High School Football Playoffs: Not A Time For Concussion Safety To Take Back Seat To Winning, Says Youth Sports Expert Brooke de Lench

Producer/Director of PBS documentary "The Smartest Team: Making High School Football Safer" provides solutions and urges players, coaches, athletic trainers, and parents to continue making safety a priority.

Nov 18, 2013, 11:00 ET from Sports Team Logic, Inc.

WALTHAM, Mass., Nov. 18, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- As the 2013 high school football season enters the home stretch, with teams fighting to stay alive in the playoffs or preparing for traditional end-of-the-season games on Thanksgiving morning, the risk of concussion is an ever-present concern. 

But now is not the time to put winning ahead of safety, says Brooke de Lench, producer/director of the critically acclaimed MomsTEAM documentary "The Smartest Team: Making High School Football Safer" currently airing on PBS across the nation, in which de Lench and a team of concussion experts reduced the high rate of concussions in one town during an entire football season.

"Even in the best of times," de Lench says, "studies show that high school football players face what one recently called a 'culture of resistance' to reporting to sideline personnel that they are experiencing concussion symptoms." 

"Concerns by parents that players will fail to report symptoms, and, if injured, return to play before they brains are fully healed, are only magnified at the end of the season, when the football careers of the vast majority of seniors will be ending, and when the absence of a key player can make the difference between ending that career with loss or advancing in the playoffs," says de Lench, whose own son was forced to quit football after suffering a series of concussions.

"In their desire to win, and because they are likely to be tired, and, frankly, a little beat up from the long season," de Lench worries that players may also become sloppy in their tackling technique, increasing the risk of helmet-to-helmet contact of the kind that has led a number of players dying or suffering catastrophic injuries this football season. 

Safety first

It is thus more important than ever, de Lench says, that game officials, coaches, sideline medical personnel, and parents put safety first by:

  • Watching with extra vigilance for signs of concussion in players;
  • Ensuring that players displaying concussion signs undergo a careful screening for concussion and other more serious neurological injuries on the sideline;
  • Prohibiting players with suspected concussion from returning to the field that day, no matter how much they want to play or how important they may be to the team;
  • Refusing to allow players to rush back after concussion too quickly by making sure that only return after they report being symptom free, have successfully completed a program of gradually increased exercise without symptoms returning, and only after obtaining written medical clearance from a doctor with concussion expertise.
  • Consider adding Impact Sensors to the players helmets

"Resisting the temptation to treat player safety differently in the playoffs and in that final game is critical," de Lench says.  "We can never let our guard down, and put winning ahead of safety."

Perhaps one of the moms we featured in "The Smartest Team," put it best, de Lench says, when she asked rhetorically: "The football game and making the playoffs or the championship, that's one night. Are you gonna take that, or are you gonna take a lifetime of success?"

About Brooke de Lench

Brooke de Lench is the producer/director of The Smartest Team: Making High School Football Safer, author of Home Team Advantage: The Critical Role of Mothers in Youth Sports (HarperCollins), and the founder of MomsTEAM.com is a sought-after lecturer on a wide range of youth sport parenting topics.  She has made more than 200 live appearances on all the major television networks, and three documentaries on youth sports, which aired on ESPN, HBO and A&E respectively. Ms. de Lench has also consulted for PBS's Frontline, HBO Real Sports, ABC's Nightline and ESPN youth sports-related shows, and is quoted frequently in the print press. Her opinion pieces have appeared on the op-ed pages of major newspapers nationwide, including The Washington Post and Long Island Newsday. She lives in the Boston area.

For more information: www.TheSmartestTeam.com.

SOURCE Sports Team Logic, Inc.