Surgeons' Group Weighs In on Football Injury Prevention

FRIDAY, Aug. 6 (HealthDay News) — With football season about to begin, it’s time to remind players, parents and coaches how to prevent head and spinal cord injuries, says the American Association of Neurological Surgeons.

“The annual incidence of football-related concussion in the United States is estimated at 300,000, and nearly 45,000 football-related head injuries were serious enough to be treated at U.S. hospital emergency rooms in 2009,” Dr. Gail Rosseau, a Chicago-area neurosurgeon, said in an AANS news release.

“While football is a collision sport with inevitable risks, most serious neurological injuries can be prevented if players, parents and coaches take injury prevention and concussions seriously,” Dr. Mitchel S. Berger, AANS vice president and a member of the NFL Head, Neck and Spine Medical Committee, said in the news release.

“Football players who have sustained a concussion need to be withheld from play until all physical and neuropsychological symptoms and signs related to that concussion have resolved and they are cleared to return to play through an independent healthcare professional,” he added.

The AANS offers the following tips to prevent head and neck injuries in football players:

  • All players should undergo a preseason physical exam. Those with a history of prior brain or spinal injuries, including concussions, should be identified.
  • Players should have sufficient preconditioning and strengthening of the head and neck muscles.
  • Coaches and trainers should check that the players’ equipment is properly fitted, especially the helmet, and that straps are always locked.
  • Players should be discouraged from using the top of their football helmets as battering rams when blocking, hitting, tackling and carrying the ball.
  • In order to avoid helmet-to-helmet collisions, ball carriers should be taught not to lower their heads when making contact with a tackler.
  • Rules prohibiting spearing should be enforced in practices and games.
  • Coaches and other team staff must be prepared for possible catastrophic spinal cord injuries. They must all know what to do in such a case. Being prepared and informed can help prevent a player from suffering a permanent disability.

More information

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons offers football injury prevention tips.