There are many aspects about football that make it the most popular sport in America. But one of the core features of the sport is also the cause of one of the most dangerous injuries a young athlete can sustain. Concussions can cause permanent brain damage, especially when they are not properly diagnosed.
The Ohio High School Athletic Association voted to implement new concussion regulations to protect athletes from returning to the field too soon. The new rules state that if a student is removed from competition due to a concussion, the student is not permitted to return to the game. Furthermore, that student can not return to practice until an approved medical professional gives written authorization that all concussion symptoms are cleared.
Kevin Guskiewicz is a Sports Medicine professor at the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill, and last year he came to Marietta to talk about the importance of concussion prevention and treatment.
"So often people trivialize the seriousness of the injury, so we're working on eliminating the gladiator mentality", said Guskiewicz, "and if we can eliminate that we're going in the right direction.
The Fort Frye Cadets made the playoffs last year, but coach Eric Huck says that safety still has to come before winning.
"It's a collision sport, and the players like it that way, they like to get out there and hit people," says Huck, "but at the same time we want to put our nose on the football, not the other players' helmet."
Safety goes beyond just good practice habits, proper equipment is the first line of defense against brain injuries. Fort Frye High School makes sure to use new helmets with the latest safety technology. The helmets that the team will use this year have an extra layer of gel padding that is designed to keep the players' heads better protected.
Accidents and big hits are unavoidable in football, but when it comes to concussions, safety becomes the biggest priority. Belpre football coach Greg Adams says that the responsibilities of a head coach have expanded with new safety concerns.
"It's definitely safety first, it's way more than just X's and O's, you have to teach the players how to block, tackle and protect themselves."