SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The first girls tackle football league, which started right here in Utah, is in its fifth season. With their numbers growing, there are new concerns about concussions. Experts say there are risks parents need to know about.
Girls in Salt Lake City just want to play football. It started with 50 girls in 2015.
“Now we’re at 430,” said Crystal Sacco, co-founder of the Utah Girls Tackle Football League.
But how is the league keeping girls safe?
Cathy Evans, whose twin girls play in the league, said both her girls got concussions last year.
“Very slight,” she said about the severity of the concussions. “They healed really fast.”
Coach Nick Taylor said the players are resilient.
“There are some girls that are beasts,” he said. “They’ll hit ya.” Taylor said the league takes extra precautions, like concussion training for coaches, and no special teams, or kick-off, to avoid high-speed hits.
We also train how to tackle differently than the old way when get more head contact in,” he said.
Doctors caution parents to beware.
“(The brain) gets sloshed around in your skull,” Anne Russo, clinical neuropsychologist at Intermountain Tosh Sports Concussion Clinic, said about how concussions happen.
Russo said one concussion increases the risk of future concussions.
During a concussion, the brain shifts inside the skull. The athlete may not have symptoms for 24 hours. That’s why parents need to be the first line of defense, Russo said.
“They really know how this person should be functioning, and if there are subtle changes, we would always rather someone pull the alarm bell early,” she said.
Sacco said athletes who may have concussions are taken out of play. “If there’s any signs of concussion, they sit it out,” she said. “We do not let them go back on the field.”
The most common symptom is headache, but symptoms can also include dramatic changes in mood, nausea and vomiting. Other things parents need to watch for: “I just don’t feel like myself, I can’t concentrate in school, I’m tired all the time,” Russo said.
The sport attracts girls from all walks of life — even the cheer and dance crowd.
“Ballet, hip-hop, jazz, musical theater,” said Kenna Morgan, a senior at Riverton High School. “Out on the field, it doesn’t matter what you look like. It doesn’t matter what size you are, or how much you weigh.”
Evans said she does get concerned about her daughters sustaining injuries, but the girls could get injured doing anything.
“It is something you worry about,” she said, “but everything has risks.”
These girls are comfortable taking those risks — and breaking down stereotypes.
“Being able to be better than the boys,” said Shandelier Oili, a sophomore at Highland High School.
“Shh,” she added. “Don’t tell them that.”
These ladies are showing their moms and dads they have what it takes.
“You see his face, like, filled with joy because their daughter just scored her first touchdown,” Sacco said.
When it comes to concussions, doctors say err on the side of caution and have your child checked by a doctor.
Article is by Heather Simonsen, KSL TV