Despite a national focus on the long-term effects of concussions—including a new Will Smith movie coming out this Christmas—most football-related deaths are not linked to head trauma, but to heart failures and heat illness. Nevertheless, recent strides in safety equipment and protocol should limit the rise in Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) cases.
A 2013 study published in The American Journal of Sports Medicine looked at 243 high school football fatalities from 1990 to 2010 and found that of the average 12 deaths per year, indirect causes like heat illness and heart failure were twice as common as blunt force trauma. The risk of death was 3 percent higher in college, but only slightly higher for deaths caused by blunt trauma. Also interesting: Most of the indirect causes happened in practice, while traumatic causes happened in games.
As of October 2015, there have been seven high school football deaths.
What do such numbers mean for trying to prevent such tragedies? There are equipment inventions designed to ameliorate the effects of collision or reduce the incidences; there are tests to discover health risks such as a suspect heart, and to establish baselines of brain function for indexing post-concussion. Here are four innovations—one for every football down—that may help aspiring young athletes.
Photo Credit: Dartmouth.edu