The Hippo


Aug 23, 2019








Concussion Information Night

As part of a healthy living series, on Thursday, Oct. 9,  from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Dartmouth-Hitchcock Manchester is offering a free health education program on concussion awareness and management. The event will provide an introduction to concussions, concerns, treatments and neurological testing. It is  open to parents, coaches, athletes, childcare providers, athletic directors and anyone interested in learning about concussions.  
Register or call 695-2500. 
Youth Sports Safety Week 
Safe Sports Network is hosting its first Youth Sports Safety Week in November. A series of free trainings and events for coaches, athletes and parents is expected to draw attention to the issues in the greater Manchester area. It will include CPR/AED and first aid courses, free sports physicals, and sessions explaining concussions and other injuries. Visit To sign up for an event call 627-9728 or email

Fewer, safer players
Working to avoid serious head injuries in youth football


When Manchester resident and former NFL player Steve Schubert was learning how to play football in  the 1960s and 1970s, coaches and trainers weren’t nearly as invested in protecting players from injuries as they are today.

“We were taught certain ways to hit that are not the ways we teach [youth] now,” said Schubert, who is on the board of Safe Sports Network in New Hampshire. “You were taught a certain way and you go do it and you don’t know any better because you don’t ask questions.” 
In late September, the NFL released data showing three in 10 former players will develop at least moderate  neurocognitive problems related to concussions. It was the first time the NFL has openly admitted football’s troubling relationship to head injuries. 
In New Hampshire, that kind of awareness is changing perceptions about the potential dangers of football, said Laura Decoster, executive director of Safe Sports Network.
Many parents no longer expect kids to “suck it up” and play through injuries, Decoster said, and causing injuries to the opposing team isn’t as celebrated. More parents are open to learning about sports injuries too.  
“I’ve been trying to feed parents sports safety and sports medicine information since the early ’90s, and if I could hold them down and force feed it to them before this concussion focus hit the news, I would be lucky,” Decoster said. 
Flagging football
Youth enrollment in football programs is dropping. The Northeast Junior High Football League has lost about 425,000 kids over the past 10 years. Pop Warner’s numbers are down too. 
Experts believe that part of the reason is a trend toward parents waiting a couple years and enrolling their kids at older ages. Also, instead of playing different sports each season, youth are sticking to a single sport year-round. 
But some think more parents are questioning whether they should let their kids play football at all.
“I think there’s an understandable reaction people have, that’s ‘Oh, we better stop playing football,”’ said Decoster. “But although we’re never able to stop every injury, there’s a lot more safeguarding we can do before we throw the baby out with the bathwater. Football is a great sport with a couple problems; it’s not a problem within itself.”
Concussion instruction
This year local youth football leagues have amped up safety standards. Many leagues and teams now have safety coaches at every game. Injured players are assessed and identified quickly and taken out of the game instead of playing through an injury. 
“Just the medical awareness of being able to hold someone out instead of playing them, I think that’s a huge plus,” Schubert said. “This is what we should be doing now.”
This season leagues have implemented Heads Up Football. That’s USA Football’s guidelines for safe tackling that are meant to decrease risks of head injuries. 
“Old-school tackling is a lot different than tackling today,” said Steve Coburn, head coach for the Manchester Bears, a Northeast Junior High Football League team. “There were other ways of tackling regarding leading with the helmet. What this is about is an increased awareness to keep from dropping the helmet and leading with it. It’s all about keeping their head up and out of the way.” 
Coaches, administrators and parents associated with leagues that now use Heads Up all receive special training. 
“Every one of us had Heads Up training. That is a huge thing with Pop Warner this year,” said Jerry Goodwin, the president of the Hooksett Hurricanes, a Pop Warner team. 
Treating injuries
Scientists are working on technology to better identify concussions, Decoster said.
Right now, the head injuries are difficult to identify because they don’t show up on CAT scans or MRIs. Doctors depend on administering baseline neurocognitive tests, which assess things like reaction time, and then re-testing potential concussion patients. But that doesn’t produce exact results. 
“It’s only a tool and [there’s] so much that makes it not a pure science,” Decoster said. “There are so many variables. Was he well-rested during the baseline test? Is he stressed out about school?”
But that problem could soon be solved. There are several lines of research on different imaging and electrode studies that are proving to be capable of showing the concussion. 
“When that is ready for prime time, that difficulty will be significantly reduced if not completely gone,” Decoster said. 
As seen in the October 2, 2014 issue of the Hippo.

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