California: Concussions are Up and Football Participation is Down
This article is a great overview of the different issues and viewpoints on the subject of youth sports safety.
Concussions are up
“In the Bay Area, 3,064 girls and boys ages 9 to 18 were diagnosed with sports-related concussions in 2015, an 82 percent increase since 2005, according to numbers compiled by the California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development exclusively for this newspaper. Across the state, hospitals recorded 17,533 sports-related head injuries in 2015 for that age group, up 57 percent over the same time period.”
Participation in high school football is down
“High school football participation in California is down 7 percent over the past decade [100,538 down from 108,065] with some schools dropping teams or even their entire football programs, according to hospital and high school athletics statistics compiled by this newspaper. Every other major high school sport has seen participation grow over that period, and for the first time, track and field [up 15%] has more athletes, knocking football off its pedestal.”
"The reason I think the youth football numbers have dropped is due to the issue of concussions," said Roger Blake, California Interscholastic Federation executive director. "Parents, rightfully so, are asking questions and have concerns.”
What’s been done
“The CIF has reacted to the dangers by implementing strict concussion protocols -- rules and procedures to test for and treat concussion symptoms -- over the past several years, including limiting teams to two, 90-minute-maximum full-contact sessions each week, improving tackling drills, improving coach training and lengthening recovery times for players with concussion symptoms.”
But, “state CIF data shows that only 21 percent of high schools have a full-time athletic trainer.”
What do parents think?
"I couldn't handle any traumatic injuries to my son through a dumb sport like football," said Roberson, a former emergency medical technician who was on the field at Stanford during the 1985 Super Bowl and witnessed "unbelievable" injuries. "All sports have their risks, but football goes above and beyond what I would consider tolerable."
James Crudo, a former quarterback for Oakland's Bishop O'Dowd, said he gave up high school football after two years because of a series of concussions from a variety of sports and a serious fall when he was 3. The concussion he suffered in football practice was the tipping point for him and his parents, he said.
“Shamik Mehta has had the concussion discussion with his wife and 15-year-old son Vishal, but with a different outcome. His son is now a sophomore cornerback on the Saratoga High School junior varsity squad. "It was a big struggle with my wife and I. How much do we try and protect him and how much do we let him come into his own?" Mehta said. "There's a risk in everything we do, and it's not enough to warrant me not letting him do it."Mehta said some of his concerns were alleviated by Saratoga's new helmets, which include sensors that relay a message to the sideline when a dangerous hit occurs.”
"The way I look at it, like most everything in life, it has significant risks," he said. "When you're out there playing, if you're worried about getting hurt, it puts you a step back in the game. And I love what football gives us. There are so many life lessons that come out of it about teamwork, mental and physical toughness and facing fear."
And the new football helmets? Expensive.
“Head coach Tim Lugo knows the affluent school is fortunate to have the funding to purchase the state-of-the-art equipment. The team, in its second year with the Riddell InSite helmets, now has 45, allowing more than half of the players to wear the $399 head protection. Ten parents bought the helmets on their own, Lugo said.”
The reality is that only 21% of high schools in California have even 1 full time athletic trainer. And the concussion protocols, are they enough?
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