Dangers of Head-to-Head Football Injuries at a Young Age - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Dangers of Head-to-Head Football Injuries at a Young Age

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A Waynesboro High School freshman football player is recovering from a head injury after being rushed off the field in an ambulance Friday night. He is expected to make a full recovery within a few weeks, but, doctors are warning parents and players of the dangers of head injuries on the high school football field.

"We really see an epidemic of concussions because kids want to play that way. Of course, they're getting bigger, they're stronger, they're faster, the collisions are more violent," said Dr. John MacKnight, a member of the University of Virginia's Sports Medicine team.

He added, "Football is very much enamored at this point with the big hit."

But it is that same big hit that sent 14-year-old Waynesboro freshman Domminique Gray to the hospital during Friday night's football game against Western Albemarle. Gray suffered a moderate concussion from a head-to-head injury. This accident is common in football, but dangerous for young athletes.

"The brain is still developing through the high school years. And so individuals who are earlier on in their careers, as a freshman certainly, are more susceptible to concussion in the first place. And likely it will take that individual longer to recover than someone who's a little bit older," explained MacKnight.

Earlier in the season, Spotswood senior Daniel Frum suffered a head-to-head injury. He too was carted away in an ambulance with a neck injury. Frum recovered fully and returned to the field a week later.

The UVA Sports Medicine team says these athletes were lucky. Head-to-head injuries can cause fracture or paralysis. They can also affect athletes later in life. An athlete who has a concussion at a young age is more susceptible to concussions again later in his or her career.

"We're seeing particularly in older athletes that those who had injuries early in their life are suffering some ill affects with respect to memory and even more substantial problems with brain function as they get older," said MacKnight.

Dr. David Diduch, also on the UVA Sports Medicine team, added, "Prevention is key. And that's good technique…So not leading with the head. Not using the helmet as a weapon, face up, lead with the shoulder. Almost every catastrophic neck injury which results in paralysis the head's down, leading with the head, so that's a technique that we need to get out of football."

The UVA Sports Medicine Team says that any athlete who suffers a concussion should seek medical help and should not return to play without a doctor's approval.

They also advise, while helmet technology has advanced, no helmet protects fully against concussions. Teaching young athletes proper techniques for big hits is the best way to prevent head-to-head injury.

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