High schools keep closer eye on possible concussions

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New safety rules designed to identify head injuries and help players fast are in effect on every Indiana gridiron this year.

Coaches and trainers are trying to educate athletes that it pays to speak up when you take a hit.

Jamason Wright remembers the hit he took.

"I got hit in the legs. I was holding the football and my head just hit the ground," said Wright, who plays for Lebanon.

But he remembers his concussion.

"Coach called the next play. I couldn't even remember how to run it," he said.

But on the sidelines, the Lebanon High School staff had him covered.

"Our trainer did the test, everything, pupils all the sensory things then said, 'Yeah, you should probably go to the hospital'," says the senior, remembering that freshman year experience.

But years ago when Lebanon Superintendent Dr. Robert Taylor played ball, he says the concussion test was "'How many fingers am I holding up? What's my name, coach?' If you could come close to that, you were put back into the game."

Now, Taylor pushes all of his contact sports - even cheerleading - to watch every hit, every time.

A settlement reached with the NFL over concussions includes $10 million for educating young athletes and for research.

"Any additional funds that can be put into research, into finding a better football helmet, make our football players more safe when they're out there, I fully support," said Lebanon athletic director Philip Levine.

This week, Purdue expanded head trauma research to university players. Helmet sensors log the strength of hits and pre- and postseason tests show if cognitive skills are hurt by hits.

Years of Purdue sideline research with high schoolers already shows it's not just one big hit, but many smaller blows over time that lead to brain injury. The kinds of injury NFL players are suffering now.

"We're seeing changes in about half our football players. Changes we're not going to be happy with," Professor Larry Leverenz at Purdue said.

"We do not want them to ignore that initial symptom or sign that happens right away," Levine said.

They're educating players to fess up if they're having trouble. That kind of education is key.