Friday, June 29, 2012

Preventing concussions is goal of youth athletics

How to prevent concussions and the damage they do to athletes is the hottest and most controversial topic on today’s youth sports scene, especially in football.

New videos are constantly being released showing the danger of hard hits, coaches are required to take classes on recognizing concussions, some states go so far as to require coaches to take tests and medical advisory boards have been formed to weigh in on concussions.

Central in all of this is that concussions can be limited by teaching proper tackling techniques.

Most coaches teach players to be aggressive tacklers, who in front-on tackling, should step into the opponent and hit with their shoulder pads — not their helmets. Tacklers should keep their feet moving to continue their momentum, and wrap both arms around a ball carrier while grabbing his jersey. The emphasis for most coaches is that first contact should never be made with the helmet.

Which brings us to headgear.

While, there is no such a thing as an anti-concussion helmet, there are new high-technology headgear and face masks that offer maximum protection.

In Payson, the value of helmets that provide protection against high-impact collisions is being recognized.

This summer, Northern Arizona Youth Football League officials pooled their resources to purchase 100 new state-of-the-art Riddell helmets. In all, the tab exceeded $7,000, which NAYFL official Pamela Way says was money well spent.

Last football season, then-PHS head coach Byron Quinlan purchased new helmets for his players and also donated $4,000 of club football money to Rim Country Middle School to buy new Riddell helmets for Maverick players.

Although Quinlan wore a different brand of helmet when he played at PHS in the early 1990s, he favored Riddell as a coach.

But every high school coach has his favorite brand, which he believes offers his players maximum safety and protection Coaches will argue long and hard about which brand is the better helmet.

In addition to Riddell being a major producer of helmets, Schutt, Adams and Xenith are also at the forefront.

Helmets evolved from simple leather padding to combinations of metal and plastic designed to prevent catastrophic head injuries.

Today, most helmets are made of stiff polycarbonate shells lined with dense foam padding. Some have pneumatic padding and others have an inflating system.

The Xenith XI helmet recently dropped its in-helmet foam in favor of the air-filled shock absorbers similar to air bags in cars.

At Virginia Tech researchers have been studying different types of helmets and recently released the results of a new rating system of adult football helmets.

Only one helmet received the coveted five-star rating, but four earned the four-star very good ranking.

The data marks one of the first times researchers have provided the public with comparative test results. The data compiled by Virginia Tech showed the best helmet currently available to the public is the Riddell Revolution Speed, which earned the five-star rating.

Schutt ION 4D, Schutt DNA Pro+, Riddell Revolution, Xenith X1 and Riddell Revolution IQ received four-star ratings.

The helmets range in price from $170 to close to $300. While that makes some cost prohibitive to public schools and youth leagues, coaches continue to shop for the best helmets at the best value.

While manufacturers have been working nonstop to make the safest helmets possible, the best tools for minimizing the risk of head injuries remain teaching proper tackling techniques and improved concussion education.

Symptoms of a concussion

There are some common physical, mental and emotional symptoms a person may display following a concussion. Any of these could be a sign of traumatic brain injury:

• confusion or feeling dazed

• clumsiness

• slurred speech

• nausea or vomiting

• headache

• balance problems or dizziness

• blurred vision

• sensitivity to light

• sensitivity to noise

• sluggishness

• ringing in ears

• behavior or personality changes

• concentration difficulties

• memory loss

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