Dr. Henry Paul, MD

Psychiatrist, Author and Educator


September 30th, 2015

22493562_sVery sad news this past weekend as yet another high school athlete has died from injuries sustained while playing high school football.  This time, it was football.  It has been reported by several news outlets that quarterback Evan Murray, a senior at Warren Hills Regional High School in New Jersey, died Friday night.  He was just 17 years old.

More than one million high school students in the United States play football each year. And, although other sports have seen their fair share of deaths and life-threatening injuries it seems that football raises the most concerns.  And why not?  The NFL has put a lot of focus on concussions making it a top priority for protecting their athletes.

Here are some basic facts on concussions from the CDC:

  • All concussions are serious.
  • Most concussions occur without loss of consciousness.
  • Recognition and proper response to concussions when they first occur can help prevent further injury or even death.

The CDC is taking a proactive position on dealing with concussions and has developed an online program called Heads Up to help ensure the health and safety of young athletes. The HEADS UP Concussion in Youth Sports provides coaches, parents, and athletes important information on preventing, recognizing, and responding to a concussion.

Other organizations, including the NFL, are also exploring safer ways to tackle. The Seattle Seahawks put out a YouTube video on “Hawk Tackling” that focuses on tackling with the shoulder.

The bottom line is that how to tackle is going to be debated for some time. Whether “Heads Up” or “Hawk Tackling” are better will be a matter of time before anyone can tell. The hope is that by teaching the young kids that begin to play to keep their heads “out of the tackle” that over time the game will become safer. The Chicago Tribune ran a story last week (see link below) that looked at the pros and cons to teaching the different styles of tackling to kids.

While the debate rages on, I think that tackle football should be banned. High school football should be played as touch football. I know this is a lot less exciting, but it is also less fatal. Another fact to consider with school-age children playing tackle football is the lack of education, equipment, and money that many schools have to run a safe program.

As much as I would like to see touch football the reality is that tackle football is what is being played right now. That being the case, coaches and parents need to know the inherent dangers of hard hits leading to concussions and other serious back, neck and internal organ damage. Parents and players need to know how to properly perform a concussion evaluation and should be familiar with the school’s and the league’s injury and concussion policies. Below are some links to help educate parents, coaches and students about concussions.

Chicago Tribune: New tackling methods aim to make football safer, but proof still lacking
CDC facts on concussions
CDC Heads Up Concussion in Youth Sports
CDC Heads Up Youth Sports Online Training – 3o minute online class.
CDC Concussion Information Sheet

Information contained in this blog is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended as medical or psychiatric advice for individual conditions or treatment and does not substitute for a medical or psychiatric examination. A psychiatrist must make a determination about any treatment or prescription. Dr. Paul does not assume any responsibility or risk for the use of any information contained within this blog.



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