As high school football season gets underway, a recent study looks at the number of students participating in high school tackle football and whether declining numbers in recent years might be due to concerns over concussion risks.
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CLEVELAND – The end of summer break signals the start of high school football season.
But according to a recent study, the Friday night lights may be fading as more athletes are dropping out of tackle football, possibly due to concerns over concussion risks.
The study looked at high school football participation rates over a 15-year span. They found that while rates steadily increased between 2001 and 2008, they have since been on a steady decline.
At the same time, the number of annual news reports about tackle football and brain injuries increased from 2009 to 2016, which according to researchers, could point to a possible connection between the reports and the declining enrollment in high school football.
Richard Figler, M.D., of Cleveland Clinic treats athletes who have suffered a concussion. He did not take part in the study, but said when it comes to player safety, concussion education and awareness is key.
“One of the biggest predictors of recovery, is the athlete’s ability to recognize the symptoms after the injury and to rest, recover, and then return,” said Dr. Figler. “Their return should be guided by a physician or a healthcare provider that’s well-versed in the management of concussions.”
Dr. Figler said it’s important to remember that concussions can happen in any sport, which is why athletes, parents and coaches need to know what to look for.
If an athlete gets hit in the head and looks dazed, confused; is stumbling, looks glossy-eyed or reports a headache or ringing in their ears, these are all signs that they should cease activity and be appropriately evaluated.
According to Dr. Figler, research has shown that removing a player from the field of play after a suspected concussion is the best way to ensure a quicker recovery.
When it comes to concussion concerns, Dr. Figler said parents, athletes and coaches should follow the mantra – ‘when in doubt, sit them out.’
But with any sport, he said it’s important to remember the benefits of the activity and factor those in when making decisions about which sport to choose.
“You have to consider the risk of not playing a sport, and the risk of not playing a sport is probably a little bit higher – with pediatric obesity on the rise,” said Dr. Figler.” Research has shown that kids who play sports fare better academically; they have better social engagement; they report better behavior and they’re actually at decreased risk of depression and anxiety overall compared to their peers who don’t play sports.”
Complete results of the study can be found in JAMA Pediatrics.