Injuries underreported in high school football


LONGVIEW (KYTX) – The numbers are a cause for concern. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates more than 170,000 kids and teens end up in the emergency room because of sports-related head injuries every year.

While it is clear these injuries are happening across the state and country, it is not so clear how many of these injuries are being reported in Texas.

The University Interscholastic League (UIL) currently has a system in place that only requires one in five Texas high schools to report injuries in regular season games, and the only sport these schools are requires to report is football.

There is no group or organization in Texas keeping track of injuries to student athletes playing basketball, baseball or soccer.

Caleb Williams is a Gladewater senior football player who sustained a concussion earlier this season and experienced memory loss because of the injury. Williams couldn't remember his teammates, friends or family.

 "The headaches are pretty much gone, so that's good," Caleb said. "My memory's not coming back, but I'm starting to get more comfortable around everybody like my friends, my family."

Caleb is hopeful, though, his memory returns to him eventually.

"I'm definitely hoping for it," Caleb said. "Everybody comes up to me asking if I know them yet. I don't know them, but I'm working on getting back."

Caleb's mom, Latoshia Williams, has noticed he is starting to get more of his personality back.

 "He's starting to act like a teenager," Williams said with a laugh. "He's not all the way better, but he's getting there. There are a few things that we can notice where he still has deficits, but he's getting there."

Caleb's dad, Todd Williams, manages an assisted living facility in Winona and has a certification in brain injuries. While he deals with brain injuries every day, its different when it happens to his son.

"Physically, he looks one hundred percent luckily," Williams said. "We're going to now try some new medicines with a neurologist that could help get his memory back."

For Todd Williams, he said there has been an evident increase in serious concussions and something has to change.

"It just has to at this point," Williams said. "There have just been too many injuries and not just injuries but deaths."

THE CDC reports kids and teens are more likely to get concussions than adults and can take longer to recover. Many are noticing statistics and reports such as this one, leading to concerned parents.

Dr. Jamey Harrison is the deputy director with the UIL and said the UIL never intended to collect all injuries.

"It is a sampling of schools," Harrison said. "Its original intent was solely to provide an unscientific snapshot."

However, many people no longer want a snapshot; they want the full picture.

Take last year's data from the previous football season for instance. The UIL had 263 schools report 295 concussions, while Idaho had 151 schools report 942 concussions. Indiana had 231 schools report 1,605 concussions. Many other states across the nation are starting to keep a closer track of their injuries.

In April, Harrison stood by the Texas method.

"The UIL Medical Advisory Committee or any other medical associations has not asked to change the way we make that reporting," Harrison said.

Harrison has now had a change of heart from a more recent interview.

"We believe it certainly can be improved," Harrison said. "We need a new way of collecting injury data. We could definitely improve the medical use of this data if we collect it in a different way and if we collect more info."

Harrison said the UIL is trying to work around certain rights and guidelines that would prevent the UIL from obtaining certain information.

"It's very complicated when it comes to the data collection and data ownership," Harrison said. "Those students who are injured have federally protected privacy rights."

Dr. Darvy Mann is a pediatrician at a diagnostic clinic in Longview. He said he who would welcome the improved medical value from better reports.

"Those are important things and those are things that we as physicians want to know about," Dr. Mann said.

Dr. Mann provides physicals for high schools and gives concussion talks to coaches and parents. He emphasized the need for adults to play their part.

"Reporting's always going to be an issue," Dr. Mann said. "Kids are going to underreport in general. That's just the nature of being a teenager. The point person in the district is important."

Latoshia Williams said she agrees with increased data collection for both doctors and parents.

"I think an organizational chart will definitely help," Williams said. "There are coaches that downplay it, and if they downplay it, it's not going to get reported. Having more reporting will help."

She said she also hopes steps are taken to help keep kids safe in the long run.

"Football is important in high school, but life is important," Williams said. "It's more important to make sure that things are going of after football through college, in your adult life."

Caleb doesn't know when or if he will get his memory back, but he does hope his story will be heard.

"If this happens to somebody else, I want them to see my interview just to know that they're not the only person to go through it," Caleb said. "They're not the only person to feel alone and not know anybody."

The UIL has changed its tone when it comes to injury reporting but action still needs to take place. CBS 19 has created sample letter that advocates for lawmakers to make changes to how reporting is handled.



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