PBS Frontline: Football High


Just finished watching the Frontline TV magazine show from PBS about high school football.  Link to FULL VIDEO (53 minutes).  A very smart and “eye-opening” piece for those that do not know much about the inner workings of high school football.  The episode dealt with concussions, athletic training, and heat illness, all within the guidelines of winning at the high school level.  The information was nothing new to any of us that deal with ALL of those things as a professional.  What it showed everyone else is the “scary” side of this beloved sport.  However, a lot of these issues can be attenuated with an athletic trainer on the sidelines.

The focus was mainly on the unknown/unseen dangers of the sport we watch and in which we participate, starting with the reporting of the heat strokes of two Arkansas prep players, one of which succumbed to the injury.  They compared the two individuals in terms of immediate treatment for heat stroke.  One player was on a high school team that has an athletic trainer, and the other is not.  The outcomes were vastly different as the player who had an athletic trainer was evaluated and had managed care survived, and even played later in the season after three weeks in the hospital.  The other player, who did not have an athletic trainer, paid the ultimate price and was unable to survive the injury.

Through out the episode the athletic training profession took front and center, both with the heat illness and the concussion angle.  The athletic trainer is on the “frontline” of concussions (and all sports injuries) and are more than capable of determining if the player is safe and can return.  One glaring issue during the presentation was the pressure and control of the coaches.  While following the feature team, the athletic trainer pulled a player for a “brain injury” and was heard saying that he “would be fine” and “could return” later in the game.  The coach was interviewed and it seemed as though he had the thought process of  “if the game got closer” the player would have/could have returned.  More awareness from the coaches/player/parents and authority given to the medical staff to remove players after a head injury.  The current and up-to-date management of concussions would indicate that the said player would/could not return the same day, period.

I am glad that PBS took the time to run this story, although the appearance was to inform about the dangers, what needs to be noted is that A LOT of these issues can be managed correctly with an athletic trainer on hand.  Big “shout out” to @bjmaack for his great interview on the show.

We would love to hear your comments on this and going forward.  And, if Frontline is reading this, I can tell you that one school I know really well has taken a progressive stance on all injuries, most notably concussions which is very novel in this day and age.

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