cover image Fourth Down and Inches: Concussions and Football’s 
Make-or-Break Moment

Fourth Down and Inches: Concussions and Football’s Make-or-Break Moment

Carla Killough McClafferty. Carolrhoda, $20.95 (96p) ISBN 978-1-4677-1067-1

McClafferty (The Many Faces of George Washington) sounds a dire warning about the dangers of playing football, especially at the youth level. As the first four of the book’s 16 chapters point out, controversy surrounding football is as old as the sport itself: “As the number of football-related injuries and deaths grew during the 1905 season, even Roosevelt wondered if this would ultimately lead to the death of the game.” The author, who readers later learn lost her toddler son to successive head injuries, presents story after poignant story of high school and professional players who suffered brain damage or worse. Among their profiles are details of research studies, photos of MRI images and damaged brain tissue, and explanations of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and second-impact syndrome. The book builds a damning case against playing high-risk-of-concussion sports, though the narrative doesn’t preach: “This is not now and will not ever be a simple issue,” writes McClafferty in closing. This thoroughly researched and of-the-moment work concludes with appendices that include concussion symptoms and return-to-play guidelines. Ages 11–18. (Sept.)■