published Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

Sports tragedies don't destroy value of athletics

Man has enjoyed the thrill of competitive sports for thousands of years, and there is no doubt about the wholesome, beneficial effect of athletic competition on young people. Sports teach teamwork and promote good health -- benefits that carry over into adulthood.

But the physical nature of athletics means there is always at least some danger. And while serious injuries are fortunately rare, injuries and even deaths do tragically take place on occasion.

We were reminded of that this past weekend, when sports tragedies claimed two lives in the United States.

Last Friday, in a high school football game near Syracuse, N.Y., a player collapsed after a hard, helmet-to-helmet collision with another player. The 16-year-old, Ridge Barden, later died of a cerebral hemorrhage.

Then on Sunday, Dan Wheldon, a British-born two-time winner of the Indianapolis 500, died in a fiery, multi-car wreck at the Las Vegas Indy 300.

Athletes, officials and others appropriately take numerous precautions to minimize the dangers posed by various sports. But there is no way to remove those risks entirely.

Despite occasional tragedies, sports will -- and should -- remain a vital part of the fabric of American life.

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