Fourth Down and Inches

Concussions and Football's Make-or-Break Moment

  • Interest Level: Grade 6 - Grade 12
  • Reading Level: Grade 6

When the 1905 football season ended, nineteen players were dead and countless others were critically injured. The public was outraged. The game had reached a make-or-break moment—fourth down and inches. Coaches, players, fans, and even the president of the United States had one last chance: change football or leave the field.

Football’s defenders managed to move the chains. Rule changes and reforms after 1905 saved the game and cleared the way for it to become America’s most popular sport. But they didn’t fix everything.

Today, football faces a new injury crisis as dire as 1905’s. With increased awareness about brain injury, reported concussions are on the rise among football players. But experts fear concussions may only be the tip of the iceberg. The injuries are almost invisible, but the stakes couldn’t be higher: the brains of millions of young football players across the country.

Award-winning author Carla Killough McClafferty takes readers on a bone-crunching journey from football’s origins to the latest research on concussion and traumatic brain injuries in the sport. Fourth Down and Inches features exclusive photography and interviews with scientists, players, and the families of athletes who have literally given everything to the game.

It’s fourth and inches. Can football save itself again?

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Interest Level Grade 6 - Grade 12
Reading Level Grade 6
Genre Social Studies, Young Adult
Category STEM, STEM: Life Science/Health and Human Body
Copyright 2013
Publisher Lerner Publishing Group
Imprint Carolrhoda Books ®
Language English
Number of Pages 96
Publication Date 2013-09-01
Reading Counts! Level 8.6
Text Type Narrative Nonfiction
BISACS YAN024030, YAN053050, YAN050010
Dewey 617.4'81044
Dimensions 9.75 x 9.75
Lexile 1070
ATOS Reading Level 7.9
Accelerated Reader® Quiz 159948
Accelerated Reader® Points 4.0
Features Awards, Bibliography/further reading, Index, Reviewed, Source notes, Starred Reviews, and eSource

Author: Carla Killough McClafferty

Carla Killough McClafferty writes nonfiction books for young readers. But writing is not the first career for McClafferty, who is a Radiologic Technologist. Her work as an author began with her debut book, Forgiving God, an inspirational book that deals with the death of her youngest son, Corey. Next, she turned her attention to writing nonfiction for readers in upper elementary, middle school, and high school. Her first three books in this genre were published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux: The Head Bone's Connected to the Neck Bone: The Weird, Wacky and Wonderful X-ray, Something Out of Nothing: Marie Curie and Radium, and In Defiance of Hitler: The Secret Mission of Varian Fry. Her latest book is The Many Faces of George Washington: Remaking a Presidential Icon (Carolrhoda). Her books have been recognized for excellence by the Junior Library Guild, Outstanding Science Trade Books for Children by the CBC, New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age List, IRA Children's Book Award Winner, a NCTE Orbis Pictus Honor Book, ALA Best Books for Young Adult List, ALA Amelia Bloomer Project List, NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book, National Council of Social Studies/Children's Book Council Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People, Booklist Top Ten Sci-Tech books, NCTE Orbis Pictus recommended book, an International 2008 Society of School Librarians International Book Award Honor Book, Cooperative Children's Book Council (CCBC) Choices 2009 list, Arkansas's 2008-2009 Charlie May Simon Reading List, and received a starred reviews in School Library Journal, Booklist, and Jewish Book World. McClafferty is a popular speaker for both children and adults. She has presented at a wide variety of local, national, and international venues, providing workshops and keynote addresses at events which include ALA, AASL, NCTE, IRA national and regional SCBWI conferences. She lives in North Little Rock, Arkansas.

Lerner eSource™ offers free digital teaching and learning resources, including Common Core State Standards (CCSS) teaching guides. These guides, created by classroom teachers, offer short lessons and writing exercises that give students specific instruction and practice using Common Core skills and strategies. Lerner eSource also provides additional resources including online activities, downloadable/printable graphic organizers, and additional educational materials that would also support Common Core instruction. Download, share, pin, print, and save as many of these free resources as you like!

Fourth Down and Inches

When the 1905 football season ended, nineteen players were dead and countless others were critically injured. The public was outraged. The game had reached a make-or-break moment—fourth down and inches. Coaches, players, fans, and even the president of the United States had one last… View available downloads →


  • Booklist Top 10 Sports Books for Youth, Winner, 2014
  • Cream of the Crop for Children's and Young Adult Literature, Winner, 2013
  • Capitol Choices: Noteworthy Books for Children, Winner, 2013


The Horn Book Magazine

“[T]his is an informative and useful book on a topic of crucial importance to young athletes.” —The Horn Book Magazine


“Solid, powerful material—this ought to make any football fan contend with the harsh realities of the sport.” —Booklist

School Library Journal

“With both historical research and in-depth analysis of modern scientific studies, McClafferty has written an essential book concerning the hidden dangers of concussions in football….An important and enlightening addition for all collections.” —School Library Journal

Publishers Weekly

“The book builds a damning case against playing high-risk-of-concussion sports, though the narrative doesn’t preach….[T]horoughly researched and of-the-moment.” —starred, Publishers Weekly

Kirkus Reviews

“A well-researched and readable informational text on sports concussions….In addition to providing historical context, McClafferty provides a clear and highly readable narrative by weaving in stories of affected athletes and researchers studying the problem….An important read for young athletes and the adults who care about them.” —Kirkus Reviews