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Who Is Preventing Traumatic Brain Injury In High School Football? Nobody

Submitted by Danny Grubb

It was sad to read about the death of a New York high school student during a varsity football game this past weekend. It didn't help when I started to research the subject of Traumatic Brain Injury in High School. I came across some surprising facts.

High School TBI By The Numbers

According to this article in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine nearly 30% of High School Football players interviewed reported having a history of concussion, only 47% of those were reported to trainers. Look at that number again… that's less than half. The three main reasons that athletes gave for not reporting their injury was that the player didn't think the injury was serious, they didn't want to be withheld from competition, or they weren't aware that they had suffered a concussion until later.

In addition to the under reporting problem is the fact that TBI is nearly five times as likely to occur in competition than training according to this article from the Journal of Athletic Training.

What Is Being Done About It

The Protecting Student Athletes from Concussions Act (H.R. 469) currently making its way through the U.S. House of Representatives aims to confront these problems by "making sure school districts have concussion management plans that educate students, parents and school personnel about how to recognize and respond to concussions."

According to the legislation, they will accomplish this by providing student athletes with information about how to prevent and manage concussions, inform and empower student athletes, parents and school personnel about concussions by requiring schools to provide relevant information, and finally to support students' health and recovery by implementing policies like "when in doubt, sit it out." 

So… They're Doing Almost Nothing

This bill does nothing to prevent Traumatic Brain Injuries for student athletes. Basically they're just going to hold an assembly, put up some posters with a snappy catch phrase and attempt to take care of students after they have already suffered a TBI.

There's something about being on a field of play that makes athletes forget they are made of flesh and bone. These are kids who are staying relatively safe during practice, but then pummel each other during games to the point where they suffer serious injuries and even die. 

Prevention On The Field

Clearly there is a weakness in the way the rules are set up for this age group. Granted, you can't take away a million dollars for a High School line backer that's throwing his weight around too aggressively, but injuring someone should have consequences. Sitting out a game or two does not seem unreasonable to me and I suspect that it would make someone think twice before delivering a devastating blow to his opponent.

The bottom line is that there is a family in New York waking up every morning for the rest of their lives without their son, and someone else's son is waking up knowing that he was on the other side of that hit.

It's time to re-evaluate the rules of High School Football and at least attempt to keep these kids safe. High school is hard enough without having to worry about dying during a game.

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