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Football’s Toll on Student Athletes

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On average, 3 high school or college football players die each year from traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries that occur on the field. Most of the injuries happen during games rather than practice or conditioning sessions and result from tackling or being tackled, according to a recent Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report study.

The data from the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill showed that on-field brain and spinal injuries claimed 28 players’ lives from 2005 to 2014. Four played college football and 24 were high school players. All of the college deaths and 14 of the high school fatalities occurred during the last 5 years of the 10-year study period.

Among the 28 player deaths, subdural hematoma was the most common diagnosis, accounting for 46% of the fatalities. Four of 22 high school players who died of brain injuries had sustained a concussion within 4 weeks of their fatal injury. The investigators noted that second impact syndrome—rapid, severe brain swelling following a second concussion that occurs before the first has properly healed—was implicated in 3 of those 4 deaths.

“This finding supports the importance of recognition, reporting, management, and adherence to recommended return-to-play protocols after a concussion,” the investigators wrote. They added that every state and the District of Columbia have concussion education and safety laws on the books.

  read more at JAMA