Risk of head trauma is forcing many parents, coaches, leagues, and athletes to reconsider whether playing tackle football is worth the implications of sustaining a long-term injury in lieu of scoring a W in the win column. If you, a child, or a loved one plays football, or you coach or support any team or league, knowing about concussion and head trauma, the risks and how to avert them, may not only prevent injuries from occurring but may also may curb or even eliminate the long-term repercussions of sustaining head trauma. When it comes to football, here’s what you can do to prevent head trauma.
What is a Concussion?
The most common head injury experienced by football players at all levels, concussions are one of the most common sports injuries. A concussion happens when a blow or hit to the head or body makes your brain hit the inside of the skull. This sudden movement or rattling sometimes causes the brain to bounce around or shift position inside the skull, bruising parts of the brain. The greater the impact, the more damage. And while helmets may protect the head from certain injuries, they also allow the head to be hit with greater force – for any player making contact.
The Concussed Brain
Concussions can cause changes in the cells of the brain, and repeated impact over a long period may develop into chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a very serious brain disorder that worsens with time, can’t be cured and results too often in dementia, depression, and dangerous or suicidal behaviors. Although most concussions are considered mild brain injuries and may not be life-threatening, they are a cause for concern and every effort should be made to reduce their frequency or better, avoid them altogether.
Recommendations for Brain Safety in Football
After cycling, football accounts for more concussions and brain injuries than other sport. Sports doctors and other experts have gathered a wide range of information on football-related brain injuries, particularly during the last decade. Among their recommendations:
- Proper Technique. It’s up to coaches to ensure their athletes are safe and supervised. Nearly half of all reported concussions occur in high school football, with one-third of those injuries occurring during practice sessions. Why? The reason may be that proper techniques are not being taught or enforced.
- Unnecessary Roughness. Always observe the rules of the sport regarding fair play, sportsmanship, and safety by instating rules across leagues, school districts or conferences that penalize teams and players who partake in unnecessary hitting to the head.
- Reduce Contact. During practices, reduce the amount of direct contact. Avoiding full-speed head-on blocking or tackling drills where players are over three yards apart can help achieve this. Limit scrimmages and full-speed drills. Ensure and mandate that young child who do play tackle football never use their heads in any kind of maneuver.
- Be Aware. Make sure to pay attention to safety during running plays, particularly if you are in the running-back position.
- Proper Equipment. Never don a helmet that doesn’t fit properly or is not in good condition. Inspect the helmet before and after every game and practice.
- Proper Conditions. Never play in a field where equipment, such as goalposts, are not adequately padded and marked. Likewise, avoid training or playing in fields with potential tripping hazards or unlevelled surfaces.
Steps to Reducing Injury
A player who may have suffered a concussion should never return to play on the same day of injury. All athletes who suspect they made have had a concussion or experienced a head injury should be seen by a physician as soon as possible. Even if there is no concrete medical proof the athlete has been concussed, the athlete should rest. That’s because rest decreases the demands on the brain, which allows the brain to heal after an injury. Complete rest includes both physical and mental rest (that means no cell phone activity, reading, or TV). After a full 24-48 hours of rest, athletes should gradually become more active. It may take 10-14 days for adults and four weeks for youth to fully recover and be free of any symptoms.
Not Just Football…
When it comes to head trauma, football is the sport that steals the headlines. But other contact sports like hockey, gymnastics, and rugby all put athletes at high risk of suffering a brain injury. Plus, with its practice of “heading” the ball, soccer is especially noteworthy of putting its players at risk of long-term brain injury.
If you believe you or a loved one may have been concussed or suffering from any brain or cranial condition, our team at Front Range Spine and Neurosurgery wants you to know that there are options. You can visit any of our three locations: Lone Tree, Colorado Springs, and Aurora. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call us today at (303) 790-1800 or fill out our online appointment request form. We look forward to serving you and helping you enjoy a free, active lifestyle once again.