Head injuries a hot topic in NFL and Annapolis

ANNAPOLIS, Md. - It used to be getting your bell rung was a badge of honor for a student athlete. But now it's nothing to brag about, in fact, it's scary. Concussions and the way they're handled with children, will take center stage in Annapolis later this week. ABC2 News Joce Sterman has details on the debate and how changes in the way the NFL evaluates shots to the head may impact your kids down the road.

They get paid to take the big hits that take your breath away. But recent talk about the shots that level even the toughest professional athletes is much more than just hot air. Doctor Andy Tucker, Head Team Physician for the Ravens and the Medical Director for Union Memorial Sports Medicine says, "It's an issue that is front and center with the National Football League."

And it's an issue for Tucker too. He knows head injuries aren't limited to his players. That's why he wants to shift the focus to athletes a little smaller in size. Tucker explains, "I'm just as concerned about the effects of concussion in young athletes and the high school athletes as I am in the professional athlete."

Tucker feels the concern is warranted given that more and more kids are getting concussions and research shows their brains are even more affected by head injuries than older athletes. It's a scary thought, one that's sparked debate and even talk of banning collision sports for safety's sake because there isn't enough protection.

While helmets do a lot to protect the brains of young athletes, Tucker believes standardizing the care of kids get if they take a hit while wearing one of these is important as well. He says, "Helmets can't and won't ever completely prevent every concussion. I think the focus needs to be on education. It's not just a part of the game like it was a generation ago."

And that's true in the pros as well. That's why Tucker says next season in the NFL, the way concussions are evaluated on the sideline and in the training room will be standardized from city to city. He tells ABC2, "We're not really reinventing the wheel. It's just to make sure that all medical staffs are doing the same thing in sort of the same way."

That kind of system will hopefully trickle down to student athletes, especially here in Maryland. A bill tackling concussion management will be discussed in Annapolis this week. It likely won't police head injuries, just develop guidelines for how they should be handled. Tucker says, "There are certain questions that we should all be asking, whether it's the NFL or it's a local high school." Because no matter how old the athlete, this is a topic worth having a heads up.

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