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Editorial: Youth concussions

Friday, May 6, 2011

On Tuesday former St. Louis Rams player Mike Jones, medical officials and National Football League representatives spoke before a Senate panel asking the lawmakers to support legislation to protect young athletes facing concussions and other brain injuries.

The legislation, HB 300, would require that players who suffer serious head injuries stop play and not return to action for at least 24 hours and after being evaluated by a medical provider trained in such injuries.

"We might not be able to prevent the first concussion, but we can prevent a subsequent concussion," said Kenneth Edmonds, an NFL official. "And it's those subsequent concussions that are more dangerous."

Locally parents and coaches learned in a March seminar held at Saint Francis Medical Center the real dangers behind concussions and some tips for addressing head trauma.

One of the speakers, former professional wrestler Chris Nowinski, spoke to the group about research that says players take up to 1,400 hits to the head throughout the course of a football season, and that repeated hits to the head, while not all classified as concussions, have a cumulative effect.

Among the things Nowinski advocated in his talk to address sports related youth concussions: educating coaches, athletes and parents on the symptoms and how to handle concussions prior to the season; adopting a Center for Disease Control concussion action plan for player removal and their return to the sport; and neck strengthening.

Sports can be a good thing. They teach valuable life lessons such as perseverance, teamwork, and a strong work ethic. But while fun, sports can often bring unintended lifelong injuries. By being aware of these possibilities, taking precautions and knowing what to do should an injury occur, young athletes can take advantage of the benefits sports provide and hopefully prevent traumatic head injuries.

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