Panel discusses concussions in youth sports

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Some of the city's leading experts on concussions came together in Indianapolis to share their knowledge.

With lawsuits being filed against the NFL, concussions are a hot topic. Experts say the key is for appropriate response, not overreaction.

It's not just the impact on the football field. When high-profile athletes, like Pacers star Paul George, collide or race car drivers like James Hinchcliffe crash and there is a concussion, it adds to the rapidly-increasing awareness of the injury.

"I think a crisis is the right word. It's, at this point, becoming a public health issue," said Ashley Horn, SG Helmets.

"It is for Horn, whose company focuses on safer football helmets. But those who treat patients raise the question of concussion hysteria.

"I think the pendulum has swung very far to the hypersensitive, hyperawareness side," said Dr. Patrick Kersey, a St. Vincent physician who serves as medical director for USA Football.

So much so that doctors on the Sports Circle Indy panel report central Indiana parents are rushing their kids to the doctor for merely a headache.

"I think as we learn more medically and educationally that pendulum will swing back to more of a normal range," Kersey said.

Those who track the numbers say the eight-year overall injury and concussion rates in all sports are consistent. Football has the highest rate of concussions.

"In youth sports, there is less than a four-percent incidence of concussion in that population, which actually is very exciting," said Kersey.

He says enrollment in youth football is down by nearly six percent. Lacrosse, which has the second-highest concussion rate, is the only youth sport to report increasing enrollment.

Keys for prevention of concussions include teaching athletes safer ways to block, better equipment and then, after diagnosis, ensuring complete resolution of the injury before returning to play.

"The best part about concussions, in my eyes and who I see in my office, 99.9 percent of them all recover and recover completely," Kersey said.

The real challenge, Kersey says, is time to recover, which is too often devalued depending on the significance of the next competition. If it's a big game, a rival, there is temptation to cut the recovery time and that creates a more challenging medical issue.

Symptoms of concussion include dizzy, foggy, fuzzy confusion, a headache, or even a personality change.