Health, school officials work to educate about concussions


Health, school officials work to educate about concussions

BOZEMAN, Mont. - At the White House today President Obama called for a change in attitudes when it comes to concussions. And more research.

Doctors say kid's brains can heal completely after a concussion but there is little data on the long term effect of repeated blows to the head.

The NCAA and Defense Department are involved in a $30 million joint research project. And the NFL is spending $25 million to promote youth sports safety.

Kelsey Dugger has suffered a concussion, she said, "I don't remember anything else until waking up in the hospital with ice packs and just...waking up with a really bad headache."

President Obama explained, "We have to change a culture that says 'you suck it up.'"

Each year emergency rooms treat more than 173,000 traumatic brain injuries in kids and teens.

Emergency room visits for concussions and traumatic brain injuries are up 60-percent over the past 10 years. 

Concussions and brain injuries are highest in football, girl's soccer, and bicycling.

Concussions in youth sports continue to be an issue being tackled by schools and medical professionals alike. NBC Montana visited local experts to learn what's being done to keep young athletes safe.

Bozeman High School Athletic Trainer Mark Meredith tells us concussions are taken seriously when it comes to student athletes, saying, "If we suspect a concussion we'll basically call it a concussion until proven otherwise."

Meredith explained at Bozeman High, athletes have to be symptom free for seven consecutive days before returning to the field, stricter than the Montana High School Athletic Association standards of simply showing no symptoms.

He says it can be difficult to get student athletes to see the danger and leave the game.

Meredith revealed, "No matter how many time we try to tell them that later in life it just may not be worth it, at this point in their life they don't believe that."

Meredith says that education to students as well as parents and coaches that helps keep athletes safe.

"So that  they're aware of what a concussion can be and when they think they might have a concussion," said Meredith.

The hope is that when a concussion is expected or symptoms worsen, a visit to a doctor is the next step.

Neuropsychologist Dr. Jeff Cory at Bozeman Deaconess Hospital tells us awareness of concussions is up.

Dr. Cory said, "For so long it was an invisible injury. We couldn't see it. Someone gets their bell rung on the field so to speak, 'shake it off.'"

Dr. Cory says there's a lot of discussion as to the long term effects of concussions on the human brain. Even so he believes, "There's really a very favorable prognosis for most sports concussions even when they happen multiple times."

But Mark Meredith says that in contact sports concussions are bound to happen, even with training and education.

Meredith said, "If they take that good, solid hit they're probably going to end up with a concussion regardless, and so it's just a matter of employing the right steps.

One Montana organization working to protect student athletes is the Dylan Steigers Concussion Project. Based in Missoula, the project was founded after Steigers, a Missoula Sentinel grad, passed away after a brain injury at an Eastern Oregon University spring football game.

It's goal is to educate, test, and protect student athletes from brain injuries.

In 2013, Montana lawmakers passed the "Dylan Steigers' Protection of Youth Athletes Act". The law requires youth coaches be educated about brain injuries and concussion awareness.

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