Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Opinion

August 2, 2013

Head injuries are serious

Players, coaches and fans got a scare when a Marion High School football player suffered a head injury during a game against North Central Conference foe Logansport in 2008.

The incident served as a reminder that athletic competition can be dangerous.

A 2008 New York Times report found that in a 10-year period, head injuries caused the deaths of at least 50 football players at the high school level or younger. Experts say young players are especially vulnerable because their brain tissue is less developed and more easily damaged.

That’s why at Sunday’s Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio, NFL fans will see on-field stencils and end-zone banners promoting the youth safety program, Heads Up Football. The league announced Wednesday it would use its preseason games to raise awareness that using a helmet as a battering ram can lead to serious injury.

All Indiana schools now must monitor concussions suffered by athletes competing in football, as well as every other sport.

Senate Enrolled Act 93 of 2010 requires:

• Information be given to coaches, athletes and parents concerning the nature of concussions and health risks of continued participation after suffering such an injury.

• Athletes and parents give signed consent to participate in a sport, knowing concussions are possible.

• Coaches and officials remove an athlete suspected of suffering a concussion from practice and competition. Athletes must get written clearance from a health care provider before continuing participation in their sport.

Just three years ago, scientists funded in part by the NFL announced they found evidence linking head injuries in athletes to a condition that mimics ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. In every NFL locker room, players are reminded of the seriousness of concussions and to alert medical staff if they suffer symptoms.

Football players should avoid helmet-to-helmet collisions, and ball carriers should be taught not to lower their heads when making contact with a tackler. Whether blocking, tackling or carrying the ball, all players should be discouraged from using the top of their helmets.

Injuries are an unavoidable part of sport, but experts say most tragedies can be prevented with a bit of preparation and common sense.

The best way to avoid serious consequences is for athletes, parents and coaches to take these injuries seriously. Indiana lawmakers have ensured that they will.

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