In the past decade, efforts have greatly ramped up when it comes to protecting football players against traumatic brain injuries, from kids on up to the players in the National Football League. With studies that report eye-opening statistics, such as the fact that 5% of kids who play football between the ages of 5 and 14 sustain concussions, the extra efforts are needed.

As sports medicine and concussion specialists, our team here at Genesis Orthopaedic and Spine takes this area of health very seriously, which is why we present the following information.

What happens during a concussion

Before we get into the specifics of football when it comes to brain injuries, let’s first take a look at what happens to the brain during a concussion. The brain is suspended in the skull by cerebrospinal fluid, which protects this soft and delicate organ from injury.

If your child sustains a direct blow to their head, their brain can slam up against the side of the skull, which can cause bruising and damage to the blood vessels and nerves.

Why you should be concerned

While an initial concussion is reason enough for concern, studies suggest that if your child sustains a concussion, they are 3-6 times more likely to suffer another than a player who hasn’t had a concussion. The reason for this increase in risk is often because the brain didn’t heal fully the first time around.

Even if your child has never sustained a concussion playing football, they are still at risk for chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which is a degenerative condition of the brain that develops after repeated blows to the head. While each of these impacts may not qualify as concussions, the traumas can cause micro injuries in your child’s brain that begin to add up.

Mitigating the risk for concussion

The primary reason why football is often singled out when it comes to concussions is the direct head-to-head hits that are part of the game. Nearly 2 million concussions occur among children in the US each year due to recreation and sport-related activities and it’s safe to say that football accounts for a large percentage of these brain injuries.

A study of college football players showed that 72% of concussions and 67% of head impact exposure occurred during practice and not during a game. Recognizing this problem, the National Football League Players Association allows only 14 full-contact practices during its 17-week season and, as a result, only 18% of concussions now occur during practice.

High schools have also taken action, and nearly 40 states have taken steps to ban or limit full contact during practice or training. Here in New Jersey, ​​the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association reduced in-season full practice-field contact from 90 minutes per week to a maximum of 15 minutes per week.

Playing safely

While we’ve introduced some fairly alarming numbers and concerns, the decision as to whether your child should play football is up to you. Thanks to new regulations, ramped up vigilance, and improved protective equipment, steps are being taken to reduce the risks of concussions while students are playing football.

If your child does play football, we urge you to ensure that they remain vigilant about protecting their head at all times. You can do your part by seeking our help any time your child sustains a blow to the head, as we feel it’s better to err on the side of caution.

In fact, some of our team members are Credentialed ImPACT® Consultants (CIC), which means they have the training and expertise you need to assess and treat a concussion.

If you have more questions about concussions and football, we urge you to contact our office in Westfield, New Jersey.

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