Kids, football and concussion

Can high school football players be protected from the dangers of concussions?  In the wake of a near-fatal concussion of a local player, the San Jose Mercury News finds California’s rules are more lenient than in nearby states.

In Washington state, a new law requires a doctor’s clearance before youth athletes who suffer a suspected concussion can resume play.

In Oregon, a new law mandates annual concussion training for coaches. School sports officials there keep players who suffer such head injuries off the field for the rest of the day and mandate a medical evaluation before they return. Similar rules now apply to pro football players.

San Jose High running back Matt Blea played on Thanksgiving Day after suffering a mild concussion earlier in the week. A hard but legal tackle during the game caused “second-impact syndrome.”

A study by the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, in 2009 found that 40.5 percent of high school athletes who suffer concussions return to play before it is safe to do so, with 16 percent of high school football players who lost consciousness returning to play the same day.

It’s a dangerous game.

About Joanne


  1. My father is a neurologist, which means he only saw the kids with serious injuries. He saw a lot. As a result, there were two sports I was forbidden from playing: football and hockey. Anything else was okay, but those two were off limits.

    The real blame lies with parents who allow their kids to be pushed this far.

  2. Anecodotally, Mums in NZ are moving their boys away from playing rugby to playing soccer for this reason and also out of worry about spinal injuries causing paralysis (I used “Mums” not “parents” for a reason too).

  3. Cranberry says:

    The recent New Yorker piece on football & concussions was devastating. The writer compared it to dog fighting. The New York Times has also covered the emerging science well.

    As a mother, I see no reason to sign my child up for a sport which destroys one’s brain. Yes, you can slip and fall in a bathtub, but current football practice is apparently focused on head-to-head tackles. The New Yorker piece touched on current research into the effects of high school practices, even when the players aren’t aware of the effects.

  4. If competitive sports didn’t have such ridiculously disproportionate influence on our culture, there’s no possible way we would be allowing such a harmful activity to go on in our schools. I have to shut down my education blog pretty soon because I’m getting an outside job, but really I should go out with a bang by demanding the elimination of high school football. However, it’s one thing to criticize charter schools and get blasted all the time by the “It’s a miracle!” crowd, but I’m not sure I’m man enough for this.

  5. All four of my kids were full-time athletes and all would have been perfectly happy with the elimination of all school sports (also band, theater etc.).

    There are community and private organizations which offer many sports (and those other activities) at many levels and are also likely to have higher levels than schools offer. Swimming, skiing, skating, soccer, wrestling, tennis, gymnastics, lacrosse, golf, track & field, hockey and basketball all have highly competitive structures entirely separate from schools and school participation is not necessary for future college – or international – competition. Think of Micheal Phelps, figure skaters, skiiers and tennis players. Football is the one big sport that I don’t think has a highly competitive non-school organization, probably because of the (risk-based) cost.

    I realize that moving sports from schools does not eliminate the risks involved with certain sports, but schools might benefit from removing the distraction of sports from that arena. Yes, I am aware of the heresy of that idea; I have a handful of family members who attended SEC universities where football is a religion.

    I think the injury risks are unacceptably high in football and we had a no-football ban in our house, but the kids who are seriously committed to their sport(s) need suitable outlets for that energy and competitive instinct. One kid’s soccer team had three concussions in one season, at about age 11; one coffee table and two trees. Those kinds of kids are not overweight, are extremely fit and eat a healthy diet; a very desirable situation.

  6. I’d say my anecdotal experience supports this. I have had a lot of kids on 504 plans in recent years due to sports-related concussions. More blown knees, though. I don’t know what the hell the coaches are doing to these kids.

    I tend to do the concussion thing with alarming regularity myself, though (not on purpose).

  7. Mark Roulo says:

    “I’d say my anecdotal experience supports this. I have had a lot of kids on 504 plans in recent years due to sports-related concussions. More blown knees, though. I don’t know what the hell the coaches are doing to these kids.”

    Do you teach high school, or earlier grades? One possibility is that the coaches aren’t doing anything … the kids are just big and fast.

    Consider that in the 1920s, Notre Dame University had an elite football backfield nicknamed “The Four Horsemen.” These *college* football players weighed: 151, 162, 160, and 162 pounds (according to Wiki … but I’ve seen similar weights reported elsewhere). Today, *highschool* backs can easily weigh more than this. And college backs at this weight would not be able to play football at a division-I college — because they’d get maimed.

    With modern conditioning and training, I wouldn’t be surprised if the modern highschool backs are just as fast as the college players back in the 1920s … or faster. And heavier. And possibly stronger. Which means that the collisions are that much more crunchy. But things like knees are probably *NOT* stronger. So more injuries.

    -Mark Roulo

  8. Mark… I’m not THAT old :). Yes, the kids are bigger, but they’re also practicing a lot more than we ever did. They do pre-season conditioning, practice hours every day, play in select leagues, etc. I think the coaches forget that they are working with children’s bodies, not adults’.

    I teach high school… I see the most hopalongs in 10th — 15-year-olds. Last year I just flat told one of my seniors to quit playing football after his third concussion. Super-bright kid. All 4’s and 5’s on the AP Exam… 34 on the ACT. I told him his bread was buttered with his brains and he’d better take care of them.

  9. Mark Roulo says:

    “They do pre-season conditioning, practice hours every day, play in select leagues, etc. I think the coaches forget that they are working with children’s bodies, not adults’.”

    Even if the coaches don’t forget this, what can they do? The *other* teams will have large/fast kids even if one coach dials back the conditioning.

    And … even if the coaches *all* dial things back, the more motivated kids will still exercise/practice on their own. Because doing so gives them a better chance to make the team (or start).

    I’ve got an almost 9-year-old who plays Little League (and other sports during non-LL season). Even once a week at the batting cages can be a huge advantage. I image as he gets older, the *relative* practice/training arms race will get more intense. And this has nothing to do with the coaches …

    Any ideas?

    -Mark Roulo

  10. When I rule the world, there will be no college sports scholarships and athletes will be paid commensurate with what someone who makes a living playing a child’s game should be paid.

    In other words, no, no real solutions.


  1. […] the original post here: Kids, football and concussion « Joanne Jacobs By admin | category: football | tags: excitement, field-goal, from-the-dangers, […]

  2. […] here: Kids, football and concussion « Joanne Jacobs test Filed under Football | Tags: california, dangers, from-the-dangers, local-player, mercury, […]

  3. […] Read the original: Kids, football and concussion « Joanne Jacobs […]

  4. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by kriley19, JoanneLeeJacobs. JoanneLeeJacobs said: Can high school football players be protected from concussion risks? […]

  5. […] original here: Kids, football and concussion « Joanne Jacobs Share and […]