President Obama Holds Summit to Raise Awareness about Brain Injuries in Sports

President Barack Obama hosted the Healthy Kids and Safe Sports Concussion Summit at the White House in May 2014 to raise awareness about brain injuries in sports. Although Obama emphasized the importance of sports for many young people, he also urged parents and athletic organizations to take brain injuries, even mild concussions, seriously. Mr. Obama pointed to a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) study which revealed that 250,000 young people visit the emergency room every year with brain injuries sustained from sports or recreational activities. The CDC study points out that this figure is probably higher because many young people visited a private doctor or didn’t seek any treatment at all.

Concussions can cause student-athletes to suffer from many problems. For instance, Cheryl and Jason Levine, parents who attended the White House summit, have two young sons who suffered from concussions while playing ice hockey. Both boys began to have severe headaches and began to have difficulty in school. One of the sons even had to be taken out of school for a period of time. With the help of medical professionals, both boys have recovered from their injuries and are now doing well in school and sports.

President Obama stated that he hopes to change how society views concussions in sports. He remarked, “We have to change a culture that says you suck it up. Identifying a concussion and being able to self-diagnose that this is something that I need to take care of doesn’t make you weak–it means you’re strong.”

As part of the concussion awareness campaign, the NCAA and the Department of Defense are funding a $30 million study that will research the effects of brain injuries on student-athletes. The study will research 37,000 athletes and is the largest study of its conducted to date. In addition, the NFL is investing $25 million to research the effects of multiple concussions. The NFL will also conduct training programs for parents and seek to get more trainers at high school games. Moreover, the National Institute of Standards and Technology is investing $5 million to study materials that can be used in safety equipment. New York Giants chairman Steve Tisch announced that he is also donating $10 million to UCLA’s BrainSPORT program to help find ways to prevent and treat brain injuries.

Many states, including New York, have enacted “return to play” laws in order to protect student-athletes from concussions. In 2011, New York passed the Concussion Management and Awareness Act. The law requires that any student-athlete suspected of having a concussion should immediately be removed from play. The athlete cannot return to the field until he or she has received medical clearance. In addition, the law requires that coaches, physical education teachers, school nurses and other staff members attend concussion training events twice a year.

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