Catastrophic brain injuries associated with full-contact football appear to be rising, especially among high school students, according to a new report.
The increase is alarming and indicates more coaches and athletic trainers should change how they teach the fundamental skills of the game, according to researchers based at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Until recently, the number of football-related brain injuries with permanent disability in high school had remained in the single digits since 1984. However, the tally rose to 10 injuries in 2008 and 2009, and there were 13 in 2011, according to the latest catastrophic football injury research annual report from the UNC-based National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research.
"These 2011 numbers are the highest since we began collecting catastrophic brain injury data," said Fred Mueller, Ph.D., the report's lead author, director of the center and professor emeritus of exercise and sports science in the College of Arts and Sciences. "This is a major problem."
About 4.2 million football players compete nationwide, including 1.1 million high schoolers.
The center has collected data and published annual reports on catastrophic football injuries, including fatalities, disabilities and serious injuries, for 48 years. The National Collegiate Athletic Association, National Federation of State High School Associations and the American Football Coaches Association fund the research.
The center's work is believed to be directly responsible for nearly eliminating football fatalities, as well as drastically reducing the number of cervical cord injuries to single digits, between the late 1960s and the early 1990s.
Since 1977, about 67 percent of football-related catastrophic injuries have been suffered by players as they made tackles. Mueller said part of the problem is that despite being prohibited in 1976, head-to-head contact such
|Contact: Karen Moon|
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill