Football at the collegiate level produces the greatest amount of catastrophic injuries compared with any other sport, according to the Annual Survey of Catastrophic Football Injuries. The majority of catastrophic football injuries are associated with defensive players blocking and tackling. To help prevent football injury, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons recommends wearing proper protective gear, stretching before and after playing -- especially when the weather is cold -- and frequent water breaks to prevent dehydration.
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Youth Emergency Room Visits
Between 2001 and 2005, U.S. males of all ages made an estimated 1,060,823 emergency room visits with football-related injuries, according to an analysis of data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System-All Injury Program performed by the Injury Prevention Center at Rhode Island Hospital. The results, reported in the March 2009 issue of the journal “Academic Emergency Medicine,” showed that for boys 7 to 11, 29 percent presented with fractures or dislocations and 27 percent with sprains or strains. In the 12-to-17-year-old age group, 31 percent presented with sprains or strains and 29 percent with fractures or dislocations.
Cervical Cord Injuries
Seven cervical cord injuries with incomplete neurological recovery occurred to football players at the high school level and one occurred at the college level, according to the 2009 Annual Survey of Catastrophic Football Injuries. This makes the rate of this serious injury 0.46 and 1.33 per 100,000 players, respectively. The majority of cervical cord injuries occur during games. Between 1977 and 2009 – including the nine players previously mentioned: 253 high school players, 34 college players, six recreational players and 14 professionals suffered an incomplete recovery from a cervical cord injury.
Between 1977 and 2009, 41 percent of catastrophic injuries to 126 players below the professional level happened while tackling and 20 percent of those – 62 players – while tackling with the head down. Catastrophic injuries have the potential of leaving the player physically or mentally impaired for life, but some players have complete recovery. Tackled players represent 8.8 percent – 27 players – of serious injuries. Players making a tackle on the kickoff accounts for 5.5 percent, or 17 players, who had a serious injury.
NFL Concussions Increase in Severity
A 12-year study suggests that players were sidelined for a significantly longer period after concussions between 2002 and 2007 than from 1996 to 2001. The data analysis, conducted by former members of the NFL's Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee and summarized in an Oct. 2010 “HealthDay News” article, concluded that this trend was due to increased concussion severity, increased willingness on the part of players to report concussions and NFL medical staffers adopting a new conservative approach for concussion management.