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Are You Ready for Some Football? Concussions and Football

Are you ready for some football??? A common phrase we all hear as we approach the cooler autumn days. Watching our favorite college teams play as well as our own children head out to the gridiron to play one of America's favorite games is exciting! As with all sports, there are injury risks. In football, the risk of concussion is very real and the rate of children and adolescents getting concussions is on the rise. The number of emergency room visits for sports-related traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) has risen over the past ten years and the percentage of admissions is consistent at about 10%, reports a 2013 study. High school football players suffered 11.2 concussions for every 10,000 combined games and practices. Among college players, this rate stood at 6.3. This is important information to keep track of when your child is involved in any kind of sport but especially for boys in football and equally, for girls in soccer. Interestingly, female high school soccer athletes suffer almost 40% more concussions than males (an estimated 29,000 concussions annually). For children seen in the emergency room, the sports most commonly associated with TBI were football (29.1%), soccer (16.5%), and basketball (15.4%). Athletes are at even greater risk for sustaining another concussion if they have a prior history of one. At this time, it is unclear what the long term effects of repeated concussions are in athletes. There has been some research in this area, which has been widely publicized due to former NFL players speaking out about depression, suicidal impulses, and Alzheimer’s disease as well as other disorders with possible links to concussions sustained during their sporting years.

So what are the signs of a concussion? Who should you talk to about it? And what do you do if you notice signs of a concussion? A concussion is a minor traumatic brain injury that may occur when the head hits an object or a moving object strikes the head. It can disrupt how the brain works for varying lengths of time. A concussion can lead to a bad headache, changes in alertness, and/or loss of consciousness. Although many health professionals describe them as a mild brain injury, their effects can be quite serious. For athletes in high school who may have suffered a concussion, the first person they are likely to talk to is an athletic trainer, and from there, an emergency room physician.

If there are no athletic trainers available, you will want to make sure that you are well versed in the signs and symptoms of a concussion so that you do not send your athlete back into the game before they are ready. The signs of a concussion can be broken into 4 areas that can be impacted: (1) thinking, (2) physical, (3) emotional, and (4) sleep. An individual with a concussion can have difficulty thinking clearly, feel "slow", have difficulty remembering new information, and/or have difficulty concentrating. This may be more evident during an athlete’s time at school or at home, as opposed to while they are at a practice or a game. Some physical signs are headache, blurred vision, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, balance difficulty, and low energy. Some emotional signs are irritability, sadness, increased nervousness or anxiety, or general increased emotional sensitivity. Sleep can be affected as well, but is difficult to use as a determining factor since an affected person could sleep more than usual, less than usual, or just have difficulty falling asleep in general. Signs that you need to emergently take someone to the hospital are…

  • Looks very drowsy or cannot be awakened
  • Has one pupil (the black part in the middle of the eye) larger than the other
  • Experiences convulsions or seizures
  • Cannot recognize people or places
  • Becomes confused, restless, or agitated
  • Displays unusual behavior
  • Loses consciousness (a brief loss of consciousness should be taken seriously and the person should be carefully monitored).


Being careful to avoid impact to your head during sport and using the correct safety equipment can help decrease the risk of concussion. While the CDC recommends using a helmet during football play to protect your head, you also need to make sure that the helmet fits properly. They also recommend following the safety rules of the sport and making sure to not prematurely return to play with a known or suspected concussion. Although the use of helmets has been shown to help prevent injury, as they can help dampen the impact of an object on the skull, they have no effect on how the brain can be jostled inside of the skull from a significant impact.  Damage to the brain can still be sustained, even when wearing the best-fitting, most advanced helmet. Using safe hitting techniques and avoiding premature return to play after an injury is the best way to keep one of your most important assets, your brain, safe.

Should you have any questions regarding a sports-related injury that you or a loved one has sustained, please feel free to call us at (630) 230-9565 or email us at info@dptsport.com.  DPT Sport is the premier physical therapy and wellness clinic in the Burr Ridge/Hinsdale area, offering conservative and post-surgical sports rehabilitation as well as sports enhancement and injury prevention custom programs.


Statistics obtained from these sources: