High School Highlights

No clear link between concussions, CTE

18 Generic football helmetWhen it comes to the long-term effects of concussions in sports, there is a wide range of information published — almost on a daily basis. Unfortunately, much of the media coverage as it relates to high school sports — and particularly the sport of football — is misleading.

Recently, the Concussion Legacy Foundation introduced its new public-service announcement that compared youth football dangers to smoking. As the pre-teen football players puff on cigarettes, the voiceover says, “Tackle football is like smoking, the younger I start, the longer I’m exposed to danger.”

The “Tackle Can Wait” campaign by the foundation is an attempt to steer children under the age of 14 into flag football. Although establishing a finite age may be difficult, reducing contact at youth levels is certainly a positive. USA Football is doing just that nationally through its Football Development Model. Likewise, the 51-member state associations of the National Federation of State High School Associations have enacted limitations on contact during preseason and practice sessions.

Our concern is the term “exposed to danger.” These types of messages continue to spread unwarranted fear to parents of high school student-athletes. The “danger” refers to reports that players who incur repeated concussions can develop chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

A 2017 study from the Journal of American Medical Association linked CTE in the brains of deceased National Football League players. Even if this report is accurate, these are individuals who endured repeated blows to the head for 20 to 25 years BEFORE any concussion protocols were in place.

Less publicized is a study by Dr. Munro Cullum and his colleagues at the Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute, which is a part of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. Cullum’s group studied 35 former NFL players age 50 and older who had sustained multiple concussions throughout their careers. The findings showed no significant association between the length of the individuals’ careers, the number of concussions and their cognitive function later in life.

Two studies, two different conclusions. Regardless of the outcome, however, they are not applicable to kids playing football before and during high school. There is absolutely no linkage to CTE at these levels, and the word “danger” should not be a part of the discussion.

A more applicable and significant study was also published in JAMA in 2017. In a study of about 4,000 men who graduated from Wisconsin high schools in 1957, there was no difference in cognitive function or decline between those who played football and those who did not as they reached 65 years of age. We would assume the majority of these individuals discontinued football after high school.

With more than one million boys — and girls — playing the contact sport of football each year, severe injuries do occur from time to time, but parents should know that efforts to lessen the risk of a catastrophic injury, including head injuries, have never been stronger than they are today.

In fact, new data from the National High School Sports-Related Injury Surveillance Study indicates some positive trends in concussion rates. The study, which was released in the American Academy of Pediatrics online issue of Pediatrics this week, indicated that concussion rates during football practices dropped from 5.47 to 4.44 concussions per 10,000 athletic exposures between the 2013-14 and 2017-18 seasons.

In addition, repeat concussion rates across all sports declined from 0.47 to 0.28 per 10,000 exposures during the same time period.

Concussion laws are in place in every state. All NFHS sports rules books have concussion management protocols. Helmet-to-helmet hits are not allowed in football. Limits on contact in preseason and practice in football are in place in every state.

After considering all the available research, we encourage parents to let their kids play their sport of choice in high school, but we would discourage moving away from football – or any contact sport – solely based on the fear of developing CTE later in life.

Earl's weekly predictions: 10/24/19

prediction football RESIZEDAs we head into the final weeks of the high school football season it’s a good time to remember the rules regarding fighting and ejections in the North Carolina High School Athletic Association.

There’s never a good time to lose your temper on the field and get into an altercation with an opposing player, but the stretch drive is the worst time, especially for teams with playoff aspirations.

The following violations get you kicked out of a game immediately: fighting, biting, taunting, baiting or spitting toward an opponent, obscene gestures or disrespectfully addressing an official.

Everything on that list carries an additional penalty of one game missed, with the exception of fighting.

If you are guilty of fighting, that means you are gone for the next two contests.

Worse, if three players or coaches are ejected during a game, or six for a full season, that team loses its state playoff privileges for that year.

It has happened before to teams from this area.

Please make sure your team isn’t one of them this year. Keep calm and play by the rules.
The record: 47-14
I was almost perfect for two straight weeks but dropped one game to finish 7-1. The count for the year is 47-14, 78.3 percent.
South View at Cape Fear - This is a huge Patriot Athletic Conference game for two of the league’s hottest teams.
Both are peaking at the right time of the season. Home field definitely helps Cape Fear, but that still might not be enough for the Colts.
I expect this to be a close one that a big play or key turnover could decide.
South View 21, Cape Fear 20.
Douglas Byrd at Overhills - I think Overhills has too much offense for the Eagles to get a win in this one.
Overhills 28, Douglas Byrd 14.
Pine Forest at E.E. Smith - This is a tough call because both teams have been inconsistent. I’m giving Smith the edge playing at home.
E.E. Smith 22, Pine Forest 18.
Hoke County at Jack Britt - Hoke has clearly been the surprise team of the season in the Sandhills Athletic Conference with its return to success. This is a big game for both teams trying to improve their state playoff chances.
I think Britt will figure a way to win this one.
Jack Britt 24, Hoke County 18.
Purnell at Seventy-First - The Falcons get a much-needed win against a Swett team having a difficult season.
Seventy-First 30, Purnell Swett 12.
Westover at Terry Sanford - The Bulldogs celebrate homecoming with another victory as they brace for bigger foes down the road.
Terry Sanford 31, Westover 8.
Open date: Gray’s Creek.
Other games: Word of God forfeited to Trinity Christian earlier this week; Faith Christian 30, Fayetteville Christian 14.

Colt golfers anxious to chase state honors again

21 01 toni blackwelllEditor's note: The Cape Fear girls won their third consecutive N.C. High School Athletic Association 3-A East Regional title on Tuesday and Toni Blackwell took her second consecutive individual title. Blackwell shot a 76 at Reedy Creek Golf Course in Four Oaks. The Colt team shot a 269 to beat second-place Topsail High school by nine strokes. Cape Fear’s other scores that counted were a 91 by Gabby Bynum and a 102 by Lexi Perez. After a season dominating play in the Patriot Athletic Conference, the Cape Fear girls golf team is ready to make another run at state golf honors.

Led by overall conference champion Toni Blackwell, Cape Fear won all seven conference regular-season tournaments, with Blackwell taking medalist honors each time.

Blackwell averaged 77.9 per match, only shooting one round in the 80s. The average winning score for the Colt team was 268.8.

They ended the regular season with a round of 255, their lowest of the year, on their home course at Baywood Golf Club.

Colt golf coach Todd Edge said the final two weeks of the season the team exceeded his expectations. In the last match at Baywood his top four golfers all broke 100.

He knew the Colts would be led by returning veterans Blackwell and Gabby Bynum, but at the start of the season he was concerned who would step up to provide the third score in each match that’s used 21 02 Gabby to determine the team total.
That turned out to be freshman Lexi Perez, who ended the season with a 100.6 average.

“We knew she could hit the ball, but there’s a difference between hitting and scoring,’’ Edge said. “She has really picked it up and become our No. 3 scorer for the majority of the season.’’

This is only Perez’s second year playing golf, and she said she felt pressure not to let the team down and prevent them from having a chance to take the conference title again.

“All of my clubs have improved from when I started,’’ she said.

With her one round of 83, Blackwell missed her goal of having all of her regular season rounds in the 70s. She felt she played well during the year and is looking forward to another shot at regional and state success.

“I think it will help me and Gabby because we know what to expect and we’re used to it,’’ she said of the postseason. “We have to stay focused, work hard and practice.’’

Bynum said the biggest difference in the postseason will be the level of competition the Colts will face. “These girls are shooting in the 70s and lower 80s,’’ she said. “It’s just the nerves. They really do get 21 03 lexito you.’’

She said the key to success in the postseason will be containing nerves and hitting the ball well in the right spots.

The Colts have won the 3-A East Regional tournament the past two seasons, but Edge knows winning a third will be a challenge.

The regional was held this past Monday at Reedy Creek Golf Course in Four Oaks.

It’s the home course for a number of schools scheduled to play in the regional, so they all have more experience on the course than the Cape Fear golfers do.

The state tournament, which the Colts hope to qualify for, will be held at Foxfire Village’s Red Course.

”It’s been closed for the majority of the year,’’ Edge said of the Red Course. “They redid their greens.’’

Cape Fear finished fifth in the state on the Red course last season.

“We’ve got to get there first,’’ Edge said. “Going to the regionals is our goal, then getting a team into states. Once we get to states, we’ll see.’’


Pictured from top to bottom: Toni Blackwell, Gabby Bynum, Lexi Perez

Scholar athletes of the week: 10/23/19

22 01 jessica waltonJessica Walton

Douglas Byrd•Tennis/basketball• Senior

Walton has a 3.9 grade point average. She is a member of the Academy of Finance, National Honor Society and the Key Club. She volunteers weekly with Feeding 5,000. She plans to attend North Carolina A&T and major in business administration.

Michael Jurado

Douglas Byrd•Soccer•Senior

Jurado has a 4.24 grade point average. He is captain of the soccer team. He is a member of the Academy of Green Technology and the National Honor Society. He plans to attend North Carolina State University and major in electrical engineering.
22 02 michael jurado

Confident Bears ready for state volleyball playoffs

20 01 jalestyTo say the Gray’s Creek Bears have dominated volleyball play in the Patriot Athletic Conference this season is an understatement.

Through games of Tuesday, Oct. 15, the Bears are 21-0 overall, 16-0 in the league, and have already clinched the regular-season title. To date, they’ve lost just three sets.

Regardless of how they fare in the conference tournament, they are assured the No. 1 berth from the league in the upcoming state tournament.

Early projections by WRAL-TV’s High School OT have the Bears as the No. 2 seed in the Eastern bracket, although official state tournament pairings won’t be out until all conference tournament play is over.

Head coach Jalesty Washington clearly isn’t surprised the Bears have done this well coming off a 17-5 record last year that saw them finish one game back of Cape Fear in the Patriot Athletic Conference standings.

20 2hailey “I feel like they are mentally stronger this year,’’ she said. “I only lost two seniors last year and they want it more than anybody this year.’’

Washington thinks the key to success in volleyball is to have a strong defense, a smart setter and a solid front row to put the ball away. She also believes in keeping the ball moving and controlling the game.

She credits much of the team’s success this season to her senior captains, Hailey Pait and Summer Powell. Pait plays the libero position while Powell is a defensive specialist.

“Hailey is focused on passing and keeping the team straight,’’ Washington said. “She tries to keep them together. She’s a mature leader.’’

Washington calls Powell the glue on the team. “She’s the goofy one who keeps everybody laughing,’’ Washington said. “She’ll call you out and let you know you did something wrong and she’ll let you know if you did something right. She’s the vocal leader.’’

20 03 summerThe one thing Washington can’t control is the quality of competition Gray’s Creek faced during the regular season. Washington thinks her team has gotten good tests from teams like Union Pines, Scotland and Harnett Central along with conference rivals Terry Sanford and Cape Fear.

“I always tell the girls, we haven’t lost yet so there’s no need to start now,’’ Washington said.

Pait and Powell are also anxious for a rematch with Conley.

“I think we run everything faster and we have better energy,’’ Pait said. “We don’t get down as much. Even when we are down we come back, and it’s a lot more fun this year.’’

Powell said the Bears know how good they are this year and are anxious to make a much deeper run in the state playoffs.

“I feel like we have a better chance,’’ she said. “We have more drive this year. The farther we get in the playoffs, the better we’ll play. We’ll want it more because we’ll be so close.’’

Pictured from top to bottom: Jalesty Washington, Hailey Pait, Summer Powell 

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