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Changing attitudes and focus on athletes suffering concussions

Posted at 12:14 PM, Sep 30, 2019

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Concussions are a major concern at every level of football but how have they changed the way the game is played and practiced...and what do medical professionals have to say about the impact of concussions on athletes.

See also: Web extra: Symptoms and treatment options for CTE patients

There's no doubt that over the last 5-10 years, everybody involved in sports at every talent level has become more aware that a concussion is a serious injury...something most people just shrugged off in the past...but medical science is only so far along, there's so much we still don't know.

"I cannot confidently tell you about how having one, versus three, versus ten concussions, when you're young, how that's going to affect you 50 years from now," says Dr. Ross Mathiasen at Nebraska Medicine. "It makes sense and we think the more times you get hit in the head, it's probably worse for you."

Concussions have been a common football injury since the game began but it hasn't been until recently that team's have taken them seriously.

Now there's a clear protocol...every team from the NFL down to youth football follows it. The focus...keeping players from going back in too early and getting a concussion on top of a concussion or second impact syndrome.

"Yeah that's the stuff people can actually die from," says Mathiasen.

Once an athlete is in it, they go through a series of milestones...no set time period.

If it's a kid, those include feeling normal, completing a full day of school and then gradually completing a series of exercises.

If they have no headaches, blurred vision, concentration problems or any other symptoms...they're clear to play again.

While concussions happen the most in football...you can get them in almost any sport.

An 11-year study that monitored high school athletes shows soccer players get them by far more than any other sport other than football.

"Most of the concussions in soccer are from running into another person or hitting your head on the ground," says Mathiasen.

But why did the sports world change so swiftly on concussions without any major research showing their effects?

Multiple reasons but a big one...suicides by high profile NFL players...later revealed to have Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) ...a degenerative brain disease caused by head trauma.

"Anytime there's high profile cases of, for example, CTE, once that is in the public eye. People want to know more about it."

But the connection between CTE, youth and high school sports is unclear. Most confirmed cases have involved an NFL player.

"There haven't been any confirmed cases, in younger populations that I'm aware of at this point in time," says Mathiasen.