Football and Concussions: What You Need to Know

Baseball may be America’s pastime, but football is its most popular high school sport. More than a million kids play every year. Unfortunately, football players suffer more concussions than any other high school athletes.

The issue of football and concussions is being addressed at all levels of the sport, from the NFL all the way to middle and high school athletics. We’ll take a look at some important information about managing the risks so young athletes can enjoy the sport.

What Is a Concussion?

A concussion is a brain injury commonly caused by a blow to the head. It can also be caused by a hit to the body that causes the injured person’s head to snap back and forth. That movement can cause the brain to bang against the skull or twist around inside it. 

In many cases, you can’t tell if the person has a concussion because there is no visible damage to his head. Concussions don’t always cause a person to lose consciousness, either. However, a concussion can cause severe injury to the brain.

Concussions can cause Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). That’s a neurodegenerative disease that can only be diagnosed during an autopsy. It has been associated with memory loss and depression in former, professional football players. CTE is also believed to cause aggression and dementia.

Signs of a Concussion

Parents, athletes, and coaches need to know the signs of a concussion because they aren’t always obvious. Some common symptoms include:

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  • The inability to remember events before or after the injury.
  • A dazed or stunned appearance.
  • Confusion. The player may forget how to run a play. He may not understand an instruction. 
  • Clumsy movements.
  • Slow to answer questions.
  • A loss of consciousness.
  • Mood or personality changes.
  • Headache.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Balance problems or blurry vision.
  • Feeling sluggish, hazy, foggy, or groggy.

Sometimes, a student-athlete may simply say he doesn’t feel “right”, or he doesn’t “feel like himself”. These are all warning signs the player needs to be examined by a doctor.

Football and Concussions

Concussions are serious business, and young athletes between the ages of 13 and 18 are the most vulnerable. That’s why so much attention is now being paid to safety gear, like helmets. Coaches and athletic trainers are learning how to spot the signs of a concussion in their young players.

This is critical because research shows athletes don’t always report their injuries. In fact, 69 percent of athletes with a possible concussion played with serious symptoms. 40 percent of those athletes said their coaches were not aware that they had a possible concussion.

About 300,000 high school football players sustain sports-related concussions every year. For some, those injuries are life-threatening. 

Preventing Concussions

Athletics are an important part of high school for millions of students. And research shows physical activities play a powerful role in strengthening physical self-worth and self-esteem. Athletes take great pride in displaying their football medals.

The key is to understand how to reduce the odds of a player getting a concussion and then put those practices into play. There are a number of thing coaches and trainers can do.

  • Ensure athletes avoid unsafe actions like:
    • Hitting another player in the head.
    • Using their helmet to hit a player through helmet-to-helmet or helmet-to-body contact.
    • Tackling an opponent who isn’t wearing a helmet.
  • Make sure athletes always wear a helmet that fits well and is in good condition.

Players should also be encouraged to report any injury to their coach. In turn, coaches should take those reports seriously and insist the player be checked out by a doctor.

Wrapping It Up

After a concussion, a football player should only return to the game with the approval of his doctor. In most cases, the player should gradually resume his normal level of play over a period of days or even weeks.

Football and concussions need to be taken seriously, so young players can enjoy the sport throughout their high school career and beyond.