Youth football programs, doctor aim to educate on concussions - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Youth football programs, doctor aim to educate kids on concussion risk

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CEDAR RAPIDS (KWWL) -

A major national youth football organization, Pop Warner, is restricting how long kids can practice, while also limiting drills involving head-to-head contact.  It's an effort to prevent damaging concussions, which a recent study found are much likely to happen during sports practice.

During summer sports camps, the Cedar Rapids Titans are helping teach kids proper football techniques in an effort to avoid serious injuries, including concussions.  Those are measures becoming more important as science increasingly shows repeated blows to the head can have long-term impact.

Sarah Johnson is watching her 10-year-old nephew Kaden learn the ropes of football with the Cedar Rapids Titans.  But sitting on the sidelines, she worries about the risks of the game.

"Oh it scares me to death!" Johnson said.

That's why Johnson and her sister decided to send Kaden to this camp.

Coaches go beyond the basic skills of the game -- by constantly stressing the importance of injury prevention and how to recognize when something's wrong.  Camp director and Titans safety George Carpenter knows the dangers of concussions first-hand, after suffering one when he was the age of the kids he's now teaching.

"I just was kind of 'What happened that play?'  That's the kind of thing a lot of kids see and deal with every day.  And we went to make sure they know what's going on, and if they see, feel that, they need to come off the field," said Carpenter.

Local optometrist Dr. DeAnn Fitzgerald is stepping in to help educate kids about concussions, too.  She's hoping to use a new screening tool on all kids involved with local Metro Youth Football leagues.

"I would like to see every student athlete be tested, have a pre-test for concussions.  Be aware of what a concussion's like, what the symptoms are, then go to the appropriate people: athletic trainer or the coach, to help get taken care of.  Then if they need training to get back in the game, we can do that," Dr. Fitzgerald said.

Those are steps that are becoming even more critical, as science increasingly links head injuries in childhood, to problems later in life.

 "Absolutely.  I think we're more concerned as we know about equipment and about techniques to train, that we want to take a look at that brain and make sure we're keeping it safe," said Dr. Fitzgerald.

So by getting schooled in concussion prevention, experts hope kids can play the game without taking harmful hits.

To further help in the efforts---Dr. Fitzgerald will be distributing concussion education materials to all 2500 Metro Youth League players this fall.

Currently, Metro Youth Football Leagues do not restrict practice times or drills for concussion prevention.  But camp coaches and Dr. Fitzgerald are hopeful such measures will be put into practice.

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