SALT LAKE CITY – High school football teams from around the state are at Rice-Eccles Stadium this weekend for the state championships, and in recent years officials have put a greater emphasis on keeping players safe.
When you watch football footage from decades ago, you realize the game has gotten faster, players have gotten bigger, and the hits are more violent.
And when it comes to safety and the protocol when a player has a head injury, there have also been changes there.
“I was blocking for the punter, and a guy came in full-head of steam; hit me in the side of the head, and I was--after that I couldn’t tell you what happened,” said Coleman Broman, who played football for Corner Canyon High School.
Broman’s football career came to an end two months ago after he suffered a concussion during a high school football game.
Head trauma like that suffered by Broman is an issue that has brought increased scrutiny to contact sports in recent years.
Ryan Bishop, Assistant Director Utah High School Activity Association, spoke about the shift.
“We're a lot more aware the last few years with concussions and those things than we have been,” he said.
In 2011, after studies began to surface highlighting the long-term effects of head injuries and concussions, legislators worked with Utah’s High School Activity Association to develop rules for dealing with concussions.
“We’re trying to take as much data from the national federation but still create our own here in the state of Utah," Bishop said.
A cognitive impact test was developed and is now given to all high school players at the start of each season to serve as a benchmark for their mental health.
“When somebody has a concussion, they can go back through this test and have something that says, ‘Yeah, they’re back to their baseline,’” said Daniel Sedgwick, who is a physical therapist and athletic trainer.
Not too long ago it was the coach who decided if a player was injured or able to suit up, but today a doctor's signature is followed by a six-day return to play protocol period.
Browman will play basketball this year, and although he said it’s tough to see his football teammates compete in the semi-finals without him, he’s focusing on the bigger picture.
“I want to be able to play basketball with my kids when I’m older,” he said. “I want to be able to teach them how to ride a bike. I don’t want to be stuck in the hospital because of a want that I had in high school.”
Officials said the six-day return to play period is especially important because someone who suffers a concussion can be at a much greater wish for brain trauma if they return to play too soon and suffer another injury.