Marci Abraham, an athletic trainer at East Lansing High School, said coaching and training staffs have put a greater focus in the last two years on recognizing and reporting possible concussions and head injuries in high school sports.
But concussions aren’t the only injuries trainers and coaches see. She said a majority of the injuries she’s seen have been ankle sprain/strains, thigh (quad, hamstring, and groin) strains, shin splints and back pain.
Those injuries are common in all sports, Abraham said. She said athletic training staff try to injuries in many different ways.
“We try to combat these and all injuries by encouraging all our athletes to take their warmup session at the beginning of practice seriously and focused, not to goof off during it,” she said. “I also preach to my athletes proper flexibility and range of motion to help decrease stresses being placed on the wrong structures in the body.”
She said coaches and staff understand, too, that the damage from injuries can be mitigated if an athlete works with the training staff immediately.
“It is easier for me to treat and keep the athletes participating if aches and pains are brought to my attention early on,” she said.
Abraham said concussions and head injuries are more prevalent in contact sports such as football, soccer, softball, basketball and cheer, but can also happen in low-contact sports like track and cross country.
According to Michigan High School Athletic Association rules, any athlete who exhibits signs, symptoms or behaviors consistent with a concussion (such as loss of consciousness, headache, dizziness, confusion or balance problems) must be immediately removed from a game and cannot return until cleared by a health care professional.”
“We have been trained more in recognizing and diagnosing concussions and the general public is starting to understand their significance even though it is rarely a visible injury,” she said.
In 2015, MHSAA started requiring schools to report concussions and head injuries. Those injuries most commonly occur in football, according to data from its 2016-17 the MHSAA concussion report.
MHSAA members reported 1,657 head injuries in 11-player football in the 2016-17 school year. That’s 45 injuries per 1,000 participants.
Ice hockey had the next highest report of head injuries, at 36 per 1,000 participants.