Anyone who watches football knows that the sport is full of jarring hits. In fact, for many, the chance to see someone on the other team get his “bell rung” is one of the game's major draws. However, as high-school football practices kick into high gear around the country, there’s something else parents need to watch out for: concussions.
Concussions are high-impact blows to the head, neck or face which cause temporary rapid-onset neurological impairment as well as possible loss of consciousness. They are some of the most common injuries in football, especially among high-school athletes. In fact, 20% of all high-school football players will suffer at least one concussion over the course of their playing years.
Because of the prevalence of concussions and the difficulty in recognizing symptoms, players who suffer head injuries are often encouraged to “shake it off” and get back in the game. While it’s understandable that young athletes want to prove their toughness and resume playing, new research is revealing that concussions are much more serious than anyone had previously imagined.
Recent studies by the American College of Sports Medicine and the University of Purdue have discovered that concussions can cause permanent brain damage, loss of motor control and post-traumatic emotional problems. Sensors placed in high school football player’s helmets revealed that some hits to the head can occur with a force equal to 289 Gs – almost 300 times the force of gravity.
More troubling is a new release by the American Association of Pediatrics, which reveals that although participation in organized sports among 13-17-year-olds has shrunk by half over the last 10 years, the rate of concussions has more than doubled. Furthermore, any athlete who is still suffering from the symptoms of a concussion is at risk for “second-hit syndrome.” Playing with a concussion is dangerous. A second concussion occurring before the first has healed can result in brain hemorrhaging and sudden death.
The good news is that many states recognize the danger of concussions and have passed new laws that prevent high-school athletes diagnosed with concussions from participating. Additionally, new football helmets are being developed to dampen the impact on the brain during hits. However, while these new measures can limit the number of concussions players receive while playing football, they can never entirely prevent them.
Due to unrecognized symptoms, lack of a professional athletic trainer, or neglect by the coaching staff, many concussions in high-school football go undiagnosed. In fact, for every reported concussion in high-school football, every year, another is missed.
Parents can do their part to keep their young athletes safe by looking out for the main symptoms of a concussion. If your child comes home from practice feeling dizzy, confused and forgetful, or if they complain of headaches, do not let them attend another practice without first being evaluated by a trained medical professional. Your child may be a star athlete, but their life is more important than their athletic career.