Thesis: Safety Decisions in High School

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[. . .] In fact, complete and reliable data is a programs, rules, education, and policies. The goal is to prevent, mitigate, and treat exercise and sports injuries. The Datalys Center for Sports Injury Research and Prevention is to translate that information into better prevention, and public health and sports medicine outcomes.

Research Questions

Two quantitative research questions are relevant to this research project. Although the questions focus on two different issues with regard to safety in high school sports, the questions essentially address the same construct -- inadequate funding of high school sports. The focus of the overall research study is to examine the impact that inadequate funding of high school football has on student player safety. Issues of safety would be evidenced by inadequately maintained or replaced equipment and inadequate training, inadequate preparation of student athletes, or unsafe conditions during practices. The quantitative research questions are as follows:

What percentage of reported injuries is related to inadequate maintenance or replacement of equipment as indicated by the Datalys database reports?

What percentage of reported injuries has been associated with inadequate training and preparation, or conditions of practice?

Section 2

Literature Review

The literature in this area of sports safety tends to take the form of reports of injuries (ROI) databases and associated reports from formal agencies and organizations. Interest in recreation, exercise, and sports is increasing in the United States and, accordingly, related injuries are also on the rise. Football injuries can cause debilitating injuries and are costly to individual players, football teams, and the institutions that host football games. Considerable research has been dedicated to sports safety and the incidence of sports injuries, but coordination of the many efforts has been difficult.

Children younger than 15 who participate in 29 sports are injured cost more than $49 billion each year (The Consumer Products Safety Commission).

Each year in U.S. school settings, there are about 715,000 recreation and sports injuries (The CDC Injury Research Agenda).

High school athletes account for an estimated 500,000 visits to physicians, 30,000 hospital stays, and 2 million injuries each yea (MMWR weekly).

3.65 million emergency room visits each year (1 in 5 visits) result from sports, recreation, or exercise participation (The CDC Injury Research Agenda).

Unlike the record-keeping that occurs for pandemic health issues or the sophisticated tracking carried out by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, information about football injuries at the level of educational institutions tends to be somewhat isolated. Under the best of circumstances, sports injuries are increasing. But what happens when the overall environment in which high school sports are played deteriorates -- particularly due to a reduction in the budget of athletic programs? A diminished sports budget is bound to have some impact on sports activities at an affected institution. And high school football has one of the highest rates of injury of all sports available to secondary students.

Protective gear and equipment is essential to the safety of football players, perhaps especially that of secondary students who are young and vulnerable due to their immature brains and a sense of immortality which often leads to young people taking inordinate risks. The condition of equipment used by student athletes can deteriorate if there is insufficient money for repair or replacement. When athletic programs experience budget reductions, there is likely to be less money to recruit the highest caliber coaches and certified athletic trainers. Coaching staff may not be focused on the safety of their teams if they are part-time staff and if there is not money to pay much for their services. Unless football coaches are considered to be professionals -- and hired on that basis -- they may compromise the safety of their team in order to please the school board or the parents of student players. If a football coach feels vulnerable to outside forces, they may succumb to the pressure of too many competing objectives. If a football coach is too emphatically focused on his reputation or the standing of the team, practice sessions may not be well supervised and student athletes may be encouraged to perform above their capacity or in ways that are not regarded as safe. The coach is not only in this conundrum. Disincentives may discourage certified athletic trainers from reporting issues that are related to under-training, over-training, or pressure to perform. A certified athletic trainer may be considered a luxury by some secondary schools. In order to protect his position, the certified athletic trainer is going to want very much to proof his worth and contribute value to the high school football team with which he is affiliated. This situation may create a chilling effect that discourages any sort of damper on the gung-ho attitude of coaches, who are also hired to generate results. This sort of situation is difficult to overcome.

There is a considerable corpus of data available in the literature to substantiate that sports played under certain conditions can result in an increase in the incidence of injuries. For instance, the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research collects and disseminates data on death and permanent disability sports injuries that involve the brain and/or spinal cord. Since 1965, this research has been conducted at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Three annual reports are compiled and made available each year. While the incidence of catastrophic injuries is low on a 100,000 player basis of exposure, the rate of incomplete neurological recovery was 0.39 for every 100,000 participants. Tackling has been associated with 67.8% of the catastrophic injuries since 1977. Blocking and tackling are associated with the majority of catastrophic football injuries. In the 2010 football season, one injury was caused by tackling, two being tackled, three tackling on a kick-off, and one injury in tackling drill. The researchers at the National Center have expressed that they are not confident in the number of injuries reported with full recovery, and that data collection in 2007, 2008, and 2009 produced the highest number of catastrophic recovery injuries since the study began in 1977. A combined incomplete recovery cervical cord and cerebral injuries figure brings the total to 459, which is an average of 13.5 injuries for the past 34 years. It is important to note that the rate of incomplete neurological recovery at college level was 2.66 per 100,000 players and 0.33 per 100,000 for high school and junior high school football. Most of the catastrophic spinal cord injuries occur in games -- in the 2010 football season, two such injuries took place in practice while five catastrophic spinal cord injuries took place in games. These figures indicate that football is played more intensely during games and particularly at college games. The importance of an appropriately incentivized coach, athletic director, and certified athletic trainer takes on heightened importance under these conditions.

The National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research has collected and disseminated data on death and permanent disability sports injuries that involve the brain and/or spinal cord since 1965. The report, Annual Survey of Catastrophic Football Injuries, for the period from 1977 through 2010, describes the reporting of possible catastrophic football related injuries to the national center in this way. Information about a possible catastrophic football injury serves as a catalyst for contact with a player's coach, physician, and athletic director. The contact may be made by telephone contact, a personal letter, or a questionnaire. The questionnaire provides demographic (age, height, weight) data on the athlete and background data (previous injury, accident information, immediate and post-accident treatment, and equipment information) related to the injury. During the 2010 football season, according to the report, a total of seven cervical cord injuries with incomplete neurological recovery occurred. Two of the injuries occurred at the college level and five of the injuries occurred at the high school level. In 2009, there were 14 incomplete neurological recovery injuries. In 2010, 13 additional injuries occurred that involved either neck or head injuries, but these athletes experienced full neurological recovery. In addition, three cervical vertebrae fractures, three brain injuries, and one lumbar vertebra fracture were associated with high school football athletes. The data show that a majority of the catastrophic injuries occur while athletes are playing defensive football. Since 1977, permanent cervical cord injuries were sustained by 221 players on the defensive side of the ball and 52 such injuries were on the offensive side (41 of these injuries were not associated with a side of the ball in the data). Position played was also associated with the occurrence of injuries as follows: Defensive backs (35.0%); kick-off team members (9.6%), and linebackers (9.2%).

Although a great many studies are being carried out, many of which employ longitudinal data, there does not appear to be any particular focus on budget and expenditures on equipment, gear, and coaching talent. Further, this author is not aware of any move to ensure that football coaches and athletic directors are… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Cite This Thesis:

APA Format

Safety Decisions in High School.  (2011, August 29).  Retrieved June 15, 2019, from

MLA Format

"Safety Decisions in High School."  29 August 2011.  Web.  15 June 2019. <>.

Chicago Format

"Safety Decisions in High School."  August 29, 2011.  Accessed June 15, 2019.