The topic of football safety and health has been a long time coming to front and center of public discussions and is now a main focus of both youth and professional football followers. While past health disasters were viewed as part of ‘playing the game’, new information is showing that some of the injuries that resulted in lifelong problems and even death, could have been avoided. Attention is now being placed on education, awareness and resources to keep our players in a positive health situation and deter safety problems through individual and group participation.
The sport of football can start at a very young age. This means that parents, guardians, coaches and fellow players need to be aware of potential health risks and dangers. Schools, leagues and recreation areas that host football training need to have highly visible safety standards set and guidelines established that are followed by all participants. Requiring accountability from the school or recreation area is the first step to ensure safety for those that are just setting out in the world of football sports. Properly fitting equipment is also important, as this can assist in injury prevention. The secondary topic within that level is instruction on correct ways to perform various football functions (i.e.: tackling) to avoid injuries. Proper conditioning, complimented with the balance of knowing how to make the plays in the best manner, will assist in keeping the injury levels down.
Since concussions are one of the biggest playing risks, educating yourself and your team on the signs of a concussion is paramount. 43 states in the United States have passed laws regarding concussions and returning to play protocols. Ensuring that all players, coaches, parents and guardians recognize that hydration is an important health role; especially during the warmer months. Signs of dehydration can be misleading and the onset can happen quickly and escalate to the point of causing injury and even death. Nutrition is another high level topic and, while this is usually the responsibility of a parent or guardian, there may be circumstances where the coach or fellow players need to assist. Poor nutrition or diet will not a player to perform at optimum strength and can lead to mistakes and injuries. Seeking the correct medical advice from a specialist, including pediatric and sports injury specialists is the one area that can identify, diagnose and help to reduce recovery time. A medical specialist may be the only resource that can assist in keeping a healthy player.
Another area of focus that is rarely identified as important is peer pressure. While we generally view this in a negative light, peers and fellow players may be the first (and sometimes only) ones to recognize that a problem may exist. They are the ones on the front lines and may see a fellow player falter or witness out-of-character performance. Encouraging fellow players and peers to identify these problems and bring them to light with coaches or parents may be one of the most important factors in football safety and health.