Updated February 16, 2021
Both the NCAA and NFL have mandatory concussion safety protocols for their athletes. While concussions and head injuries are hard to avoid in football, college and professional football players are required to be evaluated, managed, and treated by a team of professionals. High school football players, on the other hand, are not assessed to the same degree—even though the game is the same.
A seven-year study performed by the Purdue Neurotrauma Group discovered that, even without a clinical diagnosis of a concussion or symptoms, high school students involved in the study were already showing signs of decreased neurological function and brain activity after trauma to the head. These specific researchers focused on pre-concussive head injuries, since they typically lack the symptoms commonly associated with concussions. Evidence showed that these head injuries—the ones that go unnoticed—are potentially the most harmful, cause the most long-term damages, and happen more frequently.
A 2014 study in the American Journal of Sports medicine revealed that a staggering 70% of student athletes continued to compete despite being showing signs of a concussion. Moreover, 40% of them failed to even report symptoms to their coaches.
According to the CDC, 47% of all reported sports concussions happen during high school football practice. For teens between the ages of 14 and 17, concussions have risen 200% in the last ten years. However, fatalities directly related to head injuries acquired on the field remain steady at zero to eight deaths per year—a solid decline from the 26 student athletes who died in 1968 from injuries sustained during play.
The management of concussions in high school football players hasn’t been as regulated as professional or college football. In January 2014, Governor Phil Bryant of the Mississippi Youth Concussion Act signed that every state must have its own mandatory concussion law. Until then, there wasn’t a standard protocol for a student or youth who obtains a concussion while competing in football.
The sports concussion law exists for the safety of all school and youth athletes. Much like the NCAA and NFL, the protocol addresses issues such as:
There is variation in these protocols by state, however, so all 50 states may may have a different protocol model. It’s up to the coaches and other athletic professionals to evaluate, develop, and implement the mandates required by their state’s legislation.
The State of Indiana Concussion Law applies to students in grades nine through twelve who participate in interscholastic or intramural sports. If suspected or diagnosed with a concussion, the law recommends removing the student from competition immediately.
As an extension to the law, a July 2017 amendment will specify that coaches at all public schools will be required to participate in concussion management training. The training gives them civil immunity to protect them against any lawsuits pursued by injured student athletes.
The Indiana High School Athletic Association received reports of 2,200 concussive events in the 2014-2015 academic year alone. This far surpasses the rate of concussions in college football. This could be in part to the fact that high schoolers are at a much higher risk for concussions and catastrophic head injuries due to the simple fact that their brains are still developing. During developmental stages, the brain is much more fragile—so high school football players are more susceptible to brain damage than those competing at the college and professional level.
If your child has suffered a preventable concussion during competition, reach out to the experienced personal injury attorneys at Wilson Kehoe Winingham for a case evaluation.
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