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Football safety

A football player dives over other players with the ball.
Blog Health Information

/ by Peter Gray, MA, LAT, ATC

Injuries sustained during football, especially those to the head, have been a popular topic in medical literature and public media. There are many concerns about head injuries, especially concussions and the accumulative effect of concussive and sub-concussive blows. Recognizing these injuries and the potential for long-term consequences has led some parents and athletes to question playing the sport.

Most injuries sustained during participation in youth football are minor; however, the incidences of severe injuries, catastrophic injuries and concussions are higher in football than most other team sports. This can be attributed to player-to-player contact and tackling. As one of the most popular high school sports, with over 1.1 million participants, football requires further attention to safety.

The American Academy of Pediatrics provides the following recommendations regarding youth football:

  • Players and parents must decide whether the benefits of playing outweigh the risks of possible injury. As with many activities, like skateboarding, biking and jumping on a trampoline, there are associated risks. If athletes are interested in playing football, parents should seek out well-informed coaches who will teach proper tackling techniques.
  • Officials and coaches must enforce the rules of proper tackling, including zero tolerance for illegal, head-first hits. A significant number of concussions and catastrophic injuries occur because of improper and illegal contact. Officials should be encouraged to stop play when a foreseen dangerous play may arise.
  • All coaches should be taught under a standardized curriculum and should continue their education to ensure proper coaching of tackling techniques. 
  • Non-tackling leagues should be expanded. This would allow athletes to play football without tackling and its associated risks.
  • Given their importance in the medical management of injuries and ability to decrease the incidence of sport-related injuries, football teams should have athletic trainers at the sidelines during organized football games and practices.

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