As Americans settle in to watch the Super Bowl next month, let's not forget the future of this sport: young athletes. However, there's a crisis in youth sports due to the increasing number of concussions. According to data collected from the National Federation of State High School Associations, an estimated 140,000 students playing high school sports suffer concussions every year, though many go unreported. The consequences of youth concussions can be devastating — missed school, high medical costs, headaches that last for months, possible long-term health problems and even death.

Minnesota, along with the entire country, has tried to make youth sports safer by introducing state "return to play" laws. These laws include three key ideas: educating coaches, players and parents on the signs of concussion, removing an athlete from practice or a game who might have a concussion, and not allowing the athlete to return without written clearance from a medical professional. However, there is no governing body to enforce "return to play" laws, and no consequences for failure to comply. Since 2010, there have been attempts to create a federal Youth Sports Concussion law, but all have failed. As recently as 2018, the Protecting Student Athletes from Concussions Act (HR 3580) was introduced by U.S. Rep. Mark DeSaulnier of California but did not pass. If the issue of concussions in youth sports is going to be taken seriously, our young athletes need a comprehensive federal law that includes education, enforcement and accountability.

Ian Hanlin, Maple Grove

The writer is a student at Wayzata High School.


Are incinerators the real culprit? (And why the resistance to audits?)

Regarding a Jan. 14 letter alleging the hypocrisy of a Minneapolis proposal to require energy audits before home sales:

As an environmental scientist who has worked in the waste-reduction arena for the past 20 years, I see that the real culprit of garbage burners is all of us. Citizens and government alike produce waste and lots of it, about 6 pounds per person per day. In Minnesota, the policy has been to burn waste often for energy recovery. Is that the best solution? Probably not, as it adds toxics to the air such as carbon monoxide, acid gases and dioxins, to name a few. But other management methods such as landfills also have environmental impacts, such as the consumption of land and habitat, and water pollution.

Waste management is a shell game; there is no such place as "away." Reducing waste at the source, that is, not creating it in the first place, is the best solution. For example, minimize consumption to minimize the waste and resources used in manufacture and disposal. Consider whether the purchase is a "want" or a need. Buy items with the least amount of packaging; for example, avoid those near-ubiquitous clam shells and plastic bags. Bring your own containers and bags and reuse them always, at the store, at restaurants, for coffee, when traveling. Reuse and repair, then recycle.

Recycling is not the panacea; it is basically a form of waste management. Consider now that with both recycling and trash trucks on the streets, we have doubled emissions and wear on infrastructure. Waste sent for recycling is used to make another product, often not the same one. Plastic water bottles are made into laundry jugs or lawn edging, both of which have a limited life span, consume additional resources and also eventually end up as waste at the incinerator or the landfill. I routinely look into recycling containers, and a great deal of the contents are unrecyclable and end up at the incinerator. Generally speaking, 1 pound of waste reduced at the source avoids 2 pounds of greenhouse-gas production and other toxins produced during manufacture and disposal. Recycling 1 pound, if it can be truly recycled, avoids 1 pound of greenhouse gases.

Citizens, manufacturers and vendors need to step up and take ownership of sullying of the nest. Government can and should do a better job at encouraging waste reduction. A goal could be set to reduce the operating time of the incinerator, reducing both greenhouse gases and other toxics. Yes, these actions take deliberation, but we're running out of Planet A and I fear without a change in attitudes and actions, we would also destroy Planet B, if there were one.

Catherine Zimmer, St. Paul
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I remember when homes within the decibel range for airport noise couldn't wait to get their homes checked for insulation.

Now we hear of a different perspective by some Minneapolis homeowners and real-estate professionals who say insulation inspections for energy efficiency create a barrier in home sales. The Minneapolis City Council supports energy-efficiency improvements in the housing stock, recognizing the economic value for our community.

This inspection process is also an important step in addressing climate-change mitigation.

Kathryn Iverson, Edina

The debate actually says something unseemly about adult Americans

The Jan. 18 letters about the Jordan/Roosevelt tiff ("Trump flag creates a stir at prep basketball game," Jan. 17) had me bouncing back-and-forth. The Minneapolis Roosevelt High School coach (and, presumably, players and parents) were offended because fans at Jordan High School displayed U.S. and Trump flags and regalia. The Jordan community was apparently responding to the reported fact that the Roosevelt team had a practice of staying in the locker room during the national anthem.

On one side of the dispute, Roosevelt coaches, players and parents cannot understand how anybody could respect a flag representing the worst of the U.S. — the racism, the systematic and persistent bias against blacks, the laws, rules and practices that constantly put American blacks at a severe disadvantage.

On the other side, Jordan fans and parents (and coaches and players?) are offended by the lack of love and respect for the U.S. — represented by the flag — shown by the Roosevelt team.

I'm probably wrong, but it seems the issues can be traced to the adults on both sides who seem to think that showing a lack of respect for the opinions of others is the right way to handle disagreements. Disrespecting the flag or waving the Trump banner may do something for those who agree with you, but those acts only alienate those who you should be trying to reach.

I think the kids were following the leadership of the adults in the room — unfortunately. The role models seem to be setting a contentious tone rather than using their roles to teach children to walk in their fellow citizens' shoes.

It is disheartening that we can't seem to empathize with each other. Maybe we could lower the bar and at least keep politics out of sports?

James Chenvert, Champlin

A core principle forgotten?

In the iconic 1963 speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, one of the core principles spoken to by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was the need for the nation to judge by character and not skin color.

It is regrettable that in 2019, America finds itself in a position where an individual's diversity profile is so frequently the primary characteristic by which many individuals find it necessary to introduce themselves or profile others.

It would not be a stretch to suggest that statistically, most Americans (plus or minus two standard deviations) do not care about an individual's diversity category (ethnicity, gender, religion, etc.). While, yes, there is a profound need to be diligent in exposing extremism by sinister actors, there is also a need to be concerned with those who, with myopic zeal, are incapable of seeing individuals and situations outside a diversity lens.

In celebrating one of our country's all-time greats, what is truly needed today and in the future is for all Americans to stop and internally reflect on how each of us can live every day adhering to King's core principle. If we cannot, why celebrate him and his spirit at all?

L.A. Ellis, St. Paul