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Professional football isn’t the only segment of the sport that seems to be experiencing increased occurrences of concussions.
In West Virginia, approximately one in every 27 high school football players reported concussion-like symptoms this season, according to the West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission.
WVSSAC Executive Director Gary Ray noted that about 200 high school football players reported concussion-like symptoms out of 5,425 total high school football players in the state.
“I think the report reflects that we need to give some consideration to certified athletic trainers in our schools, and I know it’s a big ticket item – I’ve been in education 42 years now, so I understand that,” Ray told The State Journal. “As we move forward with thinking about safety for our students, and that’s our key component right now, the safety, we need that consideration, and I urge you to think about that.”
He said that the state legislature is using the Commission’s data to modify the state’s existing concussion policy as necessary. One of the issues lawmakers must navigate, according to Ray, is the question over immunity on the field for volunteers with medical backgrounds who help out.
“Our goal is to provide protection for the volunteer physicians and athletic trainers to allow them to do the job they’re trained to do without fear or fear of legal action,” Chuck Jones of the Board of Risk and Insurance Management told the media.
(Editor’s note: What follows are excerpts from the executive summary of the 2012 NFL Health and Safety Report.)
“The goal of this and future reports is simple: provide those who care passionately about the game of football and its players with a comprehensive look at the league’s health and safety efforts, and illuminate where important progress has been made in the past year — and where further improvements can be made,” according to the league
The passage went on to describe “the key pillars” of the program.
“Health and safety culture” was first. The NFL said this particular commitment requires “ongoing education, dialogue and monitoring” as well as “constant assessment and consistent reinforcement of policies.” It also pointed to cooperation from “everyone involved in the game – players, coaches, administration, medical staffs and the NFL Players Association.
“The combination of these efforts, in conjunction with league-wide rule changes and safety equipment updates as outlined in this report, have measurably improved player health and safety. There is perhaps no better recent illustration of the league’s commitment to health and safety than in the area of concussions. The NFL has taken considerable steps to reduce both the occurrence and health impacts of head injury, including concussions.
“In 2011, the league continued these efforts by updating rules and enforcement policies meant to reduce head injuries, and by educating players about what to do if they experience concussion-related symptoms through educational videos, and a fact sheet and poster distributed to all teams, and presentations from the officiating department. The league also added further enhancements to its in-game concussion-related policies, instituting a new tool for sideline concussion evaluations, and more.
“The NFL also continued to promote safe play at all levels of football, working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, USA Football and other leading organizations to educate young athletes, their parents and coaches about the importance of head injury awareness.”
The league wrote that “advocacy” is another “pillar,” pointing out that it is “a passionate advocate for the passage of youth concussion laws in every state. As of September 2012, 40 states and the District of Columbia have youth concussion laws, and the league is committed to supporting passage in all 50 states.”
“Safety rules” was next, with the league pointing to the fact that it moved the kickoff line from the 30 to the 35-yard line, and how that “contributed to a 40 percent reduction in the number of concussions occurring during kickoffs when compared to the previous season.”
“Research” and “equipment” rounded out the “pillars.” With the former, the league noted how NFL Charities has “funded nearly $22 million in medical research grants in the areas of sports injury prevention and treatment,” many in areas related to concussions. With the latter, the league highlighted its “Head, Neck and Spine (HNS) Committee and its Subcommittee on Safety Equipment and Playing Rules” and how these committees “have been focused on supporting research to identify improvements to equipment that can provide additional protection to the head and neck …
“The HNS Committee is currently studying the use of accelerometers for a pilot program that will collect head impact data to better understand the amount and types of hits players sustain.”