The Risks of Football for Student Athletes

Brain and spinal cord injury deaths tied to high school, college football

(RxWiki News) Around 1.1 million high school and 75,000 college student athletes play tackle football each year in the United States. And that puts them at risk of serious injuries.

With contact sports, traumatic injuries to the brain and spinal cord occur relatively frequently. Some of those injuries can be fatal.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between 2005 and 2014, a total of 28 deaths occurred among high school and college football student athletes. Of the 28 deaths, 24 occurred at the high school level and four occurred at the college level.

These numbers translate to a combined average of 2.8 fatalities per year. 

The CDC reported that most of these deaths were the result of tackling or being tackled and occurred during competitions. Running backs and linebackers were the most likely to be fatally injured.

Around 18 percent of the high school football student athletes who died as a result of a brain injury had sustained a concussion within four weeks. Second impact syndrome, which occurs when a person sustains a second concussion before he or she is able to heal from the first concussion, was noted to have occurred in the majority of these deaths.

The CDC noted that these findings support the need for safety efforts and continued surveillance, highlighting the importance of proper tackling techniques, the availability of medical care on site during competitions, an emergency plan for severe injuries and an assessment to determine when it is safe to return to the field after a concussion.

Speak to your child's pediatrician about how to improve sports safety for your child.

This report was recently published in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. No outside funding or potential conflicts of interest were reported.