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Protecting athletes from concussion

Monday, November 16th, 2009

Eagles running back Brian Westbrook has logged two concussions in three weeks. Multiple concussions worry high school coaches as well as professional coaches.


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Eagles player Brian Westbrook suffered his second concussion in three weeks during Sunday’s game. The team now must decide whether the running back should return to the field this season.

Timothy Young is the medical director of brain injury at Magee Rehabilitation Hospital. He says those two concussions put Westbrook at a higher risk for more.

Young: You can’t underscore how frustrating some of these post-concussive situations are, because even after you’re symptom free and you’ve passed all the prerequisites for return to sport, there’s always the potential you’re going to have another head injury.

Young says the long-term impact of multiple concussions is unclear. But he suspects that cognition, memory and emotion are damaged.

The estimates vary on how common concussions are among high school athletes — but doctors say far too many return to play prematurely.

Bob Baly is an assistant director at the New Jersey Interscholastic Athletic Association. He says his group is testing out a program with school trainers to take baseline assessment of a student’s cognitive abilities.

Baly: And then when they suffer a concussion or a head injury they would do another assessment to see if it’s at the normal range, what it was prior to the concussion.

That way, trainers could better identify if students aren’t fully recovered, or if they’re suffered long term brain damage.

Baly says his group does not have any authority to ban students from playing.

Baly: If a student in a game suffers a concussion they’re removed from the game and can’t go back in unless a doctor clears them. Can’t be cleared by anybody else except the school physician.

Baly cautions against letting students who have had multiple concussions continue to play.


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