Take care to avoid concussions

One of the more surprising statistics to come from The News’ recent “Caring for Northeast Michigan” series was the number of head injuries sustained by Michigan athletes.

In a story about the challenges of making medical care at the ready for athletes in our rural area, sports editor James Andersen and sports reporter Jonny Zawacki revealed that Michigan high schools reported 4,452 head injuries among high school athletes in the 2015-16 school year.

While the Michigan High School Athletic Association data showed a drop-off in head injuries in subsequent years, there were still 3,580 reported statewide last school year. District-specific data was not available.

That is a lot of hurt heads.

Research has shown that repeated head injuries can have long-lasting effects. We encourage our athletes to take care of themselves and for parents and local athletic officials to stress proper head protection.

The Orthopaedic Specialists of North Carolina offer some tips:

∫ Wear a helmet certified by the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment that fits correctly. Protective headwear is becoming more common even in sports where it wasn’t previously, such as soccer.

∫ Train athletes to never use their head as a weapon. Do not lead when the head when tackling.

∫ When strength training, athletes should build up their neck muscles, which has been shown to reduce the risk of concussion because those muscles can better absorb impact.

∫ While wearing mouth guards hasn’t been proven to prevent concussions, some studies have suggested a correlation and wearing one doesn’t hurt. So wear one whenever you’re playing sports.

Stay safe out there, athletes.

(THE ALPENA NEWS)