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High School Football Fatalities Lowest in 10 Years

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - The National Federation of State High School released their 2003 Annual Survey of Football Injury Research, showing that 2003 matched the third lowest mark for fatalities in the 74 years of the survey.

The purpose of the annual survey is to help the NFHS "spot injury trends & then use those trends as tools to promote changes in helping promote risk minimization", said Jerry Diehl, the assistant director of the NFHS & staff liaison to the NFHS Football Rules Committee.

There are two classifications in the report for football, they are either direct or indirect. Direct fatalities are fatalities which result directly from participation in the fundamental skills of football. Indirect fatalities are caused by systemic failure as a result of exertion while participating in football activity, or by a complication which was secondary to a non-fatal injury.

The report released March 8th, showed only 2 direct fatalities during the 2003 season. That's is the lowest in the last 10 years.

Those two direct fatalities, resulted from a brain injury & an injury to an artery in the player’s neck. According to Diehl, brain injuries often result from what is called, “Second-Impact Syndrome,” in which a player can have an initial concussion, yet not show any symptoms. If that same player were to receive a second concussion, the body would react differently. It is this concussion that appears to precipitate brain damage, although the real cause may have been from the original concussion.

Rule changes have contributed to lower fatality numbers since 1976. Rules such as making initial contact with the head while blocking or tackling illegal, have helped bring those numbers down from the all time high of 26 in 1968.

On average over the last 10 years, there are 4 direct fatalities a year. Diehl holds the decrease in direct fatalities directly to the annual survey, "this reduction is due, in part, to the annual data collection and recommendations made in the report to help reduce the incidence of serious injury".

During the 2003 football season, there were four indirect fatalities at the high school level, which is the lowest number of indirect deaths since there were two in 1994. Indirect fatalities are often heart-related or caused by heat stroke. All four of the indirect fatalities in 2003 were heart-related. For the second consecutive year, none of the indirect deaths were due to heat stroke.

Since 1980, the Annual Survey of Football Injury Research, has been compiled by Frederick O. Mueller, Ph.D., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and chairman of the American Football Coaches Committee on Football Injuries.

The report made several suggestions for reducing head and neck injuries. Suggestions include conditioning exercises to strengthen the neck, practice drills which emulate proper execution of fundamental football skills – particularly blocking and tackling – and assurance that all equipment is properly fitted.

by Vincent Johnson












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