Spotlight Focuses on Threat of Concussion

President Obama put the spotlight on youth sports concussions Thursday with a White House summit. UNL is already taking the lead in research that is now being used on the field.

It wasn't long ago that as long as the world wasn't blurry after taking a hit to the head and you could count the number of fingers a coach held up, you'd go back in the game. That thinking has changed dramatically.

While we think of most concussions for young athletes coming from football or soccer, it happens in baseball too.

Ethan Wolbach of Papillion said, "I think it's becoming a threat to the next generation's health, so we're worried about it more."

Wolbach is a senior who plays for the Papillion-La Vista Monarchs. He took a baseline test on a computer this spring before ever taking the field. His teammates did the same so if any of them get hit in the head by a pitch or have a collision on the base path, even playing this summer for their Post 32 Legion team, Pinnacle Bank, doctors will have something to compare their brain's reactions to days later.

Ethan said, "We have a physical therapist, trainer that if anything happens he'll come and check on you."

While a concussion summit is under way in Washington D. C., the University of Nebraska Lincoln has been at the forefront of studying the brains of athletes and developing objective ways to do fast tests.

One day, researchers believe an electrode-covered mesh cap could be on every sideline, every court, every field, every diamond and trainers would know within seconds if getting your bell rung was actually a concussion.

Researchers acknowledge the science is still very raw, that no one yet knows how many concussions are too many to be able to function later in life. Parents and coaches seem to understand that.

Pinnacle Bank baseball coach Nate McCabe said, "There's no more, let's just get up and get going again. You really have to worry about the long-term well-being of the kids."

The White House summit on youth sports and injuries was attended by a collection of renowned brain injury experts, coaches, parents and athletes at every level of sports.

The girl who introduced the president, Tori Belluci, suffered five concussions over two years playing soccer.

She said, “It is vital to further educate the public on the emotional and physical dangers of concussions, and I am honored to have been invited here to share my story and hopes of raising awareness of concussions."

Here is a number to think about: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recorded approximately 173,000 emergency room visits from children for brain injuries in 2012. That number has risen, most likely because of awareness and a better understanding of the symptoms.

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