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For each of the past 20 years, the number of football-related brain injuries resulting in permanent disability at the high school level has remained in the single digits. But now, experts say the tally has risen to as high as 13 in recent years, which is the highest number on record since scientists began collecting catastrophic brain injury data.
Most of the catastrophic injuries are caused by head-to-head contact, such as face tackling or spearing tackles. Head-to-head contact has been prohibited across all levels of sports but still sometimes occurs. In these types of tackles, the head is the first and primary contact point with an opposing player, which can result in cervical spine fracture or permanent brain injuries.
It’s important for coaches to be familiar with the warning signs and symptoms of concussions, including headaches, dizziness, and nausea. Players exhibiting any of those signs should stay off the field until a sports medicine doctor clears them for play, and coaches should emphasize to teams that the head should not be used in tackling or blocking.