Football is one of America's favorite sports! Whether we are watching the NFL, a college, or a high school team, we can't get enough. Among all the anticipation and excitement surrounding each kickoff, we should also be aware of the risks involved for the athletes who play this highly physical sport.
When it comes to high school football, concussions are the most common injury. Concussions can have long-term consequences, some of which might be hidden.
What exactly is a concussion?
A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury often caused by a direct blow to the head. Your brain is surrounded by fluid that acts as a protective divider from your skull. When you experience a forceful injury to your head, the brain can shake or twist inside your skull. This can result in your brain striking your skull and damaging your soft brain tissue.
It used to be believed that a concussion only occurs when a person loses consciousness. Now it's been proven that a person can experience a concussion without passing out. In fact, over 90% of sports-related concussions do not involve the athlete losing consciousness. This is an alarming fact. An athlete could be suffering from a concussion without even realizing and continue to participate in the game, causing more damage.
It’s important to know the symptoms of a concussion so it can quickly be identified and treated. People suffering from a concussion often won’t be able to concentrate or think clearly. They might also have a difficult time remembering new information. Some physical symptoms might include vomiting, blurry vision, and trouble maintaining balance.
What are the numbers?
If you look at the data, the rate at which student athletes are suffering concussions is truly staggering.
- Football, ice hockey, and soccer present the greatest risk for head injury, but out of all sports-related concussions that are reported, 47% come from high school football injuries.
- Concussions don’t just occur during games. Surprisingly, 58% of college and high school football concussions happen during practice.
- There are over 1.1 million boys playing high school football every year. The rate of concussions in high school football is 2.01 for every 1,000 games.
Concussions can be particularly hazardous to high school and youth football players because the frontal lobe of the brain is still developing. Any damage to a young brain can result in severe developmental issues. An adult can recover from a concussion after about a week, while it can take several weeks for a high school athlete to recover.
Can there be any long—term effects?
Yes. Although it may seem like concussions are temporary injuries, they can have long-lasting consequences. The long term effects increase exponentially when an athlete experiences repeat injuries. One-third of all high school athletes who have a concussion will report two or more within the same season.
Even when symptoms of a concussion have passed, there can still be some underlying conditions. Doctors have reported abnormal brain wave activity along with the wasting away of the motor pathways. These combined can create problems with attention and concentration years later.
Studies have also shown that athletes who have suffered a concussion can see effects even decades later. Some symptoms are similar to those of Parkinson’s disease, while others can lead to a higher risk of Alzheimer’s.
Is a concussion going to affect my hearing?
Concussions can be a factor for an athlete's hearing health as well. Following the trauma, there is often damage to the inner and outer ear. It may be a ruptured eardrum or damage to the fine hair cells in the inner ear.
This can result in hearing difficulties, such as not being able to distinguish sounds from background noise. Concussions may also make conversations difficult because parts of the brain that process speech may have been damaged.
Tinnitus, a ringing sensation in the ears, can also present itself after significant head trauma.
What safety measures are in place?
The risk of a concussion will always there, but we've become much more educated on the matter even in the last decade. Today, schools, coaches, and officials are taking more precautions and treating concussions seriously.
Helmets and other gear have been developed to provide a greater amount of protection for any type of injury, not just to the head.
Rules and guidelines have been put in place to determine what is considered a safe tackle. Players are no longer allowed to lead a tackle with their helmet. This is for the safety of both the offensive and defensive players.
If a student is suspected to have suffered a concussion, they’re immediately removed from the game or practice. They are not allowed to participate again until they are medically cleared. This significantly reduces the chances of long-term injury.
Although there are risks involved with football, it shouldn’t deter someone from participating. High school football can be an important factor in a student’s development. It helps them develop friendships and communication skills. It also shows them the importance of teamwork and staying active.
If you believe you or a loved one has recently suffered a concussion, you should seek medical attention immediately and also schedule an appointment for a hearing health evaluation to ensure that no hearing damage has occurred.