It seems as though every week in the NFL, the NHL or the NBA, a number of players end the game with an injury. It's almost to be expected; these are high-impact sports and the athletes play hard. And, after all, they are highly paid to take the risk.
But what about younger players, the teenagers who are trying to follow in their footsteps? These athletes play hard as well, and as a recent article from the Wall Street Journal outlines, they may be at even greater risk of injury than their professional counterparts.
In a professional football practice, there are doctors constantly on staff to monitor the conditions of the players, check for concussions and examine the players for spinal injuries. On a high school football field, however, these safety precautions are often absent. Though some high school teams are overseen by full-time or part-time athletic trainers, approximately one-third of schools have no access to a professional sports trainer.
This is bad news for high school players, as medical science continues to uncover more information about the risks associated with sports and spinal injuries. Though not as common as concussions, spinal injuries have a huge risk of causing permanent damage to a player, including a broken back or paralysis.
When a player suffers a broken spine, they are often able to recover. But in the minutes following the injury, other players may move or twist the victim, trying to help them. This can sever the victim's spinal cord, leading to permanent paralysis. It can even cause death.
Some safety advocates have criticized high schools for failing to provide the proper amount of safety for their players. "Parents who would never leave their kids off at a public swimming pool without a lifeguard think nothing about dropping them off at football or soccer without an athletic trainer," said one athletic trainer. In response to such criticism, many schools are now seeking additional training and professional assistance for their coaching staff.
The Wall Street Journal, "What Kids Should Know About Spinal Injuries in Sports" Laura Landro, Sep. 16, 2013