Foundation providing concussion tests for Muncie athletes
By Sandra Chapman, WTHR investigative reporter - bio | email
Former NFL star Dave Duerson committed suicide last year.
Michael Duerson and his family have a foundation in his brother's memory.
The Dave Duerson Foundation will pay for concussion testing for 700 Muncie athletes.
MUNCIE, Ind. -
The State of Indiana is cracking down and requiring treatment for concussions.
Starting Sunday July 1, parents and their athletes will face tougher standards when it comes to putting students back in the game after a head injury.
Family members of a former NFL player are also now stepping up for student safety in their Indiana hometown.
"I do literally hold my breath, because I watch and anticipate what might happen and hope that he won't get hit," said Muncie mother Joanie Walker.
She can't forget what happened to her son Billy on the football field two years ago.
"I was just about to throw the ball as I got to throw it, I got hit from behind," the Muncie High School quarterback said.
"A big, big boy from behind smacked him right down, face first into the ground," Billy's mother recalled.
Within minutes, Billy was back in the game. Headaches set in a day later and a trip to the doctor revealed a concussion - a brain injury that could have easily gone untreated and ignored.
For years, athletes on every level suffered in silence.
Indiana lawmakers are now taking action. Beginning Sunday, athletes and their parents must sign concussion forms that require an athlete sit out of a game or practice after a head injury until getting a waiver to return from a licensed medical professional.
"I think the law is going to help everyone just feel better about playing sports and about their safety," added Billy.
A couple of NFL tragedies now highlight the importance. Muncie Mayor Dennis Tyler was a state representative when lawmakers first started taking notice.
"What happened to David Duerson, and Junior Seau and other professional athletes," said Tyler.
In Muncie, Duerson's hometown, his brother Michael proudly wears his Chicago Bears jersey as he urges student athletes to take head injuries seriously.
"What we're trying to do is put in place preventive measures," explained the older brother.
Duerson's suicide is just part of the story. Michael himself also got a concussion while playing college basketball at IUPUI in 1977. He now suffers lasting effects.
"I have been ruled as gravely mentally disabled and my mental and neurological problems started in 1977," said Michael Duerson. "I'm not ashamed anymore of my diagnosis."
More than 700 athletes in Muncie, where the Duerson's excelled in sports, will now get ImPact testing this year - a preseason baseline test to determine the student's current brain function. It will give doctors something to evaluate to determine the extent of future injuries.
"You don't think about the long-term effects of brain injuries. And I don't want to see any child out there and continue to get hurt and hurt and hurt," said Joanie Walker.
She's grateful Muncie schools will be joining other schools like Cathedral and Brebeuf in monitoring concussions.
The Dave Duerson Foundation will pay for the concussion exams after the baseline testing for Muncie high school athletes are completed this year. It's the organization's commitment to ensure athletes get intervention before it's too late.