Youth Sports, Concussions Focus of White House Summit

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Youth Sports, Concussions Focus of White House Summit

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In an effort to raise awareness and commit funding toward brain injuries, the White House on Thursday held a conference dedicated to concussions and youth sports.

Leaders from both the athletic and medical fields, as well as parents and coaches, attended the Healthy Kids & Safe Sports Concussion Summit to discuss how to best protect children from concussions in sports and promote further research on the subject.

Young people make up about 250,000 emergency room visits each year due to sports-related brain injuries, the White House said.

“Concussions are not just a football issue,” President Barack Obama said at the summit.

Brain injuries affect boys and girls who play hockey, lacrosse and other sports every season, he said.

The president said kids shouldn’t be shying away from sports, but that more research and information needs to be provided for parents and youth who are participating in them. According to a report by the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council, there is still a lack of data on sports-related concussions — especially around youth.

“The awareness is improved today, but not by much,” Obama said. “So the total number of young people who are impacted by this early on is probably bigger than we know.”

He added that self-diagnoses were also important, as is shifting the blasé attitude when it comes to sports injuries.

“We have to change a culture that says, ‘You suck it up,’” Obama said.

The summit kicked off a series of public-private partnership initiatives to better research brain injuries and concussions among youth.

Among the initiatives, the NFL is giving $25 million over the next three years to promote safety in youth sports, including funding for pilot programs that would allow more access to athletic trainers in schools.

Meanwhile, the NCAA and the Department of Defense have committed $30 million to fund the most comprehensive clinical study on concussions and head impact exposure to date, the president said.  And the National Institutes of Health will be launching a new longitudinal study to measure the chronic effects of multiple concussions.

New York Giants owner Steve Tisch donated $10 million to UCLA’s Department of Neurosurgery and Pediatrics to study sports concussion prevention, treatment and outreach for young athletes.

“We’ve got to have better research, better data, better safety equipment, better protocols,” Obama said.

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