According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every year within the United States, nearly 3.8 million athletes suffer from a concussion. About 135,000 of those concussions are among students between the ages of 5 through 18. Since football is considered a high-contact sport, close to 45,000 young people are sent to the emergency room every year due to injuries involving their head. Sports programs throughout the country are trying to minimize this risk of concussions since they are now realizing the magnitude of the situation. Programs are now trying to think of ways to keep their students safer.
A concussion is considered to be a brain injury and occurs when someone is hit hard. According to assistant professor of pediatrics for the University of Alabama’s Division of Orthopedic Surgery, Marshall Crowther, someone can have a significant blow to any part of their body that may then be strong enough to travel to the head.
Nearly 90% of all concussions go away on their own without any problems, according to athletic trainers and physicians at the University of Alabama. It is however very important to get rest and take it easy after a concussion and once you have one, you are more likely to get another one in your future. Doctors and researchers are still unclear as to what the effects of concussions are for the long term and are also unaware of the reasoning that some people have prolonged symptoms and problems more than others.
The Journal of Neurosurgery has noted that student and professional athletes who suffer from numerous hits to the head are generally at a higher risk for developing chronic traumatic encephalopathy which is a brain disease. People begin to have symptoms of this disease many years after the concussion with symptoms such as early dementia, memory loss, and mood disorders.
A lot of states are beginning to adopt laws for concussions. Alabama for instance just passed a law in 2011 which stated that if a player suffers from a concussion or even shows symptoms of a concussion, they are to be removed from the current game at once and held out until they are cleared by a licensed physician which is generally at least 1 week.
North Carolina also just recently passed a law regarding concussions. Just last month, the Gfeller-Waller Concussion Act was signed. This law was named after two high school students who died in 2009 from head injuries acquired while playing football. This law is basically the same as the law approved in Alabama. Any athlete that is thought to have a concussion is to be held out of participation until they are medically cleared.
Professor at the University of North Carolina as well as director of the Matthew Gfeller Sport-Related Traumatic Brian Injury Research Center, Kevin Guskiewicz, believes that this law is one of the best in the country because it includes an educational component for athletes and parents. Each year they will be given information regarding concussions and the schools will face a requirement of having to develop an emergency action plan for the situation.
In order to properly avoid football-related injuries, the American Association of Neurological Surgeons strongly recommends that players, coaches, and parents follow these tips:
-Everyone involved with the athletes should make themselves familiar with symptoms of having a concussion which include blurred vision, headaches, cognitive impairment, vomiting or nausea, slurred speech and drowsiness.
-All athletes should be required to complete a preseason physical exam which should involve determining if any athlete has injuries to the brain or spine.
-Any and all equipment for players should fit properly. This is especially true for helmets. Virginia Tech has a rating system for football helmets now which was developed specifically to avoid concussions.
University of Alabama, Birmingham. (2011). This football season more emphasis will be on preventing concussions.
RaleighNews and Observer (2011). Concussion Bill Signed into Law.
Virginia Tech (2011). Football helmet ratings for reducing concussion risk.
Reynolds, D. 2011. Student athletic programs taking greater efforts to prevent concussions.