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Researchers from UNC released findings recently that catastrophic brain injuries are on the rise for high school football players for the first time in more than 30 years. These are injuries that are serious enough to leave the players permanently disabled.
Catastrophic brain injuries associated with full-contact football appear to be rising, especially among high school students, according to a new report.
The increase is alarming and indicates more coaches and athletic trainers should change how they teach the fundamental skills of the game, according to researchers based at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Until recently, the number of football-related brain injuries with permanent disability in high school had remained in the single digits since 1984. However, the tally rose to 10 injuries in 2008 and 2009, and there were 13 in 2011, according to the latest catastrophic football injury research annual report from the UNC-based National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research.
“These 2011 numbers are the highest since we began collecting catastrophic brain injury data,” said Fred Mueller, Ph.D., the report’s lead author, director of the center and professor emeritus of exercise and sports science in the College of Arts and Sciences. “This is a major problem.”
As with workplace injuries, prevention and education are keys to reversing this alarming trend of catastrophic brain injuries in football. The UNC researchers recommend the following:
- Coaches must be trained to recognize the signs of concussions and they should pull players from games if they show any symptoms
- Parents must be educated about concussions, as well
- Before they’re allowed to return to the field, players should be cleared by a physician
- Teams must educate players not to use the head when tackling or blocking
- Coaches must teach proper football fundamental skills
- Schools should hire certified athletic trainers
- Referees must throw flags when they see illegal tackles