The injury and hospitalization of a West Ridge Middle School football player is raising questions about the safety of young athletes.

The student, 14, was airlifted to an Austin hospital Tuesday after being injured during football practice. Eanes ISD told KVUE he was airlifted out of an abundance of caution and due to traffic, and that the student was released from the hospital Tuesday night.

District officials told KVUE News most middle and high school football games and practices do not have medical professionals, such as doctors, on hand unless it’s a varsity game. Eanes Athletic Director Todd Dodge said injuries in high school are reported to either an athletic trainer or the school nurse in middle schools.

Sports Medicine physician Dr. Martha Pyron said parents should encourage their kids to be open about their injuries, especially if they are prone to ignoring their symptoms and tend to just want to continue the game.

“My biggest concern with that middle school age group is with head injuries in that setting, the students are relying on their coaches to determine if there is an injury or not,” said Pyron, “Middle schools, if they have football teams, they should have athletic trainers in the sidelines. Then, you have a trained medical professional to help with the students to make sure everything is safe.”

She talked about what symptoms parents should look out for, when their children get injured in a game. If a child has any sort of injury to their head or their neck, he or she should be closely monitored. According to Pyron, parents should take their child to an emergency room or urgent care center to seek a more formal evaluation if they have any concerns.

Pyron said with the big topic being concussions, what many do not know is that you do not have to actually hit your head to have a concussion. For example, just colliding with another player can cause a concussion.

“If a player has finished their practice for a game or they have a headache afterwards, and there was trauma associated with the practice or the game, it’s possible they have a concussion. If they’re nauseated and throwing up with a headache that’s more concerning, and if they’re acting different than their parents would expect that’s also concerning,” she said.

According to Eanes ISD, while doctors may not be there, their coaches do take a one-day course on First Aid and CPR training, along with concussion training.