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Examining Injuries in House Football

By Will Danoff

Steve Nicholas remembers when he first learned how to throw a football at age live. Virtually every American recall his initial attempts to spiral the pigskin to a supportive father in the backyard or neighborhood park on a crisp autumn afternoon.

But in Nicholas's memory, the older man is one other than Joe Namath, then two years away from leading the New York Jets to Super Bowl glory and becoming a generation's sports idol in the process.

Nicholas can recollect this unique game of catch with Broadway Joe because his father, Dr. James Nicholas, is the orthopedic surgeon for the Jets as well as for the Knicks, Rangers and Cosmos. Although the younger Nicholas has followed the likes of Namath has followed the likes of Namath on and off the playing fields, he has also seen the stars in less glamorous positions on his father's operating table and as statistics in the orthopedist's injury research. Quite naturally Nicholas became interested in his father's research on pro squads to prevent ailments and prolong carcers.

With such exposure to sports medicine in practice, it is not surprising that the Quincy House senior wanted to apply his accumulated knowledge to study injuries on the college level. So, this fall Nicholas, a fullback and strong safety on the Q-World gridirdon squad, employed a method of analysis similar to that used in the pros to House football injuries.

"I noticed a lot of people were getting hurt," explains Nicholas, who will attend New York Medical College in the fall. "I knew that didn't need to be the case, so I decided to examine the phenomenon."

Nicholas bases his study on information from a pre-season questionnaire requesting the football experience and injury history of all intramural gridders and from follow-up interviews to determine what injuries each athlete suffered this fall. With 70 percent of the data analyzed. Nicholas has observed that:

* The athletes sustained an "unusually" high number of concussions;

* The participants suffered a high number of pulled muscles;

* Most players who sustained serious injuries, such as concussions, had a history of the same or a similar ailment;

* Several of the athletes neglected the trainer's instructions or did not go to UHS and subsequently aggravated the injury.

Nicholas thinks that some of the concussions resulted from helmets misfitted by players inexperienced with equipment and from the older "suspension" helmets still in limited use. He suggests that gridders who have a history of concussions might fit their helmets before the majority of players to ensure that they receive high-quality and well-fitting headgear.

Nicholas attributes the muscle pulls not only to the widely-acknowledged problem of out-of-shape athletes but to the inadequate amount of and relaxed attitude toward pre-game stretching. He thus suggest that the trainers should discuss stretching exercises with the coaches before the season begins. Nicholas also notes that the training room was often closed before the 2 p.m. games, forcing the athletes to compete without taped ankle.

Although Nicholas concedes that injuries are part of any contact sport, he feels that the House football program can further insure the safety of its athletes, particularly by instructing the players on ways to prevent injuries.

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