Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Heads Up

It was the first half of the game and the opposing team was charging up field. "Hut, Hut, Hike" yelled the quarterback and in an instant the offense exploded as the players ran their routes. One receiver scrambled fifteen yards, halted and spun to receive the ball. The defender over ran his position and as the ball shot from the quarterback's hand, he reverses his back peddling and sprinted to intercept the pass. The ball spiraled tightly, traveling swiftly to its destination. The defender, now at full speed is closing in on the exact spot the receiver anticipates the ball's trajectory. The receiver is holding his position, hands out to make the catch. The three angles of motion meet at the exact same moment in time, the exact coordinates with equal force, colliding together like atoms smashing together in a lab. All three go down fast, the defender, the receiver, and the ball. Both kids are rocking back and forth on the floor, hands on their heads. The three each have a different level of hurt, the ball, no worse for wear, is ready to play again. The defender, able to anticipate the collision, is wobbly but unscathed. The receiver took the full force of the collision, and is feeling the most trauma. Parents run out on the field, each one concerned about their child's well being. After a stoppage of play of about fifteen minutes the game resumes and at the start of the second half, is back to its highly competitive level. Our team won the game and was now in a position to win it all, the Flag Football Championship in the 9-11 age group, a non-contact league, where kids just wore t-shirts and shorts, and no pads or helmets.  We found out later that that gutsy receiver received a concussion, resulting in a terrible week of dizziness, vomit spells and headaches.

I remember that day last spring as I watch my son and his teammates bang heads on the practice field. Coaches yelling "I want to hear those hits!" as pads and helmets crash into each other in scrimmage play. I wonder if flag football, while defied as a "non-contact" sport is safer that tackle football, where there is hitting but a full complement of pads protect the vitals, including the head and face.

There is an abundance of media stories lately covering concussions and football. The NFL has stepped up is education on head trauma during games and on the practice field. Even the Pop Warner leagues are stepping up educating coaches on the facts about concussions, including recognizing its symptoms and how to take action if a player is suspected of having a concussion. All organized sports have risks, but teaching correct technique on the field and education off the field can alleviate some fear that parents experience when signing up for the sports their kids love to play.

There is no reasonable argument that because your child plays football, or lacrosse or soccer, that he or she will eventually suffer from a concussion, or a broken arm or torn ligament. Last year, the week after football ended, my son in the span of three days broke his wrist on one hand riding his scooter and his finger on the other hand playing catch at school. Just ask Carolina Panther wide receiver Steve Smith, who broke his arm playing flag football in the off season.

The kids are just minutes into the second hour of practice when one boy is tripped and is slow to get up. I run out onto the field and assist him to the sideline. His knee got a bit twisted on the last play so we get him some ice and prop is leg up on a cylinder shaped tackling pad. He is anxious to return to play but is informed that his day is over and his job is to rest the knee. He is a good player, but his health is most important and it takes good educated coaches to know that all injuries should be given the utmost care and it starts with knowing your players, recognizing and taking action on any potential injury.

For more information on sport related injuries visit:

Heads Up- Concussion in youth Sports


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