High school football season has arrived in the state of Georgia. Throughout the coming months, it will be exciting to enjoy watching the action beneath the “Friday night lights.”
However, it will be important throughout the season to keep a focus on players’ safety – especially the risks of concussions. This health issue has garnered much attention in recent years in the college and pro football ranks. It should at the high school level as well.
As the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta reports, more than 173,000 sports-related traumatic brain injuries, including concussions, occur in the U.S. each year. Almost half of those head injuries are from playing football.
Last fall, a PBS Frontline documentary reported that, based on a conservative estimate, high school football players experience concussions at nearly twice the rate as college players.
What remains unknown, Institute of Medicine (IOM) researchers told PBS, is whether repetitive head trauma and multiple concussions sustained in youth sports can lead to long-term neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
As an IOM official told Frontline, concussion symptoms often disappear within two weeks. However, “in 10 to 20 percent of individuals … concussive symptoms persist for a number of weeks, months or even years.”
Guidelines for Concussion Management in Georgia Schools
The Georgia High School Association has adopted rules for dealing with athletes who may suffer concussions while playing for their schools. Parents and players themselves have the right to make sure their school’s coaches, trainers and administrators are obeying these rules.
“Any athlete who exhibits signs, symptoms or behaviors consistent with a concussion (such as loss of consciousness, headache, dizziness, confusion or balance problems) shall be immediately removed from the contest and shall not return to play until cleared by an appropriate health-care professional,” the GHSA guidelines state.
The organization cautions that not all concussion victims lose consciousness.
Additionally, the GHSA’s rules for concussion management direct that “coaches, players, [game] officials and administrators should … be looking for signs of concussion in all athletes and should immediately remove any suspected concussed athlete from play.”
Athletes diagnosed with a concussion are not to return to the playing field that same day, and “the formulation of a gradual return to play protocol should be a part of the medical clearance,” according to the rules.
Compliance with GHSA rules for managing concussions among student-athletes is the responsibility of the head coach and school administration – not game officials, the GHSA states.
Learn More about Concussion Management
The GHSA “strongly recommends” that coaches participate in a free, online course about concussion management, which has been prepared by the National Federation of State High School Associations. Parents and players may wish to view this information as well.
If you are a parent, you should check into whether your child’s school is using appropriate protocols for identifying and responding to concussions among its football players. Simply ask coaches, trainers and administrators at your child’s school how they manage concussions.
You should also review these two resources about concussion injuries in children:
- Concussion: Frequently Asked Questions from Parents, a family friendly guide by the Center for Brain Injury Research & Training
- Sport-Related Concussion in Children and Adolescents, a more detailed, clinical report from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
High school football season can be an exciting time. However, wins and losses should never take precedence over the health and safety of the players.