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Playing It Safe With High School Sports
Date:7/3/2008

efore they become serious, leaving the more serious ones for the statistics charts, Comstock said.

Whatever the reasons, the emerging data and new research into sports injuries among high school athletes is bringing needed attention to what athletic professionals say has been a long neglected area.

"There are 1.2 million high school football athletes, compared to 38,000 college and 1,700 professional football players," Broglio said. "At the high school level, where there are the greatest number of injuries, there is the least amount of medical attention -- one athletic trainer for 300 to 500 children, compared to three or four for one college football team of 120."

Tight school budgets are part of the reason, said Jon Almquist, the athletic training program administrator for the Fairfax County (Va.) Public Schools. Schools necessarily focus on educational priorities rather than athletics.

But a second reason for the lack of attention, according to Comstock, has been the wrong assumption that high school sports injuries are inevitable. "There's a general perception that sports injuries are just the price you have to pay for playing, which isn't true," she said.

At a meeting of the National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA) last week in St. Louis, Broglio presented the results of a study that measured the varying speeds at which high school football players took hits to their heads, and where on the head the hits occurred. The findings will not only help researchers pinpoint how and when concussions are most likely to occur, they should help coaches retool a player's on-field technique to avoid unnecessarily risky moves.

Also at the meeting, certified athletic trainer Erin O'Donoghue reported that high school coaches in a survey she conducted scored an average of 80 out of 100 points on questions testing them on their expertise in recognizing concussions. Those who had attended workshops about concussi
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