Coach and Athletic Director

January 2017

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48 J A N U A R Y 2 0 1 7 SPORTS MEDICINE SPOTLIGHT caring for athletes Millions of youths and adolescent athletes participate in various levels of amateur sports each year in the United States with thousands more playing at intercollegiate levels. Despite increasing media attention and the best efforts of media and training staffs, injuries are still occurring at high rates, especially in collision sports such as football. Injuries are considered an inevitable part of the game, but staff at The Micheli Center for Sports Injury Prevention (Massachusetts) are making strides to change mentality and approach through community education and individualized training. Located on the Waltham campus of Boston Children's Hospital, The Micheli Center applies the latest evidence-based research in an effort to lower the risk of injuries across all sports and fitness activities, including football. Concussions Football is a violent game with the highest rates of concussions across organized sports, despite ever increasing numbers of media reports and regulatory changes from youth leagues all the way to the NFL. Disrupting the normal function of the brain, concussions cannot be seen on a MRI or X-ray, but they remain extremely disruptive to an individual's athletic and academic performance. Several risk factors have been associated with suffering a concussion, including having previous concussion history, age, game versus practices, athletic environment, level of play and body mass index. Newer research suggests that modifiable factors such as neck strength, reaction time, peripheral vision and core strength also may play a role in concussion risk. With so many factors playing a role in concussions, prevention must be multi-factorial as well. Proper equipment fitting is paramount in football because of the negative effects of oversized and undersized helmets. For example, if the helmet is too large in terms of mass or has an inappropriate sized facemask, this greatly increases the required strength for the neck and upper back to resist damaging forces. Exercise training can also have a profound effect on concussion risk. To know what exercises to begin with, basic range of motion and strength measurements for the neck and upper back muscles should be taken. Exercises should start with isometric strengthening and progress to include dynamic strengthening movements when appropriate. Concussions in football happen through dynamic movements, whether because of direct contact with another player, contact with the ground or object, or whiplash motion without any contact to the head. Baseline objective measurements need to include core strength, reaction time and peripheral vision to get a clearer picture of what that individual needs. Exercise programs should incorporate all aspects, without taking up too much time. For instance, an individual could perform isometric neck strengthening, single leg balance, front and side planks, single leg bridges, resisted lateral walks, reaction time drills, and peripheral vision training within a 30-minute session. Hitting all of these points of emphasis could significantly decrease the risk of concussion. ACL injuries ACL injuries are not as common in football when compared to other sports, but far too many athletes still suffer this By Corey Dawkins, columnist reducing the risk of FOOTBALL INJURIES Eliminating football injuries is impossible, but prevention plans can help reduce the risks of concussions and ACL injuries.

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