Several recent class-action lawsuits over concussions in the NFL have brought new scrutiny to safety measures used by contact sports teams at every level. Particularly for high school sports, which can be very competitive, repeated trauma to the head can have long lasting damage for kids. A recent study found that kids aged 6 to 17 were treated for about 8,600 concussions last year. Football was apparently responsible for about half of reported concussions for high school athletes, more than any other sport.
Brain injuries at a young age can be very damaging, and high school coaches have a duty to pursue adequate safety measures to protect kids. Still, many schools reuse helmets for years before replacing them, which can result in decreased effectiveness and worn down padding.
One high school in Georgia started using a gel-filled helmet cover last year, becoming one of the first schools in the nation to seek out new technologies to help prevent these injuries. The coach from the school told reporters that they had a lot of players showing signs of concussions before they started using the gel packs. He said that as many as 10 to 12 kids missing practice and games because of head injuries. Since they started using the new helmet pads, they have had zero reports of concussion symptoms and kids are not missing practice for that reason.
Student athletes who have been injured by repeated concussions may be entitled to recover from the school if the athletic program failed to take adequate steps to protect them from injury.
Source: Reuters, “Football turns to helmet technology to tackle head injuries,” Scott Malone, April 2, 2012.