Concussions in NFL, Youth Sports Earn Attention from Media, Government, Coalition

A number of the nation’s most prominent youth sports organizations announced this week that they will be partnering with concussion specialists, sports medicine professionals and leaders at other levels of sports to create an unprecedented coalition to focused on concussions among young athletes.

The announcement comes the same week as a major report on the NFL’s two decades of denial of a connection between football and brain injury, aired on Public Broadcasting System (PBS) stations across the country, including in Connecticut, as part of the investigative “Frontline” series.

The National Sports Concussion Coalition expects to be "the most comprehensive alliance of its kind", with science and medical leaders in the fields of concussions, brain injHeads-Up-Concussion-In-Youth-Sports-CDCury and sports medicine working directly with a cross-section of organizations and governing bodies that represent millions of athletes across major organized sports in the United States. The partnership aims to share data and identify best safety practices that can assist in coaching, playing and officiating across sports.

To help ensure the health and safety of young athletes, this past spring the federal government's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention developed the Heads Up: Concussion in Youth Sports initiative to offer information about concussions to coaches, parents, and athletes involved in youth sports. The  initiative provides important information on preventing, recognizing, and responding to a concussion.  A series of fact sheets and an informational video for players, coaches and families are available on the CDC website,

The founding youth sports and medical members of the newly formed coalition include the National Council of Youth Sports (NCYS), Pop Warner Little Scholars, Sports Concussion Institute (SCI), US Lacrosse, US Youth Soccer, USA Hockey, American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), Amateur Softball Association/USA Softball, USA Basketball, USA Football and the Datalys Center for Sports Injury Research and Prevention. Coalition partners at the professional, college and foundation levels include the NCAA, NFL, NFLPA and National Football Foundation.

Connecticut Law

Just two weeks ago, Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy and Attorney General George Jepsen issued a news release reminding student athletes, parents and coaches that head injuries and concussions are serious and that Connecticut law requires students who suffer a blow to the head or receive a concussion diagnosis to sit out games and practices until cleared by a licensed medical professional.

“A concussion is a very serious injury, and an athlete who has suffered a concussion needs time to heal,” said Attorney General Jepsen. “While proper use of helmets and protective equipment is important, it’s critical to remember that no helmet can fully prevent a concussion. Preventing head injuries by limiting contact is key. Parents, athletes and coaches should educate themselves in order to recognize the signs of injury and prevent concussions in youth sports.”frontline

Under Connecticut law, anyone who has a state-issued coaching permit and who coaches intramural or interscholastic athletics must be periodically trained in how to recognize and respond to head injuries and concussions. State law also requires coaches to take a student athlete out of any game or practice if the athlete shows signs of having suffered a concussion after an observed or suspected blow to the head or if the athlete is diagnosed with a concussion. Coaches must keep athletes out of games and practices until receiving written clearance from a licensed medical professional.  Connecticut's youth sports concussion safety law was signed on May 18, 2010 by Governor M. Jodi Rell, and the state was among the first in the nation to enact a comprehensive policy.

 “Sports have the power to change the lives of millions of young people in this country by encouraging a physically active lifestyle and by teaching lifelong lessons. We want to make sure no child loses that opportunity due to fear of injury,” said Jon Butler, executive director of Pop Warner Little Scholars. “By coming together in this very important fight against concussions we believe our collective efforts will transcend our individual sports and benefit everyone.”

"The NCAA is committed to broad concussion education outreach, and to research that will identify objective biomarkers and sound management guidelines. We are excited about our partnership in this important alliance," said Brian Hainline, M.D., chief medical officer of the NCAA.

Documentary Production

The PBS program “League in Denial” began as a joint effort between PBS and the ESPN program “Outside the Lines,” announced in 2012.  Earlier this year, ESPN removed itself from the collaborative endeavor.

In a statement at the time, the network said “Because ESPN is neither producing nor exercising editorial control over the Frontline documentaries, there will be no co-branding involving ESPN on the documentaries or their marketing materials. The use of ESPN's marks could incorrectly imply that we have editorial control. As we have in the past, we will continue to cover the concussion story through our own reporting.”

The Bristol-based sports network has initiated major stories on the concussion issue in recent years, and ESPN reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru have written a book – published this week - about football and brain injuries -- "League of Denial: The NFL, Concussions and the Battle for Truth," and are prominently featured in the PBS program.