Football is a popular American high school sport. It encourages active lifestyles, builds teamwork, and looks great on college résumés. For some high school players, football becomes a college sport and adult career. For others, their love of the game ends when they suffer serious head injuries. Head and brain injuries pose greater risks to high school footballers than most parents and coaches realize. Get the facts to protect your young player from head injuries.
Concussions are the mildest form of traumatic brain injury (TBI). They can take place when something strikes the skull and jolts the brain, such as a fall to the field, a ball to the head, or a collision with another player. The symptoms of a concussion can range widely depending on the player and severity of injury. Mild concussions often result in nausea, dizziness, drowsiness, and/or headache. Severe concussions can lead to loss of consciousness, memory loss, confusion, vomiting, seizures, coma, and even death.
Head injuries are somewhat common in football, as well as other high school sports such as soccer, hockey, and baseball. According to one study, 327,696 high school students sustained head/face injuries during the 2014-2015 school year in the U.S. Head/face concussion were the number one most common high school sports-related injury the same year. While most people recover from mild concussions within 10 to 12 days, others take a longer time to heal. Some students will experience greater harms than others from head and brain injuries.
It is often up to the high school football coach to prevent head injuries in players. It is the coach’s job to train players in how they act, react, and move on the field. Encouraging unreasonably dangerous practices such as headfirst tackling methods can lead to a greater risk of head injuries. A coach may also be liable for a student’s injuries if he or she forces a player back on the field before the brain has had enough time to heal from a first concussion. Athletes who sustain multiple concussions in a short timeframe are at an increased risk of serious brain injuries.
Most high schools have policies in place to prevent head and brain injuries on the football field. California is one of many states to have enacted legislation with the goal of reducing sports-related high school injuries. These procedures may include educating parents and coaches of the risks of head injuries, removing injured athletes from play, and requiring athletes to obtain permission from healthcare professionals to return to the game after head injuries. These measures can help spread awareness of the risk of head injuries in football and potentially save lives.
Failure to obey state or school-wide policies as a coach can lead to liability for subsequent player injuries. For example, a coach may be legally responsible for a student’s head trauma if he or she threatened to pull an injured player from the team if he/she didn’t get back on the field, resulting in the player returning to play too soon and sustaining another head injury. It may be possible for parents to sue the coach and/or the school in some high school sports accidents if someone’s negligence caused the event to transpire. Always speak to an attorney if you believe you have grounds for a sports injury lawsuit.