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'Catastrophic' Head Injuries to High School Football Players Rising
Date:4/20/2012

By Lisa Esposito
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, April 20 (HealthDay News) -- High school and youth football players sustained 14 brain injuries with long-lasting damage in 2011 -- the highest number in more than 25 years -- and this is a "major problem," a new report claims.

The finding is based on an annual survey, conducted by the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, which collects data on catastrophic football injuries.

Although deaths from brain injuries among high school players have decreased every decade, from 128 in the 1960s to 32 in the 2000s, brain injuries with incomplete recovery reached the double digits in three of the past four years.

"The line is going down with fatalities," said study author Frederick Mueller, director of the center and professor emeritus of exercise and sports science at UNC. "I think that's related to kids getting better medical care on the field; they're not dying, but they're having permanent brain damage."

Meanwhile, spinal cord injuries with permanent damage have mostly trended downward, with eight such injuries in 2011. There were 14 in 2008, nine in 2009 and seven in 2010.

Overall, the rate of catastrophic injuries is very low at 0.19 injuries per 100,000 players at all levels of the game. But that's little comfort to parents whose kids are injured, Mueller said.

The National Federation of State High School Associations, the National Collegiate Athletic Association and the American Football Coaches Association funded the survey and contributed data. The survey was released this week.

There are currently 1.1 million football players at the high school level in the United States, according to the survey.

Dr. William Meehan, director of the Sports Concussion Clinic at Children's Hospital Boston, said a closer look at the raw data might show a little less cause for alarm.


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