The fathers and grandfathers in the stands of any high school football game will tell you the game hasn’t changed much from their day, but the coaches on the sidelines will tell you what we now know about hits to the head and concussions has changed.
“Concessions are not going to go away 100 percent – they’re still going to happen but we can definitely limit it with good teaching,” says Gates-Chili coach Jason Benham.
“We learn proper techniques in practice so we don’t have to worry as much about injuries,” says Korey Beasley a senior who plays running back and linebacker for the Spartans.
What is less clear is the cumulative impact of low level hits that do not result in a concussion. Helmets armed with specially-equipped sensors are helping doctors at the University of Rochester study the impact on college athletes.
They acknowledge of even greater concern is the impact on younger players who are 12 or 13 years old. “To date we do not have the adequate data to determine what the best type of helmet is to prevent concussion,” says Dr. Mark Mirabelli of the U of R Sports Concussion Center.
“There may never be a best helmet to reduce all concussions,” he adds.
However what is troubling is that there is no oversight agency that regulates how helmets are made. Worse yet, there are no real safety standards helmets must meet to protect young heads.
“The only standard they have is to withstand the type of force that would crack a skull,” says US Senator Chuck Schumer, D-NY. “And given the new research we have about concussions that standard is not good enough.”
Senator Schumer is calling on helmet makers to come up with their own standards, and if they do not or if they don’t aim high enough, the Consumer Product Safety Commission will step in.
“We want to minimize the number of concussions and any other damage to our kids and this is the most practical way to do it,” says Senator Schumer. The Children’s Sports Athletic Safety Act would target helmet makers that provide to children 18 and under.
Helmets can cost more than $300 each. Schools and/or parents would not be required to replace all helmets at once but as new ones are needed.
“I think it’s a great idea because in the game you can get hurt, especially if you have a concussion and you’re playing on it,” says CJ Palozzi who plays running back and line backer for the Spartans.
Football at any age will always be a risk sport. But coaches, doctors and even the NFL which has also endorsed this bill say it’s time to use what we now know about concussions to protect kids.
“If we keep purchasing the right equipment and teaching players the right way we’ll limit this,” says Coach Benham.