As the national number of high school football players decreases, states like Louisiana are actually seeing an increase in high school football participation.
Since 2014, nationwide participation in high school football dropped 2.3 percent; in Louisiana, however, participation reached an all-time high in 2015.
Louisiana High School Football Participation
|Year||Louisiana Participation||National Participation|
National participation parallels concerns about player safety; particularly how concussions and brain injuries are managed on and off the field.
Football Injuries and the National Spotlight
The NFL recently settled a $1 billion lawsuit brought on by former players who report a range of degenerative brain disorders such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
The allegations focused popular media on potential dangers but especially how repeat impacts affect a player’s brain functioning. The NFL admitted no fault in the suit, stipulated by the agreement, which will pay up to $5 million per player.
Unfortunately, professional football players aren’t the only ones getting hurt on the field. Since 1995, 77 students have died playing football; seven high school football fatalities were reported in 2015.
Of the high school fatalities reported in 2015, three were caused by traumatic brain injury (TBI); the others were the result of either fracture, hemorrhage, or subdermal hematoma.
There were indirect football fatalities reported as well. During the same year, seven fatalities were reportedly caused by conditions including: heat stroke, cardiomyopathy, cardiac arrest, and unknown sources.
Louisiana Pushes Back
In 2011, the Louisiana Legislature passed the Louisiana Youth Concussion Act. This law (ACT 314) sets guidelines for consent, training requirements, and return-to-play protocols.
Among other things, the law says no player who is suspected to have suffered a concussion or brain injury is to return to play on the same day. If a player is determined to be concussed, a licensed Louisiana physician must provide clearance before a player can begin a stepwise program and resume play.
For parents, teachers, and students, understanding these laws and protocols for concussion management is a critical step toward improved student safety. The Louisiana stepwise program is as follows:
- Monitor signs and symptoms closely.
- Do not progress to the next step until symptom free for 24 hours.
- If symptoms occur, the athlete should return to step one.
|Recovery||Complete a mental test; no school work, no texting, no computer or video games|
|Recovery of cognitive skills||Slowly return to classroom work and activities|
|Increase Heart Rate||Walking, stationary bike, swimming (maintain less than 70 percent of maximum heart rate)|
|Addition of movement drills||No contact running drills; running, cutting, jumping|
|Exercise, movement, use of cognitive skills||Complex training trills including passing|
|Restored confidence and skill||Once cleared by a physician, may return to normal practice activities|
|Resume game play||Monitor closely for returning signs or symptoms|
Children and teens are particularly susceptible to brain injuries because the human brain doesn’t fully form until age 25 or so. This also means that brain injuries take longer to heal in youth players compared to adults.
In a handful of rare cases, high school football players who suffered a concussion were allowed to return to play before it was safe to do so and subsequently died of a rare but fatal condition known as second-impact syndrome (SIS).
SIS results in massive, immediate swelling and bleeding of the brain. In about 50 percent of the reported cases, the player died within a few moments of the second impact.
Brain injuries caused by football don’t discriminate on the field. This is why it’s important for Louisiana coaches, parents, and students to observe the state laws and practice care when determining signs and symptoms and following return-to-play protocols.
Without proper oversight and acknowledgement from our football-loving communities, it’s hard to say how increased participation rates in Louisianan will impact the upcoming football season.
If you or someone you know was injured while playing a high school sport, the experienced brain injury attorneys at Cox, Cox, Filo, Camel & Wilson L.L.C. want to hear your story.