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Football and Traumatic Brain Injury
10/14/2005
Football players face more than the opposing team when they hit the field. They face even greater obstacles including bruises, the possibility of broken limbs and worse – traumatic brain injury (TBI).

TBI is defined by the Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA) as a blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the function of the brain. The severity of a TBI can range from mild to severe and can result in short or long-term problems with independent function.

Every year, thousands of children die as a result of an injury and thousands more are left with a permanent disability. Football injuries associated with the brain occur at a rate of one in every three and a half games. The BIAA reports that football is responsible for more than 250,000 head injuries in the United States. In any given season 20 percent of all high school players sustain brain injuries.

Simple safety precautions such as wearing a helmet can help prevent brain injuries on the football field. Football players are required to wear helmets during the game, but they are not necessarily required to wear them during practice. Helmets should be worn at all times on the practice and football fields.

Brain injuries cause more deaths than any other sports injury. In football, brain injury accounts for 65 to 85 percent of all fatalities. Each year more than 150,000 football players under the age of 15 seek treatment for injuries at hospital emergency rooms. Help avoid injury while playing football. Follow these safety tips from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and the Centers for Disease Control:
  • Before your child starts a training program or plays competitive football, take him or her to the doctor for a physical exam. The doctor can assess any special injury risks your child may have.
  • Make sure your child wears all the required safety gear every time he or she plays and practices. All tackle football players must wear: a helmet; pads for the shoulders, hips, tailbone and knees; thigh guards; and a mouth guard with a keeper strap. Talk to your child’s coach to find out what kind of cleats are recommended or required in your child’s league. If your child wears glasses, talk to your eye doctor about special eyewear for sports.
  • Insist that your child warm up and stretch before playing.
  • Teach your child not to play through pain. If your child gets injured, see a doctor and follow all doctors' orders for recovery and release. This is especially important for brain injuries – getting a second brain injury before the first one has healed can be fatal.
  • Make sure first aid is available at all games and practices.
  • Talk to the coaches. Coaches should enforce all the rules of the game. They should never allow illegal blocking, tackling from behind or spearing (using the top of the helmet to tackle). Coaches should encourage safe play and understand the special injury risks that young players face.
  • Above all, keep football fun. Putting too much focus on winning can make your child push too hard and risk injury.
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