Player safety at forefront ahead of football

The treatment and prevention of concussions and other sports-related injuries is an important area of focus for local football coaches.

With football season drawing near, Medical City Weatherford recently released a series of advisory guidelines for local high school athletes, parents and coaches to ensure player safety.

Highlighted topics included the importance of sports physicals, knowing when to not play through pain and recognizing as well as reporting concussion symptoms.

“While parents cannot be on the sidelines protecting their children from in-game injuries, they can do more than just buy the right gear and equipment for their kids,” Gregory Bratton, MD, family and sports medicine physician at Medical City Weatherford said in the press release.

Receiving a sports physical can potentially catch health issues an annual physical may miss, Bratton said.

“This isn’t the same as an annual physical,” he said.

“During a sports physical, your doctor will look for things related to athletic issues, not just overall health and wellness.”

Weatherford Head Football Coach Billy Mathis also stressed the importance of athletes getting sports physicals.

“I think it’s very important,” Mathis said.

“Anytime kids are in any extracurricular activity, they have to get one every year before the start of school.”

Trinity Christian Academy Head Football Coach Joe Hamstra agreed, saying the more thorough the school can be with player safety, the better.

“That early detection [is important] for keeping our parents informed,” Hamstra said.

Medical City Weatherford also highlighted the significance of knowing when to not play through pain, whether it be an illness, muscle sprain or something else entirely.

Athletes should vocalize physical issues to their coaches, Bratton said.

Weatherford’s coaching staff always err on the side of caution when it comes to player health, Mathis said.

“We’re very on top of making sure the kids are 100 percent healthy,” Mathis said.

“If we think there is any sort of problem, if their breathing is labored, we take them out immediately, get them to our trainers and checked out.”

While athletes sometimes choose to keep quiet about potential injuries, not wanting to lose the chance to play, it is important to leave medical decisions to professionals, Hamstra said.

“You’ve got kids with tweaked knees or ankles, and they push through it,” Hamstra said.

“Sometimes it’s coach-driven, other times it’s player-driven. The athlete thinks, ‘I don’t want to miss,’ or, ‘I can’t afford to miss.’

“We try to tell our kids, if there’s an injury, let’s get a professional to take a look at it and let them tell us what we can and can’t do, instead of leaving it up to the kids.”

The significance of concussions were another focal point discussed by Medical City Weatherford.

“Playing through a head injury is one of the worst things kids can do because they can cause permanent damage,” Bratton said.

Symptoms of potential concussions include:

• Vomiting

• Memory loss

• Confusion

• Dilated pupils

• Feeling dizzy

• Sensitivity to light

• Mood swings or extreme lethargy

Coaches have to be vigilant to more than just big hits, Mathis said.

“It’s usually not a hit that gets them,” Mathis said.

“It’s usually getting whipped backwards and the back of their head hitting the turf. But, we’re always watching our kids. If we see them take a big shot and they don’t hop right up or stumble around, we get them off the field immediately.”

As the effects of concussions have become better understood in recent years, athletes and coaches respect the seriousness of head injuries more than ever, Hamstra said.

“There’s such a heightened awareness of concussions and head injuries now,” Hamstra said.

“I think kids are better educated and understand they can report [a concussion]. It’s for their benefit and their health.”