The debate around the risk of concussion among high school football players was discussed in . This debate has occurred because of increasing medical research and public awareness of the problem, and it forces parents to face a challenging decision to allow their children to play football or not. I’ve witnessed passionate debates by parents on both sides of the issue, and I believe that the debate will go on for a very long time. What is starting to become clearer in the news today is that repetitive head injuries and concussions may lead to lifelong impairment.
I’ll offer two opinions based on own my personal experience. As an emergency physician practicing most of my career in Texas, I have seen the full spectrum of injuries during “Friday Night Lights” high school football season in Texas. I’ve seen concussions, rib/chest injuries, spleen injuries, fractured extremities, and even spine injuries because of football. However, I’ve seen many of these same injuries in other high school sports like soccer or baseball, and these injuries happened to both male and female athletes. It’s scary to see the injuries, and the reality is that they will occur as long as our children play sports. For concussions, I think we have to continue to implement rules to try and minimize concussions, and limit or eliminate an athlete’s future competition, if repetitive head injuries occur.
As a parent, I watched my son play four years of high school football in Texas, and he finished his career over a year ago. Was it scary at times watching him play, getting hit, and even suffering injuries? Yes, it was scary, but he wanted to play, and I enjoyed watching him play. That being said, he did suffer one concussion during football season, but coincidentally he didn’t get the concussion playing football. If he would have had another one after that, I may have had the discussion about him not playing again, knowing what we are starting to discover in research, and the tragic stories we are reading about ex-athletes who suffered concussions during their career and are still playing.
Our children can be injured in any high school sport and even in a car going to school. In the end, it’s a personal choice by a family to allow their children to play sports and, hopefully, we can continue to gather more research, data, and analysis to find out more about prevention and continue with rules of the game to minimize head injury as much as we can.
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Byron C. Scott, MD, MBA, CPE, FACEP
Medical Director, National Clinical Medical Leader