Despite overwhelming evidence of the sport’s dangers, high school football participation is down just 2% since 2008. Since the kids won’t kick the sport, legislators and state athletic associations are trying to make it safer.
It’s a hot July afternoon, just before a thunderstorm. The Bonnette family is in the living room next to a fan, discussing schedules. 17-year-old Giuliana Bonnette plays the right side position for the varsity volleyball team at Dominion High School in Sterling. She is now recovered from two concussions she suffered in the spring.
“It started out as just a really bad headache, and a little bit of confusion,” Bonnette said.
These were Giuliana Bonnette’s symptoms after her first concussion 6 months ago. Her head slammed against the ground during volleyball tryouts. It was first diagnosed as whiplash.
From Pop Warner to the pros, football players will soon strap on their helmets for another hard-hitting season on the gridiron. Those hard hits can be dangerous, even deadly. Helmet companies claim new products can protect your kids from concussions, but do they really work?
The big helmet-to-helmet hits send football fans to their feet. The problem is that the hits also send players to the hospital. The concussion discussion dominates safety speak at every level.
With youth sports concussion safety laws in place in all 50 states, increased public awareness about concussions, and growing concernabout the long-term effect of repetitive head impacts, the demand for concussion education, not just for parents, coaches, and athletes, but for health care professionals as well is at an all-time high, and promises to go even higher in the coming years.
But who should sports programs – whether school-based or independently run – hire to educate athletes, coaches, and parents about concussions? What kind of training, education and experience should they have?
We decided to ask a number of leading concussion educators. First up is Robb Rehberg, Professor and Coordinator of Athletic Training Clinical Education at William Paterson University in Wayne, New Jersey.
Optimist Youth Football says it has replaced hundreds of helmets after a KTVB report on football helmet ratings and concussions.
In original stories that aired in February, local high school coaches, trainers and sporting goods dealers talked about a Virginia Tech study that indicates certain football helmets may cut concussion risks.
A lineman who plays in high school, college and the pros may retire with 10,0000 sub-concussive hits, none of which were diagnosed, none of which he is aware of. The aggregate of these hits produce brain damage much more severe than being knocked out three times.
Prominent neurologists and researchers like Robert Cantu, Julian Bailes, Kevin Guskiewicz, Kristen Willeumier and David Hovda report that three or more concussions may lead to exponentially higher rates of Alzheimer’s, ALS, dementia, chronic traumatic encephalopathy and depression. This is different from other injuries. Brain function provides memory, judgment, and personality — what it means to be a sentient human being. That is why we are forming a new foundation, “Athletes Speak,” with players advocating awareness and prevention.
The National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE) applauds and encourages the growing research in the area of concussion protection for athletes, including the work released this month by Virginia Tech. Coaches, consumers and parents should be aware that while the STAR rating system suggests the purchase of specific football helmets, scientific evidence does not support the claim that a particular helmet brand or model is more effective in reducing the occurrence of concussive events.
Brain injuries in youth sports have been on the rise in recent years, alarming many parents about the lifelong effects of concussions. The number of brain injuries linked to American youth increased 62 percent between the years of 2001 and 2009, with reported incidents around 250,000 in 2009 (Obama, NFL, NCAA Get Behind Research into Concussions in Youth Sports: Insurance Journal, May 29, 2014).
The Midwestern Midget Football Club is suing the maker of a helmet claiming to reduce the risk of concussions in children who wear it.
Midwestern filed suit in federal court against RBG Holding Company and its subsidiaries, including Riddell Inc. and Easton-Bell, alleging their claims that the Revolution helmet substantially reduces the risk of concussion is misleading. The club is seeking class action status, saying it filed on behalf of all West Virginia residents who purchased a Revolution helmet over the past four years.
A new study presented today at the 2014 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) found no link between neurocognitive function and years of football play in adolescent athletes.