By Chris Wright, News On 6
BIXBY, Oklahoma -- From Sunday smash-mouth football to the Friday Night Lights, the knock-out hits that draw cheers and chest bumps deliver crushing blows to players' health. Those big hits are big news as Green Country gears up for high school football Friday night.
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 says it may cost them playing time.
The league says it will suspend future offenders.
A violent collision cost Rutgers player Eric LeGrand much more. He 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 gotta 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," Bixby athletic trainer Steve Friebus said.
Bixby says 23 of its athletes have suffered concussions this fall. Most were football players, but the school's athletic trainer says cheerleaders and soccer players have also sustained head injuries.
More sports on OKBlitz.com.