WESTFIELD, Mass. (WGGB) – A recent study by the National Academy of Sciences says that college football players suffer concussions at a rate of 6.3 for every 10,000 exposures, meaning practice and games.
For high school athletes that number nearly doubles to 11.2, higher than any other high school sport.
At Westfield High School, they are making every effort to protect their student athletes, from educating them to following state regulations for preventing concussions including some the may play a role in the game itself.
“The regulation is that, if a student receives a head injury or gets hit in the head, they must be removed from game, practice, play until they’ve been evaluated by a medical professional,” explained Karen Gomez, Supervisor of Athletics for the City of Westfield.
They’re even making improvements to their equipment.
“Of course, we’re always worried about concussions, but this year we actually have a guardian cap, so I feel a lot safer out on the field and I feel like a lot of our teammates feel the same way,” said Nathan LaValley, a senior football player for Westfield.
But the gap remains between concussions seen at the college level and those at the high school level. One of the biggest reasons for that gap may be the athletes themselves.
In high school, there can be a big difference in size and strength from one athlete to another.
“If you have someone who is a smaller athlete just coming on who’s 13 or 14 as stated, when you’re going up against a 17-18 year old, the difference of that needs to come into consideration,” James Danio, Athletic Trainer at Westfield High School told us.
Another surprising reason for the difference in numbers between high school concussions and college concussions is that college athletes do a lot more core strength training and they have better nutrition.
College athletes not only have trainers conditioning them for the game, they also have teams of nutritionists making sure their athletes have the fuel they need to perform.
Danio says, “A varsity athlete can burn between 2,000 and 5,000 calories a day so they need to be eating properly.” He explained, ”As your body gets tired your brain gets tired so you’re not as alert to alright this is the proper technique.”
Last year, Westfield High School had 13 concussions just among their football players.
Those injuries actually prompted them to discontinue their freshman team where they were seeing the majority of their concussions – a fact they attribute to the large difference in skill level as you try to assemble enough players to establish a team.
So far this year, they’ve seen approximately 13 concussions total out of 1,000 student athletes.
State regulations now require both coaches and players to be trained and educated in methods to reduce the risk of concussions.