August 14, 2017

Theresa Jacobellis, 631-606-0525

Sports Medicine Physician Offers Advice for Parents Facing Fear of Football
Headlines Highlight Risks, but Expert Emphasizes that Kids can Play Safely

A devastating and tragic accident that recently claimed the life of a Long Island teenager at a pre-season football conditioning camp is just the latest headline to raise concerns about the safety of the sport for young athletes. Recent news reports have also focused on the risk of concussions, which are associated with contact sports like football. Researchers now know that there may be long-term consequences of concussions in both professional and high school athletes. All of this may cause parents to question whether to allow their student-athletes to play football.

            “More than seven million American children participate in high school sports each year, and these activities contribute to a healthy, active lifestyle,” said sports medicine specialist Michael Kennedy, DO, of Expert Medical Care in Huntington. “Most kids who play sports, including football, at the high school level can do so safely if they take proper precautions.”

Benefits of participation in organized sports are well-documented and include healthy weight maintenance, improved self-esteem, and increased strength and endurance, among others. However, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that there are more than two million sports-related injuries each year, and up to half a million of them are serious enough to require a doctor’s care.

 The most worrisome football-related injury is concussion. In light of new evidence linking concussion to a degenerative brain disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy, healthcare professionals as well as coaches and trainers are taking a cautious approach to head injuries.

“The best advice is to make sure that students wear protective gear, especially helmets, when playing any sport in which there is the potential for blunt force trauma to the head,” said Dr. Kennedy. “Additionally, any head trauma, no matter how insignificant it may appear, should be evaluated by a physician to rule out concussion.”

Concussion can be serious and carry long-term consequences. For this reason, it is essential that students be properly treated and not return to play before receiving clearance from a doctor, according to Dr. Kennedy. He also stressed that coaches should teach football players to avoid head-down contact and spearing, which increases the risk of traumatic head injury.

Equally concerning and preventable is the possibility of heat illness, which the CDC says is a leading cause of death and disability among high school athletes. With many schools beginning football practice during the typically hot and humid days of late August, it may take a week or more for students’ bodies to become acclimated to exercising in the heat.

“Student athletes should drink 6 – 10 ounces of fluid for every 15 minutes of exercise,” said Dr. Kennedy. “It is important to drink before, during and after a practice session to keep the body properly hydrated and prevent heat illness.”

While there is a risk of injury with any sport, Dr. Kennedy points out that for the vast majority of youngsters, the benefits outweigh the risks. As long as standard safety precautions are observed, school athletic programs can form the basis of a lifetime of activity and good health.




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