In school sports, football is the leading cause of sports-related injuries for children in the U.S. And, thanks to some changes, it is safer than it used to be, especially for younger, lighter kids.
Coaches should tell players not to tackle or block with their heads or run head-down with the ball.
The National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research and other experts also recommend these safety tips:
Athletes should have a prepractice physical exam. This may include an electrocardiogram, a noninvasive screening test of the heart and blood vessels.
Teams should have insurance for a disastrous injury.
Teams should have medical assistance on hand at practices and games.
Teams should have an automatic external defibrillator at practices and games, as well as someone trained to use it.
Coaches should teach conditioning exercises that will strengthen young athletes' necks. A strong neck makes it easier to hold the head up firmly when making a block or tackle.
Coaches should inspect each player's equipment and make sure that a helmet fits properly.
Players should be given free access to water and electrolyte fluids. Coaches should consider not holding outdoor practice in extreme heat and humidity.
Teams should provide immediate medical care for a player who experiences or has symptoms of a head injury. This includes loss of consciousness, vision problems, headache, difficulty walking, confusion, and memory loss. The player should not return to practice or to a game on the day of the injury. The player should not return at all without approval from medical authorities. The coach should never make the decision on whether or not the player is able to return to play.
The coach or the team health care provider should make players aware of the signs of possible head injury. The coach or team health care provider should encourage players to tell him or her if they experience any of these symptoms, including headaches.