Player Down!
Sierra Canyon High School

No more butting heads in football: Efforts made to limit neck and head injuries in contact sports

Photo by Carly Beard
Player Down!  (Photo by The Standard Sports Editor Carly Beard)

Although high school football ended in December, what can’t be forgotten is the number of deaths that have occurred over the season. In the 2015 season, eight players across the country have died during high school football games. According to USA Today, five of them were as a result of head or neck injuries. The number of deaths at this level of football has made players, coaches, and athletic trainers across the country become very concerned.

“In the past few years, the statistics show the increase in the number of deaths per year. Usually it’s around three to five, but the number has doubled. As a trainer, you always have to be thinking of head and neck injuries,” Sierra Canyon School Athletic Trainer Eric Dick said.

During the holidays, the film Concussion starring former Sierra Canyon parent Will Smith was released. The film focuses on Dr. Bennet Omalu’s race against time to publicize Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) to the NFL. CTE is part of the repetitive brain trauma in symptom concussions.

According to a CNN report, the number of deaths per year for high school football change year to year. During the 2014 high school football season, five deaths were directly related to football while six other deaths were indirect. In the past decade, there was an average of three deaths per year directly related to football. Also, the report stated that between 2005-2014, there were 92 deaths of high school football players indirectly related to the sport.

During the 2015 Sierra Canyon School football season, Dick has diagnosed around four concussions. He also stated that in a law passed in 2014 by California, if an athlete of any sport is suspected of a head injury, they are to be immediately removed from the game. Then, the athlete must go through a lengthy protocol before returning to their sport fully recovered.

During high school football season, if a player reaches three concussions, their season is over. Also, depending on how severe each concussion is, doctors can keep a player from playing or tell them to quit the sport completely. This year, during a junior varsity football game vs. Westlake High School, sophomore Sierra Canyon football player Billy Edwards, received his fifth concussion, which forced him to retire from the sport. If he were to play in another game and take another bad hit, he could potentially face death. Despite retiring from high school football, Edwards will still be active as a high school baseball player. Edwards describes what he went through with his concussion saying:

“I felt really nauseous and dizzy. I was seeing stars and I couldn’t stand up without help. I didn’t know where I was either. I was pretty sad and depressed. I was sad I couldn’t go out there and play side by side with my brothers anymore.”

Once Sierra Canyon’s football season finished, there were only two players on opposing teams that needed transport to the hospital with injuries. Most notably, during the Sierra Canyon vs. Viewpoint rivalry game on Sept. 19, sophomore Viewpoint Lineman Tommy Reilly passed out in the middle of the play and was rushed to the hospital at the end of the first quarter.

The number of deaths mounting in the U.S. has led Congress to jump into action with introducing the High School Football Safety Study Act. According to Huffington Post Sports, “The Second Half podcast,” the main purpose of this bill is to find how to prevent more deaths in high school football from happening.

“Today, kids are a lot faster and stronger and their bodies are benefiting from all the new sports medicines, sciences, and technologies. We just have to make sure we make the game as safe as possible,” Congressman Cedric Richmond said in the podcast.