We trust schools to take good care of our kids—to supervise them adequately and give them sound, safe advice. Schools, however, don’t always prove themselves worthy of that trust. Case in point: A new report suggests that high-school football coaches might not be instructing student-athletes in safe, head-free shoulder tackling and blocking, and that officials might not be calling penalties on head-first hits as much as they should.
According to the report, which comes from the University of North Carolina’s National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research (NCCSIR), the number of high-school football players suffering catastrophic brain injuries while playing is at its highest since 1984. Brain-injury rates fell precipitously following the ban of head-first tackles and blocks in high-school and college football in 1976, but have been rising since, with tackling and “tackling head down” accounting for a combined 59.8 percent of the injuries.
NCCSIR Director Frederick Mueller, a professor of exercise and sports science, told the Wall Street Journal that the probable reason greater numbers of high-school footballers are suffering brain damage on the gridiron is that the players, in imitation of professionals, are using their heads more. Mueller said coaches and officials needed should take measures to prevent brain injuries.
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