-wide football ban might be in the interest of student health, but could also strip teens of college scholarship eligibility. The week-and-a-half long teachers strike in Chicago, for example, forced schools to cancel football practices and scheduled games. Missing games forces forfeits, which could challenge students' chances at playoff and championship games, potentially affecting the academic futures of those whose odds of attending college depend on athletic scholarships.

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