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A responsibility to play it safe

Posted by Bob Holmes, Globe Staff  September 23, 2012 09:00 AM

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It's football time with tailgates, coin tosses, game faces, and spectators screaming for their favorite player. During the game the players tackle each other, each defending their turf and hoping their opponent doesn’t score. We all witness with our own eyes players fighting to win, bodies colliding and helmets hitting each other making loud noises.

Throughout a football game players fall and get back up, some even stay down for little while to recover. Until recently we all thought this was just part of the game; however studies now show that more and younger athletes are suffering concussions from high impact sports. With the high school football season already underway, and with the middle school football games starting Tuesday, it’s a good time to pause and think about player safety.

What is a concussion? A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head that can change the way your brain normally works. What are some symptoms an athlete may experience?

• Headaches
• Dizziness
• Vomiting
• Blurry Vision
• Memory Loss
• Light Sensitivity
• Sluggish and Goofy

According to the Youth Sports Safety Alliance (YSSA):

• Around 8,000 children are treated in emergency rooms each day for sports injuries.
• 15.8 percent of football players who sustain a concussion severe enough to cause loss of consciousness return to play the same day.
• It has been reported that there are as many as 100,000 - 300,000 sports- related concussions per year in the U.S. where the athlete loses consciousness. However, loss of consciousness occurs in as little as 1 out of 10 athletes.
• Concussion symptoms like headaches and disorientation may disappear in 15 minutes, but 75 percent of those tested 36 hours later still had problems with memory and cognition.
• 62 percent of injuries in team sports occur during practices.
• There are five times as many catastrophic football injuries among high school athletes compared to college athletes.

If athletes have any symptoms of a concussion, coaches should remove them immediately from the game and not let them return until they have been checked out by a health care professional. Athletes are going to want to continue to play, so it is up to coaches and parents to protect them. Remember you can’t see a concussion and some athletes may not experience and/or report symptoms until hours or days after the injury. Most people with a concussion will recover quickly and fully. But for some people, signs and symptoms of concussion can last for days, weeks, or longer.

The Center for Disease Control’s Concussion in Youth Sports recommends the following ways to play it safe:

Every sport is different, but there are steps you can take to protect yourself.

• Follow your coach’s rules for safety and the rules of the sport.

• Practice good sportsmanship at all times.

• Use the proper sports equipment, including personal protective equipment (such as helmets, padding, shin guards, and eye and mouth guards). In order for equipment to protect you, it must be 1). the right equipment for the game, position, or activity; 2). worn correctly and fit well; 3). used every time you play.

We all have a responsibility to play it safe.

About Boston Public Schools Sports Blog

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Several reporters, editors and correspondents contribute updates, news and features to the BPS Sports Blog:
  • Justin A. Rice -- A metro Detroit native, Rice is a Michigan State University (Go Spartans!) and Northeastern University graduate. Rice lives in the South End with his dog and wife, who unfortunately attended the University of Michigan ... his wife, that is. He curates the BPS Sports Blog and is always looking to write about city athletes with great stories. Have an idea? He can be reached at jrice.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJustinRice or @BPSspts.
  • Ryan Butler -- A Rhode Island native and avid Boston sports fan, Butler played basketball, baseball and football throughout his time in Barrington Public Schools. Now currently in his middler year at Northeastern University, he joins Boston.com as a correspondent for the site's BPS coverage. Have a story idea? Contact him at butler.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on his Twitter @butler_globe.
Also expect updates from Boston.com High School sports editor Zuri Berry and the Globe staff.