New Efforts Aim to Study, Prevent Youth Sports Concussions

The White House highlighted several new efforts that are being launched to both prevent and learn more about concussions among young athletes during the recent “Healthy Kids and Safe Sports Concussion Summit.”

This focus on concussions is important and long overdue. Hopefully, it will spur athletes, parents, coaches and trainers in Richmond, Virginia and across the country to give these brain injuries the serious attention they deserve.

More than $85 Million in Funding Pledged

President Barack Obama, citing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stated at the Summit that young adults make nearly 250,000 emergency room visits each year in the U.S. due to brain injuries they have suffered from sports and recreational activities.

However, as a White House press release noted, a 2013 Institute of Medicine and National Research Council report found “gaps in concussions research knowledge” as well as “a startling lack of data on concussions, especially in youth sports.”

More than $85 million in funding commitments announced at the Summit could remedy that problem in the coming years.

In particular, the NCAA and Department of Defense jointly committed $30 million to go towards concussion education and what the White House described to be “the most comprehensive concussion study ever.”

Also, the NFL committed $25 million over the next three years to create health and safety forums for parents and to provide more trainers at high school games. The NFL has also dedicated $16 million in prior donations to go towards research into the chronic effects of repeat concussions – a major concern in youth sports.

Why a Focus on Concussions Is Needed

As the CDC notes, concussions can occur in any sport or recreational activity, including football, soccer, basketball, lacrosse or even skateboarding or bicycling.

When concussions occur, they can cause brain cells to tear and stretch. This can damage the cells and trigger chemical changes in the brain that impact the way a young person acts, thinks and feels.

Most young athletes can recover from mild concussions in a short period of time. However, severe concussions can cause permanent and potentially fatal brain damage.

Additionally, serious problems can arise when an athlete is allowed to go back into action before fully recovering. This can expose the athlete to the risk of a repeat concussion that can carry long-term effects.

This is why a national and local conversation about concussions in youth sports and recreation is badly needed at this time. Hopefully, the White House’s Summit and the influx of new prevention and research funding will have the additional impact of simply raising awareness.

For instance, when a young athlete has his or her “bell rung,” a coach or trainer will know to take the time to look for signs of a concussion and get the athlete the immediate medical attention that he or she needs instead of simply allowing the athlete to return to a game or practice.

Parents who understand more about concussions can also make sure that coaches, trainers and other supervisors take proper steps if the child appears to have a concussion. Parents can also seek timely treatment for their children when apparent concussions are suffered in recreational activities around the home.