Now that the Minnesota high school football season is over, it’s clear that the number of students who played is down, partly because of concern over concussions.
While concussions might have always been a part of football, fear of the long-term effects to youngsters suffering concussions has cut down on the number out for the sport.
At Bloomington Jefferson and Coon Rapids high schools, fewer boys played football for all kinds of reasons, with concern about concussions being one.
Numbers are also down in little league football, where anxious parents are allowing their kids to play tackle when they are older. Richfield’s little leagues were down 15 players.
No doubt there’s more awareness of concussions in football, in part because of the lawsuit filed by former National Football League players over effects of concussions they suffered.
Numbers are coming into the Minnesota Health Department where officials are tracking concussions from 42 high schools.
Leslie Seymour, an MDH epidemiologist, reports that more than 300 concussions were recorded from the past fall sports season, mostly from playing football. This is a greater number than Seymour had anticipated.
Most players suffering concussions were held out of practice a week, and two weeks was not uncommon.
At Bloomington Jefferson, 20 football players suffered concussions, with 12 missing two or more weeks of practice. Seven more concussion cases involved volleyball players. Bloomington Jefferson coaches have all received special training regarding concussions, and parents have signed off on information about head injuries.
Coon Rapids High School, Activities Director Scott Kelley acknowledges that concern about concussions from playing football is growing. Coaches are more aware and better trained to spot concussion symptoms and refer players to the trainer.
Years ago when Kelley played football, “you got your bell rung, but you shook it off and went back into the game.”
Those days are over. Coaches at all levels are more cautious and some are even scheduling less tackling in football scrimmages. School districts are buying helmets with better padding to help prevent concussions.
Looking ahead, Kelley said the school would continue to study the latest research on concussions, brain and head injuries and use best practices on the field.
He speaks for many coaches and directors when he says. “The kids’ safety is the most important.”
Don Heinzman is an editorial writer and columnist for ECM/Sun newspapers.