It’s one of the annual rites of late summer in West Virginia – the kickoff of high school football. As one of the most popular high school sports in every state in the country, football enjoys an intense, devoted following. Over 1.2 million kids play high school football, and of course, when you couple that level of participation with the physical nature of the sport, you can end up with a considerable number of injuries, including trauma to a players’ head and spine.
A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and published by the National Athletic Trainers Association, focused on the biomechanics of how tackles occur in an effort to better understand the high risk of concussions and spine injuries to high school football players. Surprisingly, the study determined that differences in height, weight and technique make high school football tackles a much greater risk of causing injury to the head and spine than similar tackles at the college level. Researchers came to their conclusions by studying high school football players wearing helmets equipped with sensors and comparing the data to similar studies on college players.
It is estimated that over 67,000 concussions occur each year in high school football, though the actual number may be far greater since it is suspected that many concussions are never reported by high school players. It is imperative that our local football coaches teach proper blocking and tackling techniques, as well as being keenly aware of the symptoms of a concussion or spinal injury that a high school football player that may have suffered during a game or practice. If that occurs, immediate medical attention should be sought for that student.
While this article is not meant to unnecessarily alarm parents of student athletes, its purpose is to bring attention to the need that proper blocking and tackling techniques be taught to the football athletes and that such players implement those techniques during games. In doing so, we can only hope that our West Virginia high school athletes avoid any serious injuries during the season.