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Concussions: A National Conversation [AUDIO]

A summit this week at the White House put a spotlight on the issue of concussions within youth sports and the fact that there’s not enough information on how these brain injuries affect kids later in life.

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President Obama
President Barack Obama (Alex Wong, Getty Images)

Starting the conversation on Thursday, President Barack Obama noted the scope of the problem is likely larger than most would think, and the risk doesn’t discriminate among sports.

“Every season, you’ve got boys and girls who are getting concussions in lacrosse, and soccer, and wrestling and ice hockey, as well as football,” Obama said. “The fact is, we don’t have solid numbers, and that tells me that at every level we’re all still trying to fully grasp what’s going on with this issue.”

Obama said the nation must “change a culture” that tells kids to “suck it up” when they’re delivered a big blow.

At Sportscare Performance Institute in Whippany, Scott Gunter suggested parents, coaches and student-athletes have become more aware of potential dangers.

“Something that was previously just passed off as ‘getting your bell rung’ is now being realized to actually have a little bit more of a significant impact,” Gunter said.

young football players
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Warning signs of a concussion include a headache, dizziness, confusion and blurred vision. Concussions can result from a direct impact to the head, as well as whiplash-like movements.

“These may not just be caused by one significant, acute injury,” Gunter continued. “It may be the summation of a lot of smaller hits.”

While research has gained ground in understanding the immediate symptoms of a concussion, the long-term effects have not been as easy to track. Gunter said it could be difficult to determine whether brain function deficits later in life are connected to earlier injuries.

New Jersey, meanwhile, has been making strides in educating the right people about the risks of concussions, and how to identify them.

“We require all our interscholastic high school coaches to annually take a concussion awareness course,” said Jack DuBois, assistant director of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association.

Game officials face the same requirement.

DuBois also predicted that New Jersey will soon adopt a policy that limits the amount of contact per week for football players.

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