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Filed at 1:57pm CT, Sept. 16, 2010
Former professional football players suffer from memory loss, depression, and rage at higher rates than the general population, possibly due to concussions or other head injuries suffered while playing in the NFL, CNN reported back on Feb. 5.
Since then, more attention has been drawn to concussions and head injuries in football, with a strict eye on high school and youth football games. The increased attention comes from states like Maryland declaring the first week of high school football "Concussion Awareness Week" as well as from completely unscripted episodes on the field of play.
The New York Times reported, for instance, that on opening Sunday in the NFL, Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Stewart Bradley stumbled then fell to the turf following a blow to the head in the first half of the Eagles' afternoon game. His concussion was not diagnosed immediately, and he was allowed to return to play about four minutes after he stood up.
"If a concussion this glaring can be missed, how many go unnoticed every fall weekend on high school and youth fields, where the consequences can be more serious, even fatal?" the Times asks.
Only about 42 percent of high schools in the country even have access to a certified athletic trainer, the National Athletic Trainers' Association says. Even fewer have access to a physician who would be able to diagnose a concussion on the sideline.
Of course, the Eagles' physicians failed to diagnose Bradley's concussion, so it is unclear how much benefit having access to an actual physician would have had. However, about 28 million people saw the evidence on television, plain as day.
Then on Monday, a University of Pennsylvania lineman, Owen Thomas, who hanged himself in April, was found to have had the exact same progressive brain disease that more than 20 NFL players have suffered. He had been playing football since he was 9, and he never reported having a concussion. Doctors are afraid that Owen's behavior of not reporting the head injuries may be more common in high school football players than we realize.
Research suggests that between 10 and 50 percent of students who play football in high school will sustain a concussion during each season they play as a result of serious blows to the head. In addition, several subconcussive blows are sustained over years of play, and the effects of these blows can accumulate in even more athletes.
Yet only about one-fourth of these injuries ever get reported by high school athletes and school staff.
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By Paul Katula, Voxitatis Research Foundation