White House Concussion Summit Hits Home In Arizona

By Alexandra Olgin
Published: Thursday, May 29, 2014 - 5:28pm
Updated: Friday, May 30, 2014 - 3:41pm
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(Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
President Barack Obama greets White House Healthy Kids & Safe Sports Concussion Summit participants.

Doctors, athletes and scientists gathered at the White House on Thursday to talk about concussions. President Barack Obama announced more than $60 million in funding for concussion related research at the summit.

A large portion of the money is coming from the NFL and NCAA.

Dr. David Dodick is a neurologist at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona who studies head injuries. He said the country has the ‘brain trust’ to mitigate the damage of concussions, but they just need the money. Dodick said he is working to reduce harm, not prevent the injuries.

“You are not going to eliminate concussions from sports, it’s a risk that one takes when they play. So now we have to focus on making sure we identify concussion when it occurs. But most importantly is how to mitigate it and how to minimize damage and injury to the brain,” Dodick said. He wants to develop basic sideline protocols so anyone can administer them.

Pop Warner Youth Football League will choose 100 teams across the country to participate in a new concussion study. Kathy Enriquez is with Arizona’s chapter, which has more than 5,000 players.  She says Pop Warner already uses the same sideline concussion testing as high schools.

“Each child who comes off of the field complaining of or exhibiting any symptoms of any type of head injury has to be evaluated by qualified medical staff before returning to the game,” said Enriquez.

Enriquez said the teams have also limited contact practice time to give the kids fewer opportunities to get concussions.

Kevin Merrill works with Shockbox, a sensor that measures the force a player endures from a hit and sends an alert to a smartphone. He said it isn’t just the big blows or painful ones that cause concussions. It’s important to know when a player takes a hit with high enough force, even if the kid doesn’t feel it at the time.

Merrill has been working with state high schools to provide the devices, but he has met resistance.

“Athletic directors that I have spoken to have the feeling that if they know a player has taken a hard hit and that if they don’t pull them off and do the assessment. Or if they pull them off and do the assessment and allow them to return to play that they will be more liable than if they never removed them in the first place,” said Merrill. 

Merrill is working with the Arizona Interscholastic Association and Barrow Neurological Institute to get funding for a study using data from the sensors to better outline sideline testing.

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