Obama: Too little info about youth concussions - KCTV5

Obama: Too little info about youth concussions

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(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File). FILE - In this Thursday, May 21, 2009, file photo, President Barack Obama plays with a football as he walks back to the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File). FILE - In this Thursday, May 21, 2009, file photo, President Barack Obama plays with a football as he walks back to the Oval Office of the White House in Washington.

President Barack Obama called Thursday for more robust research into youth concussions, saying there remains deep uncertainty over both the scope of the troubling issue and the long-term impacts on young people.

"We want our kids participating in sports," Obama said as he opened a daylong summit on concussions at the White House. "As parents though, we want to keep them safe and that means we have to have better information."

The summit signaled an effort by Obama to use the power of the presidency to elevate a national conversation over youth concussions. The White House brought together representatives of professional sports leagues, coaches, parents, young athletes, medical professionals and others for the event.

Obama, an avid sports fan and father of two daughters involved in athletics, highlighted millions of dollars in pledges and other support from the National Football League, the National Institutes of Health and others to conduct research that could begin to provide answers and improve safety.

Among the financial commitments is a $30 million joint research effort by the NCAA and Defense Department and an NFL commitment of $25 million over the next three years to promote youth sports safety.

The president said additional research needs to also be combined with a broader recognition of the need to take the matter seriously.

"We have to change a culture that says, 'suck it up,' " he said.

Obama had waded into the debate over concussions before, saying that if he had sons, he would "have to think long and hard" about whether he would allow them to play football. Obama sought to broaden the discussion over head injuries, saying young people who play soccer, lacrosse, hockey and other sports also are at risk.

A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury that can be caused by a blow to the head, or a blow to the body powerful enough to jostle the brain around inside the skull. Nearly 250,000 kids and young adults visit hospital emergency rooms each year with brain injuries caused by sports or other recreational activity, the White House said.

The NFL recently agreed to pay $765 million to settle concussion claims from thousands of former players whose complaints range from headaches to Alzheimer's disease. That settlement is still awaiting a judge's approval, while a group of former professional hockey players has filed a class-action lawsuit of their own against the National Hockey League for head injuries sustained on the ice.

Independence Pop Warner board member Keith Fogliani said the league spends up to $12,000 annually on newer, safer gear. He said coaches and parents have to work with children to prevent issues including teaching them proper techniques.

"Football is a contact sport and things are going to happen," he said. "You have to look at whether it was deliberate or not. Because you can teach and teach and teach, but that doesn't mean it's going to go perfect out on the field."

Northland Youth Football's Jim Tuso agreed.

"Football is a contact sport," he said. "Injury prevention and preparation is the biggest thing."

Dr. Steve Lauer of the University of Kansas Hospital said misdiagnosing a concussion is a problem.

"It's missing that diagnosis and missing the chance to intervene and help them to recover," Lauer said. "That's a big worry."

He said he welcomed the discussion at the White House.

"It's all about awareness and realizing that a concussion is not just getting your bell rung," he said.

Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid concurred.

The White House summit was also looking at concussions and other brain injuries suffered by service members. Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army chief of staff, participated in the event, including a panel discussion with doctors and athletes.

Other research efforts on concussions and head injuries include:

An NIH project looking at the chronic effects of repetitive concussions. The work is supported by the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health through an initial investment of $16 million from the NFL.

UCLA will use $10 million from New York Giants co-owner Steve Tisch to launch a program to study sports concussion prevention, outreach, research and treatment for athletes of all ages, but especially youth. The money will also support planning for a national system to determine the incidence of youth sports concussions.

The Institute of Medicine, which advises the government, called for the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to establish and oversee such a system to begin to help provide answers to questions about the risks of youth sports, such as how often the youngest athletes suffer concussions and which sports have the highest rates.

Follow Darlene Superville on Twitter: https://twitter.com/dsupervilleap

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