BUTTE - A group of Butte physicians, nurses and sports medicine workers who monitored high school football athletes for concussions during 2010 is making recommendations to coaches in an attempt to limit future injuries.
Montana Sports Medicine said 71 percent of the injuries at three high schools occurred during practices, and coaches should limit contact drills and avoid mismatches between larger and smaller players.
The group also said coaches should teach better tackling techniques because half the injuries resulted from helmet collisions.
The group found the average age of football players getting a concussion was 15, so coaches should have players work on strength training exercises that include the neck.
At the start of the year, Montana Sports Medicine gave 198 football players from Butte High, Butte Central and Anaconda a test called Sport Concussion Assessment Tool 2 that uses memory exercises to determine an athlete's recall and reaction time.
The results of the uninjured athletes were then used for comparison when the test was given again to an athlete who had taken a blow to the head.
"All the athletes' scores who were diagnosed with concussions dropped significantly," said Dr. Derrick Johnson of Rocky Mountain Clinic.
Of those 198 players, 37 suffered concussions, taking an average of 16 days to recover.
"Both cognitive rest and physical rest is important," Dr. Nick DiGiovine, of Montana Orthopedics, told the Montana Standard.
He said Montana Sports Medicine is also working to increase understanding about concussions among athletes, their parents and coaches because the seriousness of such injuries has sometimes been minimized in the past.
"We've been aware these problems have been under-diagnosed or mismanaged for years," DiGiovine said.
Besides the three high schools that produced the results leading to the recommendations, Montana Sports Medicine has also contracted with four other regional high schools and Montana Tech to monitor athletes participating in sports where concussions are possible.