FNF Coaches Talk — Why a NC high school has so many concussions, coaches may be more forthcoming with injuries

FNF Coaches Talk

Good afternoon! We’ve got a couple of stories for you today.

1. Why Wake Forest High leads North Carolina in concussions (News Observer)

Few athletic programs in North Carolina can boast success on the gridiron like Wake Forest High School. In three of the past four seasons, the school has won the state championship. They’ve had double-digit winning seasons for most of the past dozen years.

But Wake Forest’s football program is far and away the leader among Wake County public schools in something else — concussions. The program had 22 concussions in the 2018-19 academic year when its varsity team won a third consecutive championship, according to data obtained by The News & Observer.

No other Wake County high school sport came close to that number. The next highest was East Wake, with its football program reporting 10 concussions.

Wake Forest’s reported concussions didn’t seem to trigger an alarm from Deran Coe, the district’s athletic director, or Rebecca Jones, the trainer who pulled the football players from the team. They contend the high number results from a combination of three things: Wake Forest’s higher-than-average roster of 145 football players for the varsity and junior varsity teams, pulling athletes out of the game or practice if they exhibit any sign of a concussion, and a playoff schedule that added five weeks and four games to the varsity team’s season.

“I don’t have any major concerns around it,” said Coe of the 22 concussions. He was Wake Forest’s athletic director for nearly three years before taking the district position in 2013.

Chad Hillman expects to play quarterback for Wake Forest next season if the novel coronavirus pandemic doesn’t shut down football and other high contact sports. His brother, Seth, played quarterback for the team in 2018 and is now playing for Concord University in Athens, West Virginia. Their mom, Melinda, is a big supporter and Wake Forest teacher.

Neither Chad nor Melinda knew the program had reported 22 concussions. They both said Jones, the athletic trainer, and the rest of the staff give the highest priority to the students’ health and safety.

They diverged on the importance of publicly reporting the number of concussions.

Melinda wasn’t sure. “For me it doesn’t make a difference, but for some people it might make a difference,” she said.

Chad, a rising senior, said it’s information students should have so they can make an informed decision.

“It’s just like you signing up for a class in school,” he said. “You’re not just going to sign up blindly.”


How do you track concussions on your team?

2. Amid coronavirus threat, colleges take aim at football culture of hiding injuries, illness (USA Today)

While health and safety remains the paramount concern, the resumption of in-person team activities has athletics departments stressing openness and accountability when it comes to sharing symptoms of the coronavirus, with some going so far as torequire athletes to endorse documents detailing mandatory preventative steps or risk being barred from team activities.

“It’s a major encouragement,” said Pittsburgh athletics director Heather Lyke. Pittsburgh’s athletics department has created a program designed to make sure coaches and athletes are “accountable for each other’s health.”

“Just anything that you feel, you have to let us know,” Lyke said. “Just kind of create an open door. I think it’s just a constant reminder of the importance of, we’re all in this together. And we all have to be accountable. And if you’re not feeling well, you’re going to infect others. Which obviously has a huge impact because of the number of people that you’ve been around.”

In preaching the need for this open dialogue, athletics departments are taking aim at the underlying culture of football, where injuries are often undisclosed, under-reported or ignored due to an ethos that can value toughness and sacrifice.

A study conducted by Harvard and Boston University researchers in 2013 found that Championship Subdivision players reported having six suspected concussions for every diagnosed concussion, indicating that players could choose to play through an injury despite the inherent risks.

In a survey conducted last summer, about 19% of college trainers said that a coach opted to play an athlete who had been deemed “medically out of participation,” according to the National Athletic Trainers’ Association.


Do you think the coronavirus outbreak will force coaches to be more forthcoming about injuries and illnesses moving forward?

What’s driving the conversation in your locker room? Email Managing Editor Dan Guttenplan or Tweet us @fnfcoaches. Don’t forget to use that hashtag #FNFCoachesTalk