New concussion guidelines issued: Player immediately removed from game if symptoms present

NFL may station neurologist on sidelines this fall

SAN DIEGO - A new look at the treatment of concussions was revealed Monday at a convention in San Diego for the American Academy of Neurology.

There is increased concern nationwide about concussions in sports, especially after the suicide of former Charger Junior Seau, who suffered repeated head trauma.

In the first set of guidelines issued since 1997, doctors are urging players be taken out of games at the first sign of a concussion.

Many parents agree that safety has to be the top concern. Don Mouradian, who has two sons playing high school sports, said, "My son just got a brand new lacrosse helmet and that was the first thing we did -- made sure it fit correctly; the chin strap, made sure it was snug."

Dr. Christopher Giza told reporters, "Helmet technology may incrementally reduce the risk of concussion or pad the head better. I think it's important to realize helmets are pretty well designed."

However, not all contact sports require helmets, though, and risks vary.

Dr. Jeffrey Kutcher listed the most dangerous team sports, saying, "The concussion risk was greatest in American football and rugby on the male side, followed by hockey and soccer. On the female side, soccer and basketball had the higher rates."

Education is key for coaches, parents and players. They are urged to not just watch closely for injury, but practice and play the games with intelligence.

Phillip Lomax, commissioner for San Diego Youth Football, said, "It's a collision sport. There's no way to avoid contact, but there are safe ways to play the game to ensure that kids don't sustain as many concussions as they have in the past."

Lomax said local leagues are being proactive.

"We've taken a 'no return to play' policy, which means if a kid has any symptoms of concussion that can be detected by our sideline assessment or determined by a trainer at the facility or suspicion by a coach … [player] can't return to play or even practice until they've been cleared by a medical professional," said Lomax.

The National Football League has been under fire for its handling of concussions and is now on the verge of stationing a neurologist on the sidelines for each game. It's a response to criticism leveled at the league after the death of Seau.

Former Chargers linebacker Billy Ray Smith calls himself lucky not to have had more concussions during his 10-year playing career.

"It's great to have neurologist on the sidelines, but if you can start teaching kids how to play with their hands and shoulders and not lead with their head, then you're doing a much more positive thing for the game and for the players playing the game," Smith said.

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