Practice could be more dangerous than the game
These days, it’s hard to talk about football without also talking about concussions.
Some studies have revealed the frequency of head injuries in youth football and their possible long-term effects. Others have concluded that young athletes are often rushed back into play too soon, if they report their injuries at all.
According to new data from researchers at the Datalys Center for Sports Injury Research and Prevention, Inc., young athletes are more likely to get concussions during practice than they are during games.
The study examined more than 200 youth football programs for two seasons. Overall, they found 1,200 reported concussions. Within high school and college programs, 58 percent of concussions happened during practices.
“All sports have an element of risk,” says Dr. Doré DeBartolo, sports medicine physician at Advocate South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest, Ill. “Fortunately, we have studies like this to provide valuable information about how we can lower these risks as much as possible. If we know that concussions are more likely during practices, we can look for ways to make practices safer.”
Despite growing public concern about safety and injury, professional football continues to hold the top spot as America’s favorite sport and young athletes continue to play. In 2014, 3 million youth, 1.1 million high school and 100,000 college athletes played organized football.
“As physicians, educators, coaches and parents, it’s up to us to continue to advocate for safer sports,” says Dr. DeBartolo. “Increased awareness is a good start, but we need to take an active role in prevention, as well.”
Dr. DeBartolo suggests five ways to make sports safer:
- Insist that safety comes first. Make sure your organization or school has an adequate concussion policy in place and become familiar with it.
- Train athletes in proper blocking and tackling. Not all training has to involve player-to-player contact.
- Make sure athletes use proper equipment at all times. Protective gear should fit correctly and be well-maintained.
- Know the signs and symptoms of a concussion. They can include dizziness, drowsiness, feeling “foggy,” headache, irritability, nausea, memory problems, and more. Note that not all concussions cause a loss of consciousness. If unsure, don’t hesitate to seek medical care.
- If in doubt, sit them out. No game is worth an athlete’s health and well-being.
The Heads Up program from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention offers additional resources and training about sports-related brain injuries for both parents and young athletes.
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