August 16, 2010
Willis-Knighton Health System and the Shreveport-Bossier Captains are teaming up to present Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Night on Friday, Aug. 20. It’s the opening game of a crucial American Association South Division series between the Captains and the Pensacola Pelicans. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. at Fair Grounds Field.
Willis-Knighton and the Captains hope to increase awareness to head & neck cancer which is directly attributed to the use of tobacco products including smokeless tobacco. The event also honors the memory of Jason Bland, certified athletic trainer with Willis-Knighton Sports Medicine and Airline High School, who died from head and neck cancer on June 7.
According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), more than 55,000 Americans will develop head and neck cancer this year, and 13,000 will die from it. According to NCI statistics, 85% of head and neck cancers are linked to tobacco use including smokeless varieties. Bland had used smokeless tobacco for nearly 20 years before being diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma in January 2009.
To honor Bland’s memory and promote awareness at the game, fans attending the game will receive chewing gum packs with the message “Chew on This.” Public address announcements will be made throughout the game promoting alternatives to dipping and chewing tobacco as well as early detection tips. In addition, an information booth with printed materials on head and neck cancer will be available. Captains players, coaches and staff will refrain from using any tobacco products. Bland’s wife Jennifer will speak briefly about the dangers of smokeless tobacco, and the couple’s two daughters will throw out the first pitch.
A New England Journal of Medicine survey of 282 major league baseball players showed that over half were past or current users of smokeless tobacco. Statistics from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Agency Smokeless shows tobacco use has increased 25% among males ages 12 to 17 from 2004-2008. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 20% of high school boys, particularly those who play baseball, use smokeless tobacco.