How High Schools are Cracking Down on Big Hits

Thursday, July 28th 2011, 5:51 pm

By: News On 6

Originally Published: Oct 21, 2010 11:21 AM CDT

Chris Wright
Special Contributor for Oklahoma Sports

BIXBY, Oklahoma -- From the Friday Night Lights to the Sunday smash-mouth, the knock-out hits that draw cheers and chest bumps can deliver crushing blows to players' health. Those big hits are big news as the state gears up for another week of high school football.

The NFL is cracking down, imposing stiffer fines on excessive hits. How are local schools trying to curb violent collisions?

High-profile hits have prompted more discussions about safety at all levels of what will always be an inherently violent game. Illegal hits on Sunday cost three players a total of $175,000. In the future, the NFL said it may cost them playing time.

The league also warned it will suspend future offenders.

A violent collision cost Rutgers player Eric LeGrand much more. The junior is now paralyzed from the neck down.

Big hits are part of the appeal of football at every level.

"We always want to get that big hit award. Kids just need to be smart. See what you hit. Keep your head up. Do not put it down," said Steve Friebus, Bixby athletic trainer.

In addition to teaching proper tackling technique, schools like Bixby are focusing more on the after-effects of hits.

A new Oklahoma law requires all players with head injuries to be cleared by a medical professional before they return to the field. On Wednesday, an eighth grader learned that he would have to sit out a week.

"Had him take the impact test, and that helped confirm that he had a concussion. Helped to explain that that's what going on, and it's not safe to return to play," said Dr. Troy Glaser of Central State Orthopedic Specialists.

All Bixby players took the 'Concussion Impact' test before the season. It measures their reaction time and memory skills. If they sustain a hit, they take the test again.

If the results don't match up, they're benched.

"Concussions are a serious problem, and we need to be on top of it and not to let it go," Dr. Glaser said.

It's a problem that medical professionals admit will never be fully solved. Football wouldn't be football without hits, but they hope young players continue to pay attention to the consequences of high-profile collisions.

"You have to understand that your body is fragile. It can only take so much. The technology in protecting us is better than it was 10 or 20 years ago, but it doesn't make you invincible," Friebus said.

Bixby officials said 23 of its athletes have suffered concussions this fall. Most were football players, but the school's athletic trainer said cheerleaders and soccer players have also sustained head injuries.

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