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Making safety a sport

Posted at 10:09 PM, Oct 03, 2022

HOWARD — Football can be rewarding, but also risky.

"When the head is injured, there's a sudden change in some of the chemicals in the brain and how it affects the nerves in the brain," Dr. Benjamin Siebert, Director of Traumatic Brain Injury at the Neuroscience Group in Neenah, said.

"Some people will get loss of consciousness, some people can get an alteration of consciousness, which can be some disorientation and feeling a little bit dazed."

He said football poses a risk even with equipment like helmets and mouth guards. Additionally, youth players could face even greater risks with the sport.

"People seem to think that kids bounce back quicker from injuries. That they don't break bones as easily and whatnot, but that's not necessarily true," Siebert said.

He said youth can sometimes take longer to recover from injuries. He added that genetics may be a factor in the chances and severity of a concussion, but the reasons why are not clear yet.

Though there are risks, Siebert said focusing on ways to make the sport safer can make a huge difference.

He said some of these ways include educating parents and players on identifying and reporting an injury, allowing sufficient rest and time out of a game if injured and practicing safer tackling techniques.

Bay Port High School is one example of a school that is practicing safer tackling techniques and prioritizing safety.

Eric Lengas, one of the school's licensed athletic trainers, said their program focuses on building full body strength in the weight room to reduce all kinds of injuries.

Both Siebert and Lengas agreed that acknowledging the risks is a step in the right direction for continuing to improve safety on and off the field.

"We know all these kids want to play sports, and they want to be successful," Lengas said. "Anything that we can do to help them reach whatever their goals are. Whether it's to play college athletics or make the varsity or JV team or whatever level they're at, that's why it's important to us."