Americans from coast to coast take great pleasure out of playing, watching, and following football. Although football is an entertaining and thrilling sport to watch and play, it is no secret that it can be dangerous and cause serious injuries to players. It is true that football injuries can occur in myriad ways; however, there has been lots of recent research into helmet-to-helmet contact and traumatic brain injuries. This has caused some safety experts to recommend not allowing a child to play football until he or she turns 12. With this new information being widely publicized, many parents are wondering whether they should allow their children to play football, but a greater understanding of the types of injuries and potential preventative measures may help parents make those important decisions.
Types of Injuries
- Head injuries are perhaps the most-discussed types of sports injuries today, particulary among high school football, college football, and the National Football League (NFL). Even if players wear helmets, direct hits or sudden jerking movements can cause a concussion. Signs that a child may have a concussion include headache, confusion, dizziness, nausea/vomiting, and/or blurry vision. It is possible to suffer a concussion without passing out, so be sure to watch for the aforementioned signs closely. If you suspect that a child has suffered a concussion, take him or her to a medical professional immediately and make sure they are given the approval to return to play before you allow them to continue playing. Do not allow the child to play through a concussion.
- Shoulder injuries, including dislocations, tears, and separations, are also common in contact sports like football. Children and younger teenagers commonly suffer sprains in the joints, fractured collarbones, and tears along the shoulder tissue. Shoulder injuries may, but do not always, require surgical intervention.
- Knee injuries, like anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) or medial collateral ligament (MCL) tears, are also common for football players. Knee injuries can also lead to meniscus and cartilage injuries, which can contribute to early arthritis. Unfortunately, knee braces often are not able to prevent these serious knee injuries. Knee injuries commonly require surgical intervention and rehabilitation such as physical therapy.
- Heat injuries frequently occur in young football players because training camp and/or practice often begins during the warmest months of the year. Heat stroke in particular can lead to death. Coaches as well as players have a responsibility to monitor heat levels and ensure that everyone stays properly hydrated.
Tips for Prevention
- Always wear the required protecting gear – helmets, padding, wrist guards – and make sure the protective gear is adorned and/or applied to fit correctly. Avoid broken buckles or worn-down padding.
- Contact your child’s coach or the school athletic director to make sure there is an action plan to teach young athletes how to avoid injury.
- Coordinate with other parents on the team and/or the coaches to make sure there is a regular schedule set up for parents or athletic staff to provide plenty of water to the athletes at practices and games, and ensure your child is appropriately dressed for the temperature.
- Encourage safe behavior to your child, including advice to wear appropriate protective gear and exercise appropriate safety practices to avoid injury.
If you suspect that your child is suffering a serious injury as a result of playing football, please contact emergency personnel, or get the child to a doctor immediately.