(By Chris Sharp) Being a teacher in my second life in Southern California, after I was a journalist in my first life in New York City, my baggage is now full of systems to help draw the best work possible from young minds. In recent years, that program has expanded greatly from simple academic preparation to a holistic regimen for young people, and that includes proper diet, social and leadership experience and an appropriate fitness regimen.

But what if there was a program in America that in contrast to our formal education system even unknowingly did the opposite for young people, that even unintentionally worked to destroy their brains?

A lawsuit filed this year by two parents whose sons died after exhibiting CTE effects following their year in the Pop Warner program and whose autopsies revealed CTE brain damage have put this question up for public discussion.

CTC had been an increasingly common acronym for covering what is important about football right now, and every now and then it is explained that Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) is a generative brain damage condition caused by repeated blows that shake the brain inside the skull (the definition of a concussion repeated and repeated).  That is, it is the repeated vibration force of the blow that creates the brain damage even more than the injury to the skull, at a young age, the vibrations are even more powerfully damaging, as babies and young toddlers have been known to die instantly from adults shaking them and shaking their heads as a punishment.

Today, Pop Warner Football is under a microscope – a biological microscope – because it starts young children playing tackle football as early as five years old and continues the program until they are sixteen.

The attorneys filing the suit against Pop Warner over the deaths of two young boys  in the league who died of CTE include Thomas Gerardi and Robert Finnety, who helped litigate the case against the NFL that has since been costing  the pro football league hundreds of millions of dollars even in what  widely considered just the beginnings of settlement processing.

So why am I interested in this particular story at this particular time?

Again, as I wrote in the beginning, I am a professional educator. As such  I am concerned that we have recently been turning junior football leagues into something that resembles dog fights.  This is where the dogs and the kids as young as five years are becoming damaged surrogates in NFL colors they don’t even understand for adults who are mainly looking for vicarious glory out of the whole thing. 

I have to go back to a conversation I once had with former major-league California and Los Angeles Dodger pitcher Geoff Zahn, a former resident of Santa Clarita who had operated a pitching workshop for young people in the valley.  Zahn went on to become head baseball coach at Michigan University, where in 1999 he led the Wolverines to a Big 10 championship.

Zahn told me of the adults who asked if the children they represented could learn at an earlier age “adult” pitches such as curve balls, sliders and cutters.  Zahn said he uniformly refused to teach children these techniques, saying the physical requirements for this kind of pitching would put young and underdeveloped tendons at risk.

Instead Zahn taught young people the basics of power pitching and control pitching, adding that it would take years of building a foundation on this level of pitching before the students could go on to “adult” pitches.

Read more here: A Sharp View:  Pop Warner Football receives a CTE heads up