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New Study Says That Contact Sports Like Football And Lacrosse Cost High Schools $19.2 Billion A YEAR In Injury Costs

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NY Times- Those figures turned out to be hard to come by, researchers at Yale discovered, but, using the best data available, they calculated that if contact sports could be made noncontact — like flag football, for example — there would be 49,600 fewer injuries among male college athletes per year and 601,900 fewer among male high school athletes.

The savings — which include estimates of medical costs and time lost — could be as much as $1.5 billion per year for colleges and $19.2 billion per year for high schools. And that takes into account only the immediate consequences of an injury, a paper by the researchers says, not the long-term effects of concussions or repeated jarring of the brain in collisions. Or the repercussions of ligament tears, which can lead to a greater than 50 percent risk of arthritis a decade later, said Dr. Mininder Kocher, a professor of orthopedics at Harvard Medical School.

“The issue really is that contact is the driving force in all these major injuries,” said Ray Fair, an economics professor at Yale and the senior author of the paper. “Any sport that does not have contact, the injuries are not that great.”

Many more people play sports in high school than in college, so for that reason alone there are more injuries in the younger group. But high school athletes are also more prone to injuries, experts said, because they are not as skilled, they have less experienced coaches and they may not be physically mature.

But what is important about the Yale analysis is the focus on the economic cost of these serious injuries, experts said. Already, the cost of football is weighing on some private high schools, Cantu said.

Insurance for football players has become so expensive, he said, that “a number of schools have decided this is a sport they will not continue.”

The implications of brain trauma are well-trodden territory these days, but this was the first time I’d seen a number detailing the financial costs of these injuries. $19.2 BILLION a year in high school, and $1.5 billion in college. Wow. Pretty jarring numbers. The medical costs of high school contact sports outweigh the projected GDPs of over 50 countries this year. You watch that Danny Trevathan hit from Thursday night, and you feel sick to your stomach. But those nightmare hits are far less frequent than the gradual, less explosive battering of the brains and bones of offensive and defensive linemen. Obviously, lacrosse is nowhere near as violent as football, but I’d like to share a bit of my experience playing because I had a few concussions and it’s a topic that hits home for me.

I hated playing lacrosse in college. I had 2 diagnosed concussions, one that led to an ambulance driving onto the field to treat me. And that hit happened in practice. My own teammate hit me after a shot, nothing malicious, and my head snapped back and bounced off the turf. After that, there were a lot of times where our coach would explain the next drill, but I wouldn’t hear a single word of it because my brain was on sleep mode. I always had to go to the back of the line for whatever was happening next so I could watch a few reps and figure it out. I became a visual learner because I couldn’t concentrate or process verbal instructions. By my senior year, I basically had no idea what was going on on the field. There’s a reason that I haven’t stepped on to a lacrosse field since college, whether it’s a men’s league game or a summer tournament, and that reason is my brain.

Frustratingly, it affects me in other places of my life. Whenever I perform a standup set longer than 20 minutes, I have to bring notes on stage or scribble some cues on my hand because I get mixed up about the order after a certain point. I’m good for 20-30 minutes and then I start to draw blanks. So I’ll put a set list on the stool next to a bottle of water and pretend that I’m just getting a drink, while I’m actually consulting my notes to see where I’m going next. Vigilant audience members notice it, and it’s fucking embarrassing and unprofessional, but I don’t have a choice. No matter how many times I practice my set out loud, I find myself lost on stage when I stretch to 45 minutes or an hour. I hate the fact that a sport I played for a few years in college is undermining my ability to perform my job to the best of my ability.

Needless to say, it wasn’t worth it.