Friday Night Lights, a time for fun with friends and a night for victory, in the stands at least. For the players on the field, these games can be more of a nightmare. On average, a high school football player gets hit 30 to 50 times per game with a force similar to that of a car crash. With a recent rise in catastrophic head injuries among high school football players, this carefree fall sport is beginning to seem a lot more sinister.
Each tackle and hit taken by the players has the possibility to cause brain bleeding and swelling or other life threatening neurological issues. According to Dr. Barry P. Boden of the Orthopedic Center in Rockville, Maryland, the brain of a high school football player is not fully developed, therefore the skull is thinner putting them at risk for severe brain injuries. Players also have a tendency to continue participating while injured which only worsens their condition. Specifically, about 40 percent of previously injured players continue to play even after prior symptoms return. This only increases a player’s chance of becoming severely damaged.
In the past couple years, concussion prevention technology, such as newer helmets and mouth guards, have improved. This high tech equipment helps lessen the blow but does not prevent the brain from slamming against the skull. On impact, the brain which is floating freely in cerebrospinal fluid moves slower than the skull, causing a collision to occur; this collision is what creates neurological issues. These neurological issues include concussions, CTE, and memory loss. In order to lessen the severity of a trauma, doctors must correctly diagnose and treat athletes.
The only way high school football players can be saved is through education and acceptance. Most players ignore symptoms and continue to play not wanting to take time off.
“I have ignored past injuries to play because I hate being benched. On off season injuries eventually healed, but it never stopped me from playing,” said Troy Coronel ‘19.
Athletes tend to disregard symptoms in order to keep their spot on the field. 69% of these athletes have continued to play with concussion symptoms, and 40% of them stated that their coach was not aware of their condition. By not reporting injuries, players are only hurting their chances of returning.
Coaches, parents, and athletes themselves need to be properly informed on how to recognize injuries such as concussions and how to deal with them. The athlete needs to also understand that when they are faced with these problems they need to speak up; nothing can heal if it is ignored. Teaching guardians and coaches how to deal with such issues can help ensure that players stay healthy longer.
From the stands, each tackle and hit is celebrated as a success for defense when in reality every player that is hit is faced with the impending doom of a critical head injury. America’s favorite sport brings joy to the fans but most often brings pain to the players.