As a player, Hoover High School football Coach Andrew Policky shrugged off headaches and injuries to become a stalwart wide receiver. A graduate of Arcadia High in 1998, he never once thought to go over to a trainer when he “got his bell rung” on the field.

But that was then, and now, “there is protocol in place.”

That protocol — not allowing student athletes to play through what could be a concussion — has taken a more prominent role on sports fields in recent years as more research continues to show just how fragile young craniums can be.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, the number of brain injuries in teenagers is between 1.6 to 3.8 million per year — with the vast majority of those, studies show, occurring on the football field.

These troubling figures take on greater significance as football teams across the region start their summer practices as they gear up for the new school year. Even more troubling is a 2012 study in Michigan that discovered student-athletes are at risk of neurocognitive deficits that may last for more than a year.

The authors of the study recommended that tackle football for players under 16 is eliminated to reduce concussions.

For many, that may seem like an over-reaction. But consider the sheer volume of head injuries suffered by student athletes each year, and the long term consequences which have yet to be fully studied.

At the very least, coaches appear to be taking the risks of head injuries to heart by putting a premium on student health, not performance. That's a play we can all get behind.