Earlier this week, we discussed the overall need for more awareness of the long-term effects of concussions, especially for football players who receive repeated blows to the head. Today we will discuss the extra caution that is necessary for younger players in order to prevent serious head injuries.
While a bill is underway in Florida regarding the prevention of concussions, change will also need to come from players and coaches who will do anything to win a game. Football players need to understand the serious risks of multiple hits to the head and learn to make safer tackles that focus on other parts of the body.
Youth are especially vulnerable to head injuries in contact sports. Nearly 55,000 concussions are reported each year in high school football, and almost 136,000 concussions are reported across all high school sports. Many of these are mild and only a portion lead to traumatic brain injuries, but these hard hits to the head are worrisome.
A teenager’s brain is still in the process of maturing and growing. This means that it can take weeks or months to fully recover from a concussion. Cognitive skills linked to learning can also be delayed by head injuries.
Since the timeframe for fully recovering is longer and since the teen’s brain is still maturing, subsequent head injuries can be catastrophic. If the teen does not fully recover before another hit to the head, they could suffer from serious brain injuries or dementia. Sometimes the serious effects are not diagnosed until months or years after an initial injury.
In high school sports, teams don’t usually have the funds to have a full time athletic trainer on duty during practices and games. The coach or others not properly trained in assessing a player’s mental well-being are then forced to make a decision if their player is well enough to continue playing after a hit to the head. One head football coach in Florida stated, “If we misdiagnose concussions, we’re putting a kid in harm’s way, where their future could be jeopardized.”
Suffering from a serious brain injury can be devastating for individuals and families, turning lives completely upside down. Often times, these injuries could have been prevented with proper care or attention. Many are hoping that new rules will be put in place that forces players to see a health care professional if they show any concussion-like symptoms. Players will be removed from the game immediately until a professional evaluates them and gives them permission to continue playing.
The Tampa Tribune: “Concussion concerns are changing football, but it’s still hit and miss,” Mary Shedden, 28 Dec. 2010
The Tampa Tribune: “It’s no game: Head Injuries in high school sports,” Mary Shedden and Katherine Smith, 8 Aug. 2010