High school football who suffer catastrophic brain injuries are on the rise, reaching a record high last year, according to a new report on youth sports.
The increase is alarming and indicates more coaches need to change how they teach the fundamental skills of the game, according to researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
According to the study, 13 serious head injuries left football players with permanent disability last year, up from 10 in 2008 and 2009. Additionally, there was a 25 percent jump in football-related disability brain injuries from 2001 to 2010 over the previous decade, increasing to 66 from 52 incidents among all types of players.
"These 2011 numbers are the highest since we began collecting catastrophic brain injury data," said lead researcher Fred Mueller, director of the UNC-based National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research. "This is a major problem."
About 4.2 million football players compete nationwide, including 1.1 million high schoolers.
The center has collected data and published annual reports on injuries, fatalities and disabilities for 48 years. The National Collegiate Athletic Association, National Federation of State High School Associations and the American Football Coaches Association fund the research.
Since 1977, about 67 percent of injuries have been suffered by players as they made tackles. Mueller said the problem is that despite being prohibited in 1976, head-to-head contact is still occurring. It can lead to spine fractures or permanent brain injuries.
Some players recover from their injuries, but many are left with permanent disabilities. Since 1984, there have been 488 cervical cord and cerebral injuries with incomplete recovery, including 164 brain injuries, of which 148 were among high schoolers.