concussions

SportzSafe.com

Dr. Gillian Hotz is not your typical gamer. But wearing a white lab coat and tapping furiously at a tablet screen—trying to get her football-playing cartoon avatar in position for a tackle—it’s clear she knows what to do.

Elbows in. Head up. Arms ready.

Another cartoon character runs in for the hit, and Hotz is ready.

“Good job!” shouts a coach somewhere off screen.  

“That was a successful tackle; I’ve had a lot of practice,” says Hotz.

Concussions have become part of the daily news. But how much have these brain injuries become part of daily life?

To find out, we asked people across the country about concussions in the latest NPR-Truven Health Analytics Health Poll.

The poll, conducted during the first half of March, found that nearly a quarter of people — 23 percent of those surveyed — said they had suffered a concussion at some point in their lives. Among those who said they'd had a concussion, more than three-quarters had sought medical treatment.

There's growing concern about the risks of concussions in young athletes. For years, high school coaches have had to take courses on the dangers of head injuries. This year, for the first time, all high school athletes in Florida are required to educate themselves about concussions before they can compete.

Parents worry about a child getting a concussion in the heat of competition, but they also need to be thinking about what happens during practices, a study finds.

High school and college football players are more likely to suffer a concussion during practices than in a game, according a study published May 4 in JAMA Pediatrics. Here are the numbers:

  • In youth games, 54 percent of concussions happened during games.
Luis Hernandez / WLRN

There used to be a time when athletes would get knocked in the head, fall to the ground, struggle to get back on their feet and wobble around before regaining their bearings.

It used to be called "getting a ding." Athletes were encouraged to just "walk it off."

That still happens in many sports, from the youth levels all the way to the pros. But over the past few years, recreational leagues, schools and athletic associations have gotten more serious about these head injuries.

University of Miami Miller School of Medicine med.miami.edu

According to a report from the NCAA, a little more than seven percent of injuries in college football are concussions. 

The University of New Hampshire Wildcats are heading into a do-or-die quarterfinal football game this week against the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga.

And whether they win or not, there's one thing you can say about the Wildcats: They are likely the only football team in America trying to reduce concussions by practicing without helmets.

Football has a concussion problem, from the National Football League down to Pee-Wee teams. And there are lots of efforts out there to fix it.

When the Pittsburgh Steelers won four Super Bowls in the 1970s, you could argue that no one played a bigger role than Mike Webster. Webster was the Steelers' center, snapping the ball to the quarterback, then waging war in the trenches, slamming his body and helmet into defensive players to halt their rush.

He was a local hero, which is why the city was stunned when his life fell apart. He lost all his money, and his marriage, and ended up spending nights in the bus terminal in Pittsburgh. Webster died of a heart attack, and on Sept. 28, 2002, came the autopsy.

The NFL and more than 4,500 retired players have reached an agreement calling for the league to contribute $765 million to a fund that will pay "medical and other benefits, as well as compensation" to those who suffered concussions and related injuries during their careers.

Details of the agreement, which would settle concussion-related lawsuits by former players and still needs a judge's OK, were released by the league early Thursday afternoon.

According to that statement: