One very important way to reduce the amount of concussions in football is informing the players about factors such as the dangers of concussions, how the athlete knows if he has one, the rules of the game, and proper tackling and blocking techniques. Teaching and making sure they know the major health and life threatening risks of concussions is a crucial aspect of prevention. Information such as what a concussion is, how it occurs, and the long and short term effects are the main points that must be thoroughly explained to the players.
These must be drilled into the athletes’ heads for the reason of teaching and showing them how dangerous a concussion can be and not to take it lightly. The brutal life long effects and what could happen to the athlete should be conversed, scaring the player into thinking seriously about the dangerous injury. If not properly informed, the athletes will ignore the risk of a concussion as they will believe it is only a minor, recoverable bump on the head. Players should also be instructed on the symptoms and how to tell if one has a concussion.
After knowing the dangers, an athlete should always be on the lookout for any type of concussion symptom during the sport. If experiencing any signs such as headache, confusion, dizziness, ringing ears, or blurry vision, he should immediately exit the game to insure there are no further injuries, and should be medically evaluated to receive proper treatment (“Symptoms”). Currently, most football players do not know whether they are experiencing a concussion as they do not know the symptoms and are not familiar with the real potential dangers of the injury.
But if they were better informed, many would take bigger precautions in protecting their mental health during such a dangerous game. If I would have been more thoroughly taught about the dangers and signs of a concussion, I would have immediately informed my coaches and had the physical trainer examine me for further medical advice. After knowing the dangers and symptoms of a concussion, players must be taught the rules of the game and proper blocking and tackling techniques. There are many rules to prevent concussions in football such as no tackling above the shoulders, and ball carriers may not lead with the crown of their helmets.
Helmet to helmet contact causes most of the concussions in football so these rules are very important to follow in order to have minimal head injuries. The only problem is may players do not know these rules so they cannot follow them. Even though some would disobey the rules anyway, most would be more precautious when making contact with others players so they do not earn their team a penalty; resulting in less concussions due to fewer blows to the head. Another way to prevent brain injuries in football is teaching athletes how to properly block and tackle without any danger to the head or neck.
Some coaches teach their players to hit as hard as possible with no techniques on how to do it, they just say to be tough, and tackle or block the opponent (Hemhauser). What they do not know is without guidance, the athletes will spear with their head to produce the hardest hit, creating a large amount of concussions in those athletes. The coaches must thoroughly teach and demonstrate how to properly tackle with the shoulder and block with the hands, keeping the head away from as much contact as possible.
If I would have better known these rules and techniques, I would have known not to spear the opponent with my head and use my shoulder instead. Saving the risk of a penalty, and most importantly significantly reducing the risk of a concussion. Another crucial way to prevent concussions in football is to better inform coaches about the importance of concussion prevention, the signs, and what to do in a concussion situation. Coaches play a huge role in concussion prevention as they are the ones with the authority to pull an athlete if symptoms appear.
However, even though they must go through the concussion training course, many still do not know the major risks of the brain injury, especially with football providing such large collisions to the head. More thorough training is needed to show them the true risks, teaching the importance of concussion precautions and why they cannot tell a kid to shake it off and keep playing. It would be beneficial to teach the coaches the long term effects of a concussion as well, making them realize how brutal the injury actually is, and that players do not always fully recover from it.
The signs are another important factor for coaches to know so they can dete whether to pull an athlete out of the game. During the training, they must be informed of the visible brain injury symptoms such as appearing dazed, losing consciousness, and must analyze the eyes for crossing, limited movement, or pupil constriction (“Symptoms”). Symptoms such as headache, confusion, dizziness, ringing ears, or blurry vision should also be known in case the athlete mentions having any after a blow to the head or body. Last, the coach must have a concussion plan, knowing what to do in a situation where an athlete experiences symptoms.
If any of the signs appear, the coach must know to immediately pull the athlete out of the game and have him be medically evaluated to ensure he receives the proper treatment without risking further, more dangerous injury. Even if the signs are vague and the athlete insists he is okay to play, according to The Minnesota State High School League Concussion Protocol, “WHEN IN DOUBT… SIT THEM OUT” (Perry). One game is never worth a lifetime of brain injuries, which is why coaches should take much larger training and actions when it comes to reducing concussions in football.
The next protocol that should be taken is neither in a classroom, nor under the friday night lights; this one appears on the practice field. Statistics show that 33% of all football related concussions occur during practice, not during the game (“Sports”). These practice related concussions can be prevented in two ways including restricted full speed head on blocking and tackling drills, and limited contact time during practice. Currently, most coaches are allowing their athletes to undergo full tackling drills in which the athletes tackle each other running at high speeds.
This is partially necessary to practice game-like situations, but if players are beginning to learn how to tackle, most will not know where and how to place their head and shoulder on the opponent. With that and the factor of sprinting full speed, the risk of a head injury is huge. To prevent this, the tackling and blocking drills should begin with the players at a maximum of three yards apart, providing the game-like feel, without giving the chance for the athletes to smash into one another as hard as possible. The second way to prevent concussions during practice is limiting contact time.
Instead of having full contact drills throughout the whole length of practice, cutting it down to one half of the time will give less time for the injuries to occur. There are many football drills such as practicing against a ghost defense and passing drills which require minimal contact. Some could even take away helmets for the no contact time zone, causing the athletes to be more careful when playing. This will make them not want to smash heads with one another, also reducing the risk of concussions as well as other body injuries during practice. For example, St. John’s University coach John Gagliardi uses the limited contact procedure.
Not only does Gagliardi swear by this rule, but he has the history to back it up by being the winningest coach in college football history with 30 conference championships, four national titles, and a record 485 wins in his 64 years of coaching (Wilson). Other coaches are acquiring this philosophy as well, proving limited contact in practice is an effective procedure in bettering a team by reducing the brain injuries. Last, to prevent concussions there must be stricter rules. Even though the game has personal foul penalties resulting in a fifteen yard loss, if an irate, adrenaline rushed player wants to spear someone hard, he will.
In the midst of a game, a fifteen yard penalty is a minor factor in his mind. To end these blows to the head, the contact penalties should be much more severe, possibly ejecting the athlete committing the foul. Similar to penalties in soccer, on the first offense, the culprit will receive a yellow card, providing a first and only warning. The second time that athlete commits the foul, he be issued a red card and immediate election from the game. The referees also have the option to hand out a red card on first offense if they believe the athlete was purposefully targeting his opponent with intent to injure him.
When ejected from a game, the punishment will carry over into the next game as well, creating large consequences for the penalty. Even though these changes may seem severe, they are not as severe as the brain injuries currently occurring in football. As a high school athlete who has very likely received a concussion at least once, these facts and protocols would have been extremely helpful to know at the beginning of my football career. They would have caused me to better protect my head, as well as reduce the chances of receiving or worsening a brain injury.
The precautions to reduce concussions in football include properly informing athletes and coaches about concussions, and making other small adjustments such as limited contact in practice and stricter rules during the game. By incorporating these actions in the sport, many brain injuries can be prevented every year, keeping players healthy and to their full potential as much as possible. Also, not only do they decrease the risk of concussions, but lower the probability of any other injury during the dangerous sport of football.