The most sacred duty that any of us have as parents is to try and safeguard the emotional and physical health of our children. I pondered that protective instinct during prom pictures for the Corona del Mar High seniors with my youngest child, Katie, last week.
Watching the physically blessed, vibrant young people in their last pre-graduation activity I had a bittersweet reaction. Excitement for the adventure they have ahead of them, and mild anxiety that they won't be close for us to help them.
Even more vulnerable are the feelings of parents of athletes — especially football players.
The parents of the Newport Harbor football team understand the ever present spectre of injury inherent in the sport and have not sat passively by and accepted the inevitability of lifelong consequences.
Led by Robert Shaw, president of the Newport Harbor football boosters and Alan Gaddis, the vice president, and with the support of former principal Michael Vossen and Athletic Director Michael Zimmerman, they have taken preventive steps to screen these athletes for heart-attack risks and concussion damage.
They instituted yearly screening for undetected heart problems to avoid sudden death from heart attack with the Pediatric Sports Consortium. They also instituted mandatory baseline testing — IMPAACT — to establish a cognitive level of functioning prior to play. When a player suffers a hit to the head, they have an objective way of knowing how much damage has occurred. This allows a trainer or physician to make more protective recommendations as to when the athlete should return to play.
IMPAACT is the test for cognitive functioning developed by Dr. Mark Lovell, then at University of Pittsburgh Sports Medicine center, that is given to athletes prior to the season. It is an IQ and reaction measuring stick that then can be used to compare with a post-concussion test to see how much damage has been done. It is the test used in the NFL and at NHHS.
Two Newport Harbor alums from 1970, Randy Hamilton and Tony Horvath recently produced a documentary called "Touchdown Newport."
The film made its debut at the Newport Beach Film Festival, where it sold out and received a second showing. For those who missed it, the movie will be shown again.
"Touchdown Newport," will be shown at a fundraiser on Friday night at the Loates Hall theater on the campus of Newport Harbor. The film highlights the 1970 football season coached by Ernie Johnson. NHHS had not won a league title in 28 years until this memorable season.
Kudos to parents like Clarke Smith, Mary Lynn Gaddis, Jeanne Teravitz and Julie Adams who volunteer their time to support their children. It is one of the reasons we live in a very special community.
Admission is free to any players and coaches on the Sailors' current team; tickets are $10 for all others in advance online or at the door.
Contact Mary Lynn by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org for tickets and more information or visit newportharborfootball.org.
LEIGH STEINBERG is a renowned sports agent, author, advocate, speaker and humanitarian. His column appears weekly. Follow Leigh on Twitter @steinbergsports.