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Catastrophic brain injuries among student athletes on the rise

Over the past several years more national attention has been given to catastrophic brain injuries among high school football athletes. And while these educational efforts have been widespread, it turns out catastrophic brain injuries among high school athletes still increased last year.

According to the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research, every year from 1984 until 2007 there were nine or less catastrophic brain injuries reported among high school athletes. However, that number jumped to 10 in 2008 and again in 2009. For 2011 the total reached 13.

Of course, this can be in part because of the fact that there is more education around these types of injuries that in the past might have gone unreported. However, due to the serious nature of a catastrophic brain injury, more needs to be done to prevent these types of injuries from happening in the first place.

Dr. Fred Mueller, who was the lead author for the center's recent report, said that this increase is certainly troubling. Additionally, he reiterated the fact that while there was a 1976 rule change making it illegal to use the head for blocking or tackling, coaches and officials need to really make sure that rule is enforced as some athletes are still partaking in this dangerous practice. In fact, improper blocking and tackling was the reason cited for six cervical cord injuries among high school students.

Outside of proper and legal techniques, it's also been noted that athletes should be wearing a properly sized and fitted helmet.

Overall, while much attention is given to brain injuries sustained in football, the same report also found that for girls between the ages of 10 and 14, bicycling was a top cause of brain injuries. For female teens between the ages of 15 and 19, basketball and gymnastics were also listed as top causes for brain injuries.


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