Anytime a high school athlete steps on the field, there is a 5-10 percent risk that he or she will sustain a concussion, according to data from the Sports Concussion Institute.
In fact, 53 percent of high school athletes have sustained a concussion before they even play a secondary school sport, putting them more at risk for serious injury if they sustain another concussion.
Out of all high school sports, football and lacrosse account for the most concussion rates among males and females, with females twice as likely to sustain concussions, the data shows. Football accounts for 64-76.8 percent of all concussions in males and lacrosse accounts for 31-35 percent of all concussions in females.
Dr. Patrick Carroll of Hartford Hospital, said, “The total number of concussions has increased not only because injury, but also because of the number of people recognizing the symptoms.”
In the last three years there’s been an effort in Connecticut and other states to train coaches, players and parents to spot concussions and take players out of games.
A state law that took effect in 2011 requires coaches to closely monitor athletes, and keep them on the sidelines if they show symptoms of a concussion. Coaches are required to complete a training course on concussions, review the training materials yearly and complete a refresher course five years after completing the training.
Concussion symptoms range from headache, dizziness, and ultimately blacking out. Concussions occur following a sharp blow to the head.
Forty-seven percent of athletes report not feeling these symptoms.
During the school year, a doctor may treat three athletes a week for concussions and hospitals report treating as many as 200-250 athletes a year.
“Players can not blow off these symptoms,” Desmond Conner, who covers the UConn football team for the Hartford Courant, said. “This is something that players need to address right away. Coaches and trainers need to do the right thing and not just be concerned on winning.”
In football, the NCAA changed the original kickoff line from the 30-yard line to the 35-yard line to protect players. The line change resulted in more touchbacks, rather than kickoff returns.
Conner said this rule “has increased the number of touchbacks, preventing more players from being injured” and he predicted “in a year, the NFL and NCAA will change their equipment” to prevent more concussions.
Girl’s lacrosse is another sport that has been sustaining high concussion rates. It now makes up 31 to 35 percent of concussions among girls, sports data shows. Unlike football, girl’s lacrosse does not require the players to wear helmets, and the only thing that is protecting them from sustaining a concussion is their eyewear.
Due to such a large increase in concussions, more leagues and experts are pushing for helmets in girl’s lacrosse, much like their male counterparts.
Carroll is one of the many who believes that girl’s lacrosse should include headgear.
“Adding headgear would reduce some concussions in the game,” Carroll said, “but adding helmets could make the game more physical.”
Carroll also credited the media and countless training programs for helping people recognize concussion symptoms faster.
Matthew Barry is a junior at Xavier High School, Middletown.