A Nurse and Mother on Dialing Back the Risk in Football

By Karen Roush, MS, RN, FNP-C, AJN clinical managing editor

One Monday afternoon when my son Bryan was a senior in high school I got a call from him. He had hurt his back during football practice and was in so much pain he couldn’t move to get into his car. I rushed over to the field and found him standing, tense and still. When I lifted his shirt to look at his back, I gasped. The entire lumbar area was rounded and swollen out to the size of a grapefruit. At the hospital tests revealed he had a large hematoma, no critical damage done. The first question Bryan had for the doctor—“Can I play on Saturday?”

All week he insisted he could play and I insisted he couldn’t. His arguments never let up—he was quarterback and Saturday’s game was with an archrival. There wasn’t time for the backup quarterback to learn the plays, his team depended on him. Finally I made a bargain. We would go see his physician, whose judgment I trusted, and we would both respect his opinion, whichever way it went.

He played. One of the coaches wrapped his back in layers of padding with an ACE bandage and out he went. It was a brutal game. As determined as he was, the pain still slowed him down and he got tossed around like a rag doll. Finally in the last quarter they took him out.

I was reminded of all this when reading a New York Times editorial this week, “Dying to Play,” about the dangers of football and the growing body of evidence about the devastating long-term consequences of the repeated head trauma that football players endure. It talked about the decision a father, who was a pro football player, made with his son after his son got “his bell rung” in a game. They decided that the son, determined to follow his father into the pros someday, would “keep his mouth shut and his options open” rather than see the physician and wait for the okay to play.

Many parents will have their own version of these stories, the kid who insists on playing in spite of injuries or risk. They hide their injuries, downplay their pain, pop more ibuprofen than you know about. I watched Bryan’s best friend get knocked unconscious in a tackle, spectators standing silenced, watching, waiting for him to move as the coaches and the team doctor bent over him. Finally his legs started moving and people began to clap in relief and support, but I could tell by the erratic movement that he was actually seizing. An ambulance took him off to the hospital and next Saturday he was on the sidelines, impatiently waiting to get back in the game. […]

September 14th, 2012|nursing perspective, Public health|1 Comment

Can School Nurses Help Prevent Heat Stroke Fatalities in High School Football?

Shawn Kennedy, MA, RN, AJN editorial director & interim editor-in-chief

by Bludgeoner86, via Flickr

Earlier this month, Diana Mason, AJN’s editor-in-chief emeritus, wrote here about head injuries in soccer. A related news story about high school sports should make all school nurses, coaches, and parents take notice: student athletes suffer—and sometimes die—from heat stroke during intense workouts in hot weather.

According to an Associated Press report, Fred Mueller, director of the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research at the University of North Carolina, attributes 39 deaths since 1995 to heat-related causes. And that doesn’t count three deaths this past summer that he notes may also be associated with heat stroke.

Most of the deaths are associated with football preseason training in August. My middle son played high school football and every August he went to “preseason camp.” He and his teammates slept on air mattresses in the non-air-conditioned high school gym, and spent the last week of summer vacation in grueling drills and practices, wearing shorts, T-shirts, shoulder pads, and helmets. One year he arrived home looking thin and gaunt. He related stories of teammates vomiting on the sidelines during practices and of restricted water breaks. It took a player fainting during one session and an onslaught of parent complaints and pressure on school administrators (the word “lawsuit” does get attention) for coaches to change their methods. […]

September 17th, 2009|nursing perspective|2 Comments