Dixie athletics manage major head injuries

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Thousands of retired workers are finally getting the injury compensation that has eluded them for decades, and current football players are now playing in a much safer environment, including here at Dixie State University.

The National Football League agreed to a $765 million settlement on Aug. 29 with former players who have injuries and other health problems that came as a result of playing football. They sued the NFL for concealing the medical risks of playing with concussions and other injuries.

This settlement has created debates about whether or not the NFL could afford to compensate the former players more money and has continued the discussion about player safety in football.

The NCAA and the DSU Athletic Department have strict procedures in place to help prevent serious injury to student athletes.

Kelby Hofheins, DSU head athletic trainer, said tests are conducted before the season starts in order to establish the normal cognitive function of each athlete. This test helps determine whether further medical attention is needed during the season.

Hofheins explained the training staff’s procedure when a concussion is suspected during practice or a game.

“If a concussion is suspected, we pull the [player], and we do a couple of different tests,” Hofheins said. “If it is determined that a concussion has been sustained, then they’re completely done for the day.” 

Hofheins said Dixie State has a Return to Play protocol when a concussion is sustained. This protocol eases the athlete back onto the field. The process starts with the player riding an exercise bike for a few minutes on the first day and returning to full-contact practice by day six.

All Dixie State University athletes receive plenty of concussion education to help prevent injuries. Offensive lineman Jacob Hardcastle, a junior communication major from Heber, learned how to stay hydrated and not be afraid to exit games or practice when an injury has occurred. 

“The first two days of fall camp [are] all about rules, regulations and concussion information,” Hardcastle said. 

Hardcastle said at the beginning of each season, players are required to sign multiple documents, including waiver forms.

Hardcastle also praised the training staff for learning how to deal with concussions.

“Any time you have any symptoms of a concussion, the training staff really takes care of you and makes sure everything is good,” he said.

A concussion is a injury to the brain that often damages cognitive abilities and is caused by hard hit to the head. Symptoms may include, but are not limited to, nausia, vomiting, headaches and blurry vision. People who have had one concussion are more susceptible to another.

Both Hofheins and Hardcastle agree that although the former NFL players were compensated with millions of dollars, player safety is worth much more than money when playing any sport.

“I don’t know that you can put a price on someone’s life,” Hofheins said.

Hardcastle said players whose lives have been changed for the worse due to injuries sustained while playing football should receive some financial assistance.

“I think players that need help deserve some,” Hardcastle said.

The settlement between the NFL and retired players pointed out an obvious truth to Hardcastle about the popular sport.

“When you play the game, you know there’s a risk,” Hardcastle said. “You risk your life playing the game.”

Hofheins agreed.

“People know that football is dangerous and you can sustain concussions,” Hofheins said.

Despite the risks, Hardcastle said taking the risk is worth it to play the game that he loves.

“Absolutely,” he said. “[That’s] not even a question.”