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More Needs To Be Done To Prevent Youth Brain Injuries In Sports

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For many kids playing football is a core part of their childhood, from the backyard to the high school field. But it can get rough out there, especially when kids start using their head to block and tackle other players. Helmets are supposed to protect players from brain injuries, but often this is not the case. In 1976 it became illegal for players to lead with their head when blocking or tackling; however, coaches and officials don't always see and report illegal tackles. Kids often aren't fully aware of the risks, possibly assuming that their helmet alone will protect them from brain injuries. Between 1992 and 2001 the number of high school catastrophic brain injuries per year was 5, but between 2002 and 2011 the number rose to 8.2. It's not clear whether the rise comes because of better reporting or if more kids are just getting injured. Last year, 13 high school athletes sustained catastrophic brain injuries. High school football players in New York and across the country are often considered "stars" at their schools, in their communities and even within their own families. Many parents and coaches take pride in these kids being tough. Just because some of these kids may be big doesn't change the fact that they are kids and when they suffer from sports related brain injuries, even more minor ones, it can impact their brain development and stay with them the rest of their lives. Coaches need to assure that safer blocking alternatives are fully explored, and penalties for illegal blocking are enforced for all players, no matter what their reputation on the field may be. And some parents might want to reevaluate the value they place on their children playing sports wherein the injury risk is so high. Source: The Charlotte Observer Newspaper, "High school football brain injuries increasing," Tim Stevens,

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