Hard hits are fact of life for football players who compete on the high school, college, and professional levels. With those hits, comes the risk of significant head injury. While much is known about head injuries, Eastern Kentucky University Professor of Exercise and Sports Medicine Matt Sabin recommends caution. For example, when a helmet hits a helmet, Sabin says diagnosing the health consequences can be difficult.
“It’s hard to say well that was a major concussion, that was a minor concussion. At the time of the injury, athletes that have very minor hits, can have symptoms that last up to six months. And athletes that have a huge hit, you know, you gasp and you oh my gosh, did that really happen, can be back on the field in one week,” said Sabin.
Sabin says a concussion can cause headache, nausea, confusion, and a loss of consciousness. Since players often insist they can resume play, Sabin says it’s important to fully educate them about the risks of a concussion. Sabin says it’s unlikely the bone crushing hit in college football will go away any time soon.
“You can’t change the mentality of the game with some of these rule changes. So, the players are still going out there and often there is the mentality of, I’ve got to go for the big hit, I’ve got to get as much of this is possible. And I don’t think we’re ever going to change that,” added Sabin.
Sabin says the decision on when to return to play remains key for players who suffer concussions. Since that decision is often made by the player, the coach and the team’s trainer, Sabin says athletes need to understand the risks posed by concussions.