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High School Football Players and Head Injuries

In 2011, there were 13 injuries to high school students resulting in serious head injuries and permanent disabilities from full-contact football. This was the highest number in the past 25 years. Until the late 2000's that number had been in the single digit range, 2011's number is the highest. In better news, the number of fatalities among high school football players has decreased.

Researchers point to the prohibited use of head-to-head contact moves for tackling. Common strategies are butt-blocking, spearing tackles or face tacking. These have all been prohibited since 1976, but are still being used on fields today. The problem with these plays is that the player's head becomes the first point of contact with the tackling player.

The research comes from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research. The researchers have offered recommendations to decrease the incidences of head trauma. The recommendations call for referees and coaches to pay closer attention to the player's blocking, tackling and symptoms if players are injured.

The referees can do their part by implementing better enforcement of the safety rules. Researchers are urging referees to throw flags for any head-to-head contact. The coaches need to teach players not to block with their heads but to use their shoulders. Coaches can also tell players to always tackle with their heads up so players will avoid head-to-head contact. The survey even suggests that coaches encourage players to engage in exercises that will strengthen their neck muscles.

The coaches also need to recognize signs of concussions and react quickly when a player is exhibiting signs of a concussion. Parents and players also need to learn more about concussions, their symptoms and what to do to recover quickly from any head trauma. All players suffering concussions should be cleared by a medical professional before getting back on the field.

Concussions are very serious injuries. The coaches and team medical personal may have a duty to mitigate damages when a high school player suffers head trauma. Students who have suffered injury outside of the expected level of a contact sport like football may look to a personal injury advocate for assistance in finding a legal course of action towards compensation or awards.

Source: U.S. News, "'Catastrophic' Head Injuries to High School Football Players Rising," April 20, 2012

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