How to Avoid Or Decrease the Risk of Football Injuries

Due to the recent media attention given to concussions and the risk of long-term brain damage, many parents question whether they should allow their children to play football. What steps can parents and coaches take to decrease the risk of football injuries?

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Through the stories of a dozen athletes whose injuries and recovery advanced the field (including Joan Benoit, Michael Jordan, Brandi Chastain, and Tommy John), Dr. Geier explains how sports medicine makes sports safer for the pros, amateurs, student-athletes, and weekend warriors alike.

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Frequently Asked Questions on Football Injuries

+What is a concussion?

-What is a concussion?

A concussion is a complex pathophysiologic process resulting from a traumatic brain injury that often occurs in contact and collision sports. While the term often describes seemingly mild brain injuries in sports, it is also used as a group of injuries with different levels of severity. Injury to the brain in sports can occur with blows to the head. They can also occur with hits to other parts of the body that cause a sudden change of direction of the head and neck, causing the brain to forcefully contact the skull. Symptoms can vary depending on the extent of injury. An athlete might exhibit headaches, blurry vision, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light, loss of balance or coordination, memory loss, loss of consciousness, and more. All brain injuries — even those that seem mild — warrant neurologic evaluation of the athlete. Most sports have adopted policies mandating the removal of any athlete who suffers a concussion from the game.
+What is chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE)?

-What is chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE)?

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain that is being increasingly diagnosed in athletes and former athletes with a history of repetitive brain trauma. The trauma to the brain includes not only symptomatic concussions but also repetitive subconcussive blows to the head. These brain injuries lead to a progressive degeneration within the brain months or years later. Symptoms can include depression, personality changes, memory loss, and dementia.
+Can helmets prevent concussions?

-Can helmets prevent concussions?

Buying an expensive new helmet with the latest technology might not be a bad idea, but no helmet can eliminate the risk for a concussion completely. In fact, these fancy helmets don’t appear to have better results in terms of concussion symptoms than other new helmets or even reconditioned helmets. If an athlete is going to wear a used helmet, he and his parents and coaches should ensure that it has been fully inspected for damage and properly reconditioned. Athletes should work with coaches and athletic trainers or equipment managers to get a helmet that fits correctly for the size of their heads.
+Should parents allow their kids to play football?

-Should parents allow their kids to play football?

Parents must evaluate the risks and benefits of football. Sports offer many benefits for our kids, including health improvements, social interactions, leadership opportunities and much more. Football also presents possibly rare but real risks of later memory loss, critical thinking problems, mood disturbance and even suicide. We need much more research to learn just how likely those risks are. Until we have those answers, parents will have to determine if the benefits of football are worth those risks.