FORT WAYNE – It’s been more than 40 years since Dr. Henry Feuer first began monitoring the health of football players. It started at an Indiana University game in 1970.
Not only has the awareness of head injuries in football increased, so have the factors that help cause concussions, and Feuer has seen the progression up close.
Feuer addressed coaches as part of a panel discussion regarding safety at NFL punter Jason Baker’s Pro Football Mini Camp that opened Friday at Wayne High School.
Feuer pointed to the increase in the size, speed and abilities of modern players and the proliferation of teams at the middle school level as just some of the changes that have increased head injuries. And since some procedures for detecting and handling head injuries remain antiquated, Feuer sees problems that have to be fixed.
We’re doing things differently today. It’s not necessarily a matter of saying people have been given lousy care. There were guidelines set up a number of years ago and they may have been marginal because of where and when they came from, said Feuer, who has been a neurological consultant for the Colts and Indy 500 and who is co-director of the Indiana Sports Concussion Network.
Baker wants coaches and players to realize that times have changed. That’s why Baker told them about Coaches Time Out – a faith-based organization that encourages coaches to teach character and values – and why he was so pleased to have Feuer there, too.
Most coaches coach the way they were coached, and their coaches were coached the same way by their coaches, Baker said. There’s dysfunction there somewhere.
Feuer stressed that coaches must be more vigilant in preparing players. Baseline neurological testing, which is becoming common among high school players in Indianapolis, Feuer said, is an essential step. And coaches must make sure players don’t stay in games in which they’ve suffered head injuries.
You’ve got a competitor out there. And the higher you go (in levels of football), it’s harder to get guys past the fear of being replaced (if they sit out). But they need to understand they’re not going to play 100 percent anyway (with a head injury), Feuer said.
The person (evaluating players) on the sideline, you’ve got to break through that game face of theirs and look at the kid. He may say he’s ready to go, but if you test him, you’ll see he’s not ready to go.
In addition, parents must be responsible and make sure they obtain the appropriate care for kids who suffer head injuries.
If they take them home and they look sick, take them to the hospital. Sometimes, you can’t even let them watch the game because that can make the symptoms worse, Feuer said, adding that we must get past the get-back-on-the-field-fast mentality.
Those kids, if they’re a couple weeks out and they still have a little bit of a headache, they’re not going to tell you that. (They’ll say) I feel fine.’ And in the old days, that’s all we had to rely on. But now there’s testing and we need to utilize (those advancements).
Feuer cautioned against believing advancements in helmet technology will be the holy grail that will prevent head injuries, while changes like not using players on both offense and defense could be effective in limiting wear and tear on bodies.