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Football Not Alone with Sports Related Head Injuries

Football has recently dominated the news regarding sports related head injuries as the focus turned to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a progressive, degenerative brain disease discovered in a large number of former football players. The fact is that there are many other sports where athletes face a high risk of receiving a traumatic brain injury.

When viewing statistics related to different sports and the frequency of brain injuries it is easy to be confused. Most studies show that cycling has the highest rate of head injuries based on emergency room admissions. Boxing is not even considered. Does this mean a parent should discourage bike riding and buy their child a pair of boxing gloves? Certainly not. Cycling for the most part is a recreational activity or method of travel, more than it is a sport. Millions ride bikes everyday, sharing the road with cars, so, naturally, there will be much higher injury rate. Recent studies show that former professional boxers have a 100 percent presence of CTE. Concussions received by boxers in the past were rarely reported until recently. 

The frequency of head injuries below applies only to contact sports based on the number of concussions per 10,000 participants:

Men's wrestling - 10.92

Men's ice hockey - 7.81

Women's ice hockey - 7.52

Men's football - 6.71

Women's soccer - 6.31

Women's basketball - 5.95

Women's Lacrosse - 5.21

Women's field hockey - 4.02

Men's basketball - 3.89

Women's volleyball - 3.57

Other sports where the risk of head injury is relatively high are: men's lacrosse, martial arts, men's soccer, rugby, baseball and softball, watersports (diving, surfing, waterskiing) winter sports (skiing, snowboarding etc.), horseback riding, skateboarding, cheerleading, gymnastics and, of course, boxing and ultimate fighting.

Many parents are not allowing their children to participate in different sports activities. In a survey, the sports that were viewed most negatively from the percentage of parents that would allow participation by their children were: rugby (6%) hockey (12%) field hockey (16%) lacrosse (17%) football (18%) and wrestling (18%).

A survey by Bloomberg in 2014 revealed that 50% of Americans would not allow their children to participate in youth football. The largest youth football organization in the world, Pop Warner, reported a drop in participation of nearly 10% between 2010 and 2012. This will have a serious negative impact on the future of the game as between 60 and 70% of NFL players are introduced to the game though the Pop Warner program.

Doctors and experts on traumatic brain injury have repeatedly urged parents not to pull their children out of athletic activities, insisting that it is not the answer.

Dr. Andrew Murray, a physician and well known Sports and Medicine Consultant with the University of Edinburgh, the Scottish Rugby Union, the SportScotland Institute of Sport and the European Golf Tour does not support reducing children's physical activity as the answer, as he contended in an article in the UK publication the Daily Mail.

"Simply put, turning our children into couch potatoes is not a cure for sports injuries," Dr. Murray wrote. "Imagine a present that adds an average of seven years to life, increases happiness, can help prevent and treat more than 40 chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart attacks, stroke, depression and dementia and may even improve marks at school. Surely we would want that for our children, and that's what physical activity and sports can bring."

Preventing Sports Related Head Injuries

A great many sports related head injuries are preventable through proper enforcement of the rules and teaching good sportsmanship. Athletes should be trained to avoid unsafe actions such as:

· Using their head or helmet to contact another player

· Striking a player in the head

· Checking, colliding with, or tacking an unprotected opponent

· Deliberately trying to injure or put another player at risk for injury

· Eliminate hard contact form practices

An action plan should be created to provide information to each athlete on ways to reduce their chances of getting a concussion.

Make athletes aware of the importance of reporting a possible concussion. It is not uncommon for a player to avoid reporting a concussion because they do not think it is serious, do not want to let down the team or lose their position on the team. They may fear looking weak or perceived negatively by the coach or teammates.

Having a concussion plan in place in case an athlete appears to have a concussion is paramount. An athlete with an apparent concussion should be removed from play immediately. He of she should not be allowed to return to play until cleared by a heath care provider. Providing the details of the cause of injury to the healthcare provider will help in the assessment of the injury. Do not let the athlete back into play without written consent from the healthcare provider.

Vititoe Law Group is a personal injury law firm committed to the safety of young athletes. If you have a son or daughter that was injured playing or practicing a sport and feel that there was negligence on the part of a coach, school or organization contact Vititoe Law Group today and speak with a personal injury lawyer for a free consultation to explore your legal options. Call 818-851-1886 today.

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