By ALICE CHEKUNOVA, age 11
More than 1 million U.S. high school students play football. In this season alone, 11 have died. With much media focus on traumatic brain injury in the NFL, are the dangers facing high school players receiving the same attention? Many low-income students around the country base their college hopes on football scholarships, but the sport may put their health and safety at risk and scholarships themselves are very rare.
According to a Marist University poll, parents who are aware of the connection between head injury and brain damage are one-third less likely to let their children play. The rate varies from group to group; Americans without a college degree and those making less than $50,000 are less aware of this danger.
To prevent further fatalities, schools around the country are taking extra precautions. Football players are required by governing bodies and states to wear full protection. The National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research (NCCSIR) has found that many high school football fatalities are due to heat illness worsened by pads and helmets. Some schools are using a handheld device called a sling psychrometer to monitor conditions on the field. The NCCSIR also recommends that players rest with their equipment removed, in shaded areas with good air circulation.
Steve Gleason, an advocate for people with neurological illnesses and a former football player, told mmqb.si.com, a website about the NFL, “[R]ecent studies link head trauma as a contributing factor to ALS. If those studies end up being confirmed … I was unknowingly put at higher risk.”
Glossary of Terms:
Sling psychrometer: A device that measures humidity, which can contribute to heat stroke.
Neurological illnesses: A group of illnesses that affect the brain, spinal cord or other nerves and can cause paralysis or muscle weakness, loss of mental control and sensation, and other symptoms.
ALS: Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, a progressive disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.