Keep Your Head Up and See What You are Making Contact With
The school session is starting back up as are the contact sport (football, hockey, rugby) seasons. ProEx would like to review some sports safety guidelines in regards to contact, and some potential injuries that can occur.
Understanding and performing proper techniques in contact sport activities is essential. We recognize that contact sports come with associated risks and the potential for injury. However, whether you are a parent/guardian or coach, teaching your student-athlete(s) the correct form should be incorporated in as an important part of injury prevention.
Keeping your head up, whether you are initiating the contact or receiving it, can help in preventing injuries.
Spearing in Football
Making contact with an opponent while the head is in a downward position increases the risk for a mild traumatic brain injury and cervical spine injury. Spearing is defined as lowering the head before making contact or hitting with the crown (or top) of the helmet. While this results in a 15-yard penalty for the offending team during a football game, this technique during contact is seen too often.
Some injuries, particularly brain and spinal injuries, can be prevented if proper techniques are instructed from the youth levels of sport. The bottom line is that players should go in with their head up and maintain their head up throughout the contact. Keeping the head up will not only decrease the risk of injury, but will allow for the ability to see the play, and better prepare for the contact. It is fine to play aggressive as long as you are playing safe!
• Supervision – Coaches, parents/guardian, and officials should be watching out and instructing players on proper form.
• Obey Rules – Stress the sport specific rules that spearing is not allowed, and that helmet-to-helmet contact should be avoided. Never target the opponent’s head as the first point of contact. Officials should penalize the offending team as applicable.
• Practice – Continue to review techniques not only to the defense but also ball carriers and blockers. Proper execution and form should become habitual.
• Education – Provide education for all individuals involved in sport as to the proper form. Contact with opponents should come at the chest or shoulder regions.
• No tolerance – Do not accept incorrect form during practices or games.
Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (MTBI)
A MTBI is an injury to the brain, which can be the result of either a direct blow or outside force applied to the skull. This type of injury may cause damage to the brain, affecting its ability to function correctly.
The following are potential symptoms of a MTBI reported subjectively: headache or pressure in the head, nausea or vomiting, confusion, dizziness and/or balance problems, vision changes (blurry or double), sensitivity to light and/or noise, concentration and/or memory problems, feeling tired, slowed down, groggy, and/or not feeling “right”. Others may observe the following symptoms in an individual who has sustained a MTBI: pupil dilation, looking dazed or stunned, confusion and/or memory loss of events before and/or after the event, balance problems, loss of consciousness, behavior and/or personality changes, and an inability to concentrate. It is important to recognize that numerous symptoms can result from a MTBI, and not all symptoms need to occur for a MTBI to be diagnosed. If an injury to the brain is suspected, seek a medical evaluation immediately.
Spine Fractures and Spinal Cord Injuries
Spine fractures can be very severe and catastrophic in nature. The bones (vertebrae) can be damaged when the neck is forcefully compressed together. Nerves coming off the spinal cord are located from the base of the brain to the lower back and send electrical signals throughout the body from the brain. The spinal cord can be injured, diagnosed as bruised/contused or torn. When the spinal cord is injured, there can be either a temporary or permanent loss of neuromuscular (nerve- muscle) function. In the event of a partial or incomplete tear the injured individual may have slight movement or feeling, while a complete tear of the spinal cord will result in no movement or feeling. There are different areas of the body and muscle groups that are affected depending on where the spinal cord is severed. An individual diagnosed as paraplegia will have a loss of function in the lower body and legs. Tetraplegia (also known as quadriplegia) results in complete loss of muscle function in all extremities (arms and legs).
Spine Fractures and Spinal Cord Injury Symptoms
The followings symptoms could be the result of a spine fracture and/or spinal cord injury. Pain, weakness, numbness, involuntary muscle movements, difficulty breathing, decrease feeling in arms, legs and chest, loss of bowel and bladder control. A multitude of symptoms can result from an injury to the spine and spinal cord, and not all symptoms need to occur for such an injury to be diagnosed. If such an injury is suspected, treat as a medical emergency, immobilize the individual to prevent excessive movement, and initiate the assistance of medical personnel immediately.
ProEx Physical Therapy
If you sustain an injury, ProEx Physical Therapy can help you through your recovery process and get you back to the activities that make you happy.. Our Physical Therapists can help manage pain, aid in the decrease of inflammation and muscle spasm, and increase spinal flexibility, mobility, and range of motion. We will teach you proper spinal posture to assist in preventing future injury, and increase to the strength and endurance of your muscles to help you return to your daily life and as applicable, sport participation. To find a Physical Therapist near you, click here (http://proexpt.com/content.php?l=66)
[Resources: AANS, ACSM, MGH, NCAA, NFHS, NATA, MIAA]