Kennedy ably lays out the issues and raises the questions but offers no answers.

READ REVIEW

LASTING IMPACT

ONE TEAM, ONE SEASON: WHAT HAPPENS WHEN OUR SONS PLAY FOOTBALL

An award-winning sports biographer returns with an assessment of the medical risks to high school football players.

Near the end of the book, former Sports Illustrated assistant managing editor and senior writer Kennedy (Pete Rose: An American Dilemma, 2014, etc.), a clinical professor at NYU’s Tisch Institute of Sports Management, Media, and Business, declares what will be clear to readers throughout his text: “I came to writing this book without an agenda, but with high curiosity.” Indeed, he does attempt to present evidence from both sides. There are sections about the research on concussions and the enduring physical effects of football on players, about the numbers of deaths occurring during practices and in games, about hazing, and about the sometimes-dark behavior of some celebrated athletes, including NFL star Ray Rice, caught on video punching his future wife (Rice had once played for the New Rochelle high school team that Kennedy shadowed during the 2014 season). The author also attended the funeral service of a former player in a nearby community. Kennedy balances this grimness with the human stories of the New Rochelle players and, especially, legendary head coach Lou DiRienzo, whose voice we hear throughout the text. The author follows the team from summer practices through the New York state playoffs, and we also hear from parents, players, and numerous others. Although Kennedy is careful to explore the immediate world of the players, he says virtually nothing about the effects of football on the rest of the student body. What happens to an educational institution when you celebrate one student activity—a nonacademic one—so enthusiastically? Nor does he wonder how and why we tolerate such dire physical risks in football but really in no other high school activity.

Kennedy ably lays out the issues and raises the questions but offers no answers.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61893-157-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Sports Illustrated Books

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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One of the NBA’s 50 greatest players scores another basket—a deeply personal one.

BACK FROM THE DEAD

A basketball legend reflects on his life in the game and a life lived in the “nightmare of endlessly repetitive and constant pain, agony, and guilt.”

Walton (Nothing but Net, 1994, etc.) begins this memoir on the floor—literally: “I have been living on the floor for most of the last two and a half years, unable to move.” In 2008, he suffered a catastrophic spinal collapse. “My spine will no longer hold me,” he writes. Thirty-seven orthopedic injuries, stemming from the fact that he had malformed feet, led to an endless string of stress fractures. As he notes, Walton is “the most injured athlete in the history of sports.” Over the years, he had ground his lower extremities “down to dust.” Walton’s memoir is two interwoven stories. The first is about his lifelong love of basketball, the second, his lifelong battle with injuries and pain. He had his first operation when he was 14, for a knee hurt in a basketball game. As he chronicles his distinguished career in the game, from high school to college to the NBA, he punctuates that story with a parallel one that chronicles at each juncture the injuries he suffered and overcame until he could no longer play, eventually turning to a successful broadcasting career (which helped his stuttering problem). Thanks to successful experimental spinal fusion surgery, he’s now pain-free. And then there’s the music he loves, especially the Grateful Dead’s; it accompanies both stories like a soundtrack playing off in the distance. Walton tends to get long-winded at times, but that won’t be news to anyone who watches his broadcasts, and those who have been afflicted with lifelong injuries will find the book uplifting and inspirational. Basketball fans will relish Walton’s acumen and insights into the game as well as his stories about players, coaches (especially John Wooden), and games, all told in Walton’s fervent, witty style.

One of the NBA’s 50 greatest players scores another basket—a deeply personal one.

Pub Date: March 8, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4767-1686-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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Effectively sobering. Suffice it to say that Pop Warner parents will want to armor their kids from head to toe upon reading...

CONCUSSION

A maddening, well-constructed tale of medical discovery and corporate coverup, set in morgues, laboratories, courtrooms, and football fields.

Nigeria-born Bennet Omalu is perhaps an unlikely hero, a medical doctor board-certified in four areas of pathology, “anatomic, clinical, forensic, and neuropathology,” and a well-rounded specialist in death. When his boss, celebrity examiner Cyril Wecht (“in the autopsy business, Wecht was a rock star”), got into trouble for various specimens of publicity-hound overreach, Omalu was there to offer patient, stoical support. The student did not surpass the teacher in flashiness, but Omalu was a rock star all his own in studying the brain to determine a cause of death. Laskas’ (Creative Writing/Univ. of Pittsburgh; Hidden America, 2012, etc.) main topic is the horrific injuries wrought to the brains and bodies of football players on the field. Omalu’s study of the unfortunate brain of Pittsburgh Steeler Mike Webster, who died in 2002 at 50 of a supposed heart attack, brought new attention to the trauma of concussion. Laskas trades in sportwriter-ese, all staccato delivery full of tough guyisms and sports clichés: “He had played for fifteen seasons, a warrior’s warrior; he played in more games—two hundred twenty—than any other player in Steelers history. Undersized, tough, a big, burly white guy—a Pittsburgh kind of guy—the heart of the best team in history.” A little of that goes a long way, but Laskas, a Pittsburgher who first wrote of Omalu and his studies in a story in GQ, does sturdy work in keeping up with a grim story that the NFL most definitely did not want to see aired—not in Omalu’s professional publications in medical journals, nor, reportedly, on the big screen in the Will Smith vehicle based on this book.

Effectively sobering. Suffice it to say that Pop Warner parents will want to armor their kids from head to toe upon reading it.

Pub Date: Nov. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8757-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2015

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