Back to school means back to the football field for countless coaches and players across Middle Tennessee, but the game can come at a cost to those suiting up to play under the lights.
The football team at Christ Presbyterian Academy has been in training for more than a week.
On Wednesday, players practiced drills in the rain.
“We want to make them feel like they're a part of something bigger than themselves,” said Head Coach Ingle Martin.
Players are slowly conditioned and trained to handle the pressures on the field, which go far beyond drills.
Coaches must stress the need for good nutrition, hydration, fundamentals and gear. Perhaps the most important piece of equipment is the player's helmet.
“We've gone from wearing no helmets, you know, 70 years ago, to one-bar facemask. Now we've got $300 helmets,” said Coach Martin. “I think they're doing the best they can. Unfortunately, contact is part of the game.”
Football is a full contact sport, but fear of concussions is changing the game. That's why CPA relies on athletic trainers like Chris Snoddy.
“If coach suspects an athlete of a concussion, they're going to pull 'em immediately and send 'em to us,” Snoddy said.
Snoddy has been on the sidelines of practices and football games for nearly 40 years.
He's trained to look for the warning signs of concussion like headache, confusion, or loss of coordination. He plays a vital role in taking players out of the game.
A newly passed state law mandates every youth sports group have a concussion policy to do the same thing in regards to player participation and treatment.
The so-called Concussion Law goes into effect January 1, 2014, but it won't change much for players on the high school level. TSSAA, the body which governs most high school sports, already has a policy in place that requires players be taken out of the game, not to return until cleared by a medical professional.
Snoddy, who is also the president of the Tennessee Athletic Trainer's Society, feels more could be done to protect players. He would like trainers to be a requirement for each high school football team.
“If you can't afford to have an athletic trainer there or you can't make arrangements to have an athletic trainer there for high school football, then you need to consider not having high school football,” he said.
Snoddy told Nshville's News 2 only 67% of high school teams have an athletic trainer on staff, leaving more than 30% without an on-site medical resource.
“Athletic trainers are a medical professional with the exact skill set to care for high school, college and younger athletes,” added Snoddy.
For the CPA team, athletic trainers are the best defense to prevent players from being sidelined for good.
“Bottom line is we want players to be safe and we want players to enjoy being out here, and part of that is playing as well as they can and as healthy as they can,” said Coach Martin.
According to the Program for Injury Prevention in Youth Sports at Vanderbilt, more than five million injuries occur each year in the United States, two million of those are on the high school level.