Indiana lawmakers study how to prevent concussions for youth athletes

2013-09-13T15:10:00Z 2013-09-17T15:46:25Z Indiana lawmakers study how to prevent concussions for youth athletesDan Carden dan.carden@nwi.com, (317) 637-9078 nwitimes.com
September 13, 2013 3:10 pm  • 

INDIANAPOLIS | The brother of late Chicago Bears safety Dave Duerson endorsed a plan Friday that would require all Indiana youth football coaches be trained in detecting and preventing concussions, but also urged state lawmakers studying the issue not to ignore other youth sports.

"Girls soccer is the No. 2 most concussed sport," said Michael Duerson, founder of the Dave Duerson Athletic Safety Fund Inc., which provides concussion training and treatment in and around the Duersons' hometown of Muncie.

Duerson said it's vital everyone who participates in sports be able to recognize the symptoms of concussion, typically a headache, fogginess, mood swings, amnesia or slowed reactions that can last for several weeks following a blow to the head.

He said the potential for crippling, permanent injuries following a concussion warrants state policies designed to prevent and treat mild brain injuries for all youth athletes.

Indiana law already requires student-athletes, their parents and coaches be provided an information sheet about concussions before their athletic seasons begin. An athlete suspected of suffering a concussion must be cleared by a medical professional before returning to play.

State Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, wants to go a step further and require all football coaches, paid or volunteer, who use any government-owned field be certified in concussion safety. Indianapolis-based USA Football's certification program costs just $5 for youth coaches.

"If we're going to protect our kids and create a better, safer game ... it's all about coaching education — making sure these folks are prepared to teach the game the right way," said Scott Hallenbeck, executive director of USA Football, the national governing body of youth and amateur football.

State Sen. Frank Mrvan, D-Hammond, said if lawmakers are just going to focus on preventing concussions among football players they also should consider requiring superior helmets and other safety equipment.

Dave Duerson, who helped lead the Bears to victory in Super Bowl XX, killed himself Feb. 17, 2011, as untreated concussions suffered during four years playing football at Notre Dame and 11 years in the NFL transformed the once careful businessman into a violent shadow of his former self.

He deliberately shot himself in the chest to preserve his brain for testing. Boston University neurologists later determined Duerson suffered from a neurodegenerative disease linked to concussion.

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