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Super Dangerous Kids Football Head Injuries & Strokes!
© 2022 Health Realizations, Inc. Update


More than 55 percent of high school students participate in athletics, activities that can lend invaluable experiences in teamwork and dedication along with boosting self-esteem and physical fitness levels.

Among them, football is ranked the most popular sport for high school boys, with over 1.1 million high-school-aged participants across the country, according to the High School Athletics Participation Survey conducted by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS).

Unfortunately, football also results in more direct catastrophic injuries than any other sport tracked by the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research, and appears to be much more dangerous at the high school level than the college level.

High School Football Players at Increased Risk of Catastrophic Head Injury

While catastrophic head injuries such as brain bleeding and swelling are rare, a study published in The American Journal of Sports Medicine found its incidence is significantly higher at the high school level than the college level.

"High school football players have more than three times the risk of a catastrophic head injury than their college peers," says lead author, Barry P. Boden, M.D., from the Orthopedic Center in Rockville, Md., and adjunct associate professor at the Uniform Services University of the Health Science in Bethesda, Md., in Science Daily.

Further, the researchers found a high percentage of high school football players who had minor symptoms of neurologic injury from a previous head injury (such as a concussion) at the time of the catastrophic injury. Further points found in the study included:

  • 81 percent of the injuries were caused by helmet-to-helmet collisions and helmet-to-body collisions

  • 59 percent of those injured had a history of previous head injury (71 percent of which occurred during the same season)

  • 40 percent of injured athletes were playing with residual neurologic symptoms from a prior head injury

  • Of the 94 catastrophic injuries reviewed, 9 percent result in death, 51 percent in permanent neurologic injuries, and 40 percent serious injuries with full recovery

As for why high school players have a higher rate of catastrophic injury, the researchers suggested younger brains may be more susceptible to injury. Further, there are not as many team physicians on the high school level as the college level, which means it could be that high school athletes are not being properly evaluated or receiving the proper medical attention following an injury, Boden said.

It’s worth noting also that hemorrhage strokes, which occur when a blood vessel on the brain’s surface ruptures and fills the space between the brain and skull with blood, can also be caused by a head injury.

What Happens to Your Brain After a Head Injury?

In the event of a closed head injury, your brain collides with your skull, bruising brain tissue and tearing blood vessels. The rapid movement of your head may also stretch or injure your neuronal axons, which are nerve cells that link parts of your brain together, and link parts of your brain to other parts of your body. Such an injury tends to impact a wide range of functioning.

Brain injuries, whether mild or severe, all have the potential to impact the following:

  • Cognitive skills (concentration, learning to skills, attention span)

  • Speech and language skills

  • Personality (lethargy, aggression, mood swings, dependent behaviors)

  • Senses (vision, hearing, smell, taste, touch)

For those who experienced a head injury long ago, researchers are realizing that the blow may long be forgotten, but the impacts could linger on.

For some, the head injury leads to irritability or depression, which turns into substance abuse. Others have a hard time juggling tasks throughout the day, and become disorganized, easily distracted or unable to hold a job.

In fact, according to the Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA), one study found that 40 percent of people hospitalized with a traumatic brain injury had at least one problem that still lingered one year later. Most frequently, this was:

  • Improving memory and problem solving

  • Managing stress and emotional upset

  • Controlling their temper

  • Improving their job skills

What to Watch Out for if Your Child Has a Head Injury

If your child has a head injury while playing football or due to another circumstance, you should see your doctor immediately. Even if it appears mild, the full extent of a head injury may not develop for days, so you should continue to watch closely for symptoms.

These are symptoms to watch for following a blow to the head:

  • Headaches

  • Lethargy

  • Balance

  • Nausea

  • Fatigue

  • Bad taste in mouth

  • Slurred speech

  • Ringing in ears

  • Neck pain

  • Anxiety

  • Irritability

  • Depression

  • Problems concentrating

  • Memory loss

  • Difficulty collecting thoughts

  • Trouble walking (balance)

  • Trouble sleeping

  • Dilated pupils

  • Drainage of bloody or clear fluids from nose or ears

  • Weakness or numbness in limbs

If you notice any of the following, seek medical help immediately.

Further, do not let your child participate in sports if they are showing signs of a head injury.

If Your Child Has a Concussion or Other Head Injury, Do Not Let Them Back Into the Game

"The single most important piece of advice that I can give is to never let an athlete play football if he has any neurological symptoms whatsoever,” Dr. Boden told Science Daily. This could include amnesia, dizziness, headache, irritability, personality changes or any of the signs listed above.

"Football is a very macho sport. Athletes are taught to play through pain," Dr. Boden continued. "But concussions need to be taken seriously. Many of them are probably being overlooked at the high school level. These injured athletes are allowed to return to play before full recovery, leaving them susceptible to a more significant injury."

Tips to Reduce the Risk of Head Injury for Football Players

High-quality protective gear, including properly fitted helmets, mouth guards and padding, can help prevent athletes from sustaining sometimes deadly head injuries, however that is only a starting point.

The National Center for Catastrophic Injury Research has compiled the following nine tips for reducing the risk of head and neck injuries among football players:

  1. Athletes must be given proper conditioning exercises that will strengthen their necks so that participants will be able to hold their heads firmly erect when making contact.

  2. Coaches should drill the athletes in the proper execution of the fundamental football skills, particularly blocking and tackling. Contact should always be made with the head-up and never with the top of the head/helmet. Initial contact should never be made with the head/helmet or facemask.

  3. Coaches and officials should discourage the players from using their heads as battering rams when blocking and tackling. The rules prohibiting spearing should be enforced in practice and in games. The players should be taught to respect the helmet as a protective device and that the helmet should not be used as a weapon.

  4. All coaches, physicians, and trainers should take special care to see that the player's equipment is properly fitted, particularly the helmet.

  5. When a player has experienced or shown signs of head trauma (loss of consciousness, visual disturbances, headache, inability to walk correctly, obvious disorientation, memory loss), he should receive immediate medical attention and should not be allowed to return to practice or game without permission from a physician.

  6. A number of the players associated with brain trauma complained of headaches or had a previous concussion prior to their deaths. The team physician, athletic trainer, or coach should make players aware of these signs. Players should also be encouraged to inform the team physician, athletic trainer, or coach if they are experiencing any of the above mentioned signs of brain trauma.

  7. Coaches should never make the decision whether a player returns to a game or active participation in a practice if that player experiences brain trauma.

  8. In 2008 the National Federation of State High School Associations stated in a concussion management recommendation the following: no athlete should return to play the same day of a concussion and must receive clearance from a medical professional before resuming practice or games.

The NCAA Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports in a December 2009 meeting recommended that an athlete would be sidelined for at least the rest of the day if he/she loses consciousness or shows other worrisome symptoms during competition.
The panel also recommended sidelining an athlete with less severe concussion-related symptoms until cleared by a doctor.

A major concern is second impact syndrome where an athlete who has not recovered from a concussion is returned to play and receives another severe hit. This situation most often results in death.

  1. Game officials (referees) should call all illegal helmet contact in games. If they call all illegal helmet contact the number of concussions and catastrophic injuries may be reduced. Coaches will no longer teach improper techniques and players will no longer use their helmeted heads if they know a penalty will be called. At the present time officials are not calling all illegal helmet contact.

On a whole-body level, players should also put serious attention to stretching and strengthening their mind and body with the same programs many professional football players use to minimize injuries to their bodies.

According to the President's Council on Physical Fitness & Sports:

  • Stretching is known to relax the muscle and has been advocated for the treatment of various muscle problems.

  • Static stretching is clearly indicated and commonly used for the acute relief of muscle cramps.

  • Stretching is commonly practiced to relieve symptoms of delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS).

A sound, peaceful night’s sleep is also a crucial element to safe sports performance.

Researchers at Stanford University found college basketball players who got some extra sleep were able to decrease their sprint times and increase their average free throw percentage. They also reported increased energy and improved mood during their games and practices. What's more, getting extra sleep for as little as two weeks was enough to significantly improve the players' athletic performance.

If you are the parent of a high school athlete, please also share this important information not only with your child but also with his or her coach and teammates.

As always, knowledge of how to prevent them (which you just learned) and acting on this knowledge (which is up to you) are the main weapons you have in avoiding head injuries.

If you have any concerns or questions you would like to discuss, please contact us for an appointment today.


National Center for Catastrophic Injury Research

National Federation of State High School Associations

Brain Injury Association of America

Mount Sinai Traumatic Brain Injury Central

Science Daily Catastrophic Head Injury 3X Greater in High School

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Dr. Christopher Brooks Dr. Jami Gomarko

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