Hits on athletes are harder than you think

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — Concussions are becoming a common injury among high school football players, but Purdue University research is finding the hits athletes take on the field may be harder than you think.

Concussions are a problem that high school athletic trainer Marion Vruggink said is all too common.

“Concussions are a real common injury in sports,” Vruggink said. “We see them in most contact sports.”

In contact sports, like high school football, every season more than one-million football teens take to the field and 67,000 of those will get a concussion.

“Their brains at this age are not fully matured, and it takes longer to recover when they have some sort of impact,” Vruggink said.

Purdue researchers have been studying the brains of local high school football players for the past five seasons and research shows athletes may be taking a bigger hit than what they think.

“We are seeing changes in the athletes as a result of hit exposure,” explained Diana Svaldi, a Purdue graduate student in Biomedical Engineering.

Cognitive testing during the football season showed changes in verbal, visual and cognitive memory. However, those changes don’t last long term.

“Most of the data shows the athletes recover in the post season, so they return to their preseason baseline,” Svaldi said.

Now, Purdue researchers are working to develop a safer helmet. But according to Purdue researcher Evan Breedlove, it’s no easy task.

“We don’t have a really strong definition of what safer is,” Breedlove said. “We’re trying to understand better what the existing tests tell us determining what are really the important measures that are going to tell you whether a helmet is going to protect you from a skull fracture or a concussion.”

As research continues, Breedlove said current helmets on the market do a good job of keeping athletes safe, but urges parents to check those helmets before their child heads out on the field.

“Make sure that it fits well and make sure that it remains in good condition,” stated Breedlove. “Different aspects like that can improve the quality of the performance of your helmet.”

Vruggnick said until a better helmet is developed, parents and coaches need to make sure athletes aren’t taking too many hits.

“We need to be paying attention to this, and seeing what we can do to try to protect our kids and make it safer sport,” Vruggnick said.

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