An estimated 300,000 children and adults are treated in hospital emergency rooms, and about 20 people die annually as a result of football-related injuries.
Staff analysis on non-professional football player injury records in Commission files shows that 40 percent of all injuries occurred among 15 to 19 year old boys. Most injuries took place at school or at other public playing facilities.
Sprains and strains accounted for about 30 percent of the injuries, as did severe bruises and scrapes. Broken bones followed with 22 percent and serious cuts were next with 10 percent. While only one percent of the injuries were concussions, this type of injury may be quite serious.
Repeat injuries, particularly to the head, are the most serious threat to life, according to one researcher.
A football hazard analysis by the Commission has isolated several problem areas. One problem appears to be the inadequacy of some protective equipment. While only a small percentage of injuries were directly attributable to defective, ill-fitting or broken equipment, injuries did occur beneath the equipment, indicating that it may not be providing adequate protection.
In other cases, players sustained injuries because they had neglected to wear all their equipment during practice and play. For example, a 21-year old boy cracked the third cervical vetebra (neck) after being hit from the side. He was wearing his helmet, but not a protective collar.
A study of North Carolina High School football players, funded by the Commission, revealed that nearly 25 percent of the injuries studied came as a result of a player receiving a hard blow from the helmet, shoulder pad or shoes of another player. This statistic led to the study recommendation that consumers, coaches and others responsible for athletic activities, demand safer equipment from manufacturers. In particular, the study said, manufacturers should be encouraged to design helmets and shoulder pads with soft, external padding to better cushion a player against blows from another player's equipment.
Soccer shoes were recommended over conventional shoes with long cleats to reduce ankle and knee injuries. Soccer shoes were also found to be less injurious to other players.
The Commission is supporting additional research on football and sports injuries at the University of Washington.
Based on existing injury and research data, the Commission offers the following tips for players and officials to reduce football-related injuries:
1. Choose equipment carefully. The North Carolina study pointed out there are marked differences between the effectiveness of different brands.
2. Soccer shoes are preferable to conventional football shoes.
3. Wear all equipment, even when practicing.
4. Make sure that the playing surface is free of debris, rocks, holes, uneven surfaces and equipment.
5. Follow the rules of the game to eliminate a vast number of injuries from such illegal activities as "spearing" and "clipping".
6. Limit blocking and tackling drills during practice sessions. A significant number of injuries result from these drills.
7. Always check with a physician after an injury to make sure it is safe to resume play.
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