More Concussion Research Needed, President Says

Updated: 05/30/2014 7:11 AM
Created: 05/29/2014 10:50 PM
By: John Doetkott

(ABC 6 News) -- As we head into the summer sports season, President Obama wants parents and coaches to put renewed focus on protecting kids from concussions.

According to the most recent data, more than 140,000 high school athletes suffer a concussion each year.

And while parents may not be able to stop the hard hits, President Obama wants to at least limit the impact.

"We've got to have better research, better data, better safety equipment, better protocols,” President Obama said. “We've got to have every parent and coach and teacher recognize the signs of concussions."

While experts agree we've come a long way in recognizing the symptoms of concussions, they said there is still significant work to be done in understanding their effects.

"When it comes to concussions, there are more unanswered questions than there are answered ones,” said Dr. Richard Besser, ABC’s chief medical editor. “Everything from what causes concussions to who's at risk, the science just isn't there yet."

But a recent Mayo Clinic study showed a simple eye test requiring athletes to read numbers in a zig-zag pattern was 100 percent effective in identifying concussions.

The cheap and easy test gives hope that even parents and coaches without medical training will be able to help protect kids.

Experts said even nutritional methods are helping to avoid long-term consequences.

"Amyloid plaques get built up in the brain after a head trauma like that, and we have products that do help get rid of that plaquing,” said Jeff Eaton, a chiropractor at Eaton Sport and Spine in Albert Lea. “So the sooner a person can get on those products, the sooner those plaques can be dissolved."

Experts said the more aware we are of concussions, the more we can do to protect against them.

"I think it's important for parents, coaches, anyone involved in that student athlete's life to know what the signs and symptoms are,” Eaton said.

Experts said protecting against concussions can be harder for smaller towns and school districts that may not have the funding to buy new equipment, meaning kids can be left with old helmets that may not have the protection they need.