Friday, October 4, 2013

Effort to reduce concussions in football

By: Jacob Bailes

   Football officials at both the high school and professional levels are trying to reduce the possibility of injury or death from concussions by helmet-to-helmet contact. Reducing concussions in sports has become a top priority because people who receive a concussion are twice or three times as likely to suffer from another one.
   A 16-year-old died in New York over the weekend of September 13 due to a helmet-to-helmet collision during a high school football game. Damon Janes, a junior running and defensive back at Brocton-Westfield High School, was sent to the hospital after originally walking to the sidelines under his own power. He was in critical condition for three days before passing away from his injuries on September 16. According to the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research at the University of North Carolina, this is the second death like this in less than a month.
   Football is the most common sport to suffer a concussion, and it is estimated that 47% of athletes do not report feeling any symptoms after a concussion. Fewer than 10% result in blacking out which is why many concussions go unnoticed.
   In response to this, Impakt Protective has created a device called the Shockbox. It is a helmet g-force sensor that measures the level of intensity from a hit that an athlete has suffered and whether medical assessment is needed. If an athlete is hit too hard, an alert is sent to a mobile device via Bluetooth. It can support up to 128 Shockboxes with a single phone, allowing coaches to monitor the number of severe hits the team has suffered. While this technology can be really helpful in the effort to reduce injuries, many players won’t want to use it for the fear that coaches will take them out if they’ve been hit too hard.
   Physical trainer Steve Lough uses the ImPACT evaluation system which is a computer-based cognitive test that analyzes athletes in the pre-season and then again if they may have suffered a head injury to determining safe return-to-play decisions. It is suggested that athletes be tested once every two years but Lough does it once every year to be safe.
   “It’s important that you have someone who is able to interpret the tests so that you can understand them. The tests are worth it because you’re able to help and protect the athletes,” he says.
   It is estimated that high school athletes suffer anywhere from 136,000 and 300,000 concussions every year. It is important to spot a concussion quickly because these traumatic incidents can lead to cognitive impairments and many other long term consequences.


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