The heart rending – and very enlightening – movie “Concussion” recounts the real life story of pathologist Bennet Omalu, who discovered Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disorder affecting football players who have suffered repeated concussions. Read more.

Omalu – played by Will Smith in film – discovered the dangers of concussions in 2002, following the untimely death of Pittsburgh Steelers player Mike Webster. Unfortunately, the problem still prevails. In fact, recent data shows that concussions in the NFL soared by 58% this season – the highest rate in four years of record keeping. Data reveals rise in NFL concussions.

High school football has been under fire as well, with a spate of recent deaths amongst young players.  A recent article in People reported 13 high school and youth deaths this past football season related to the high contact sport. Experts alarmed at high school football deaths.

These tragic deaths heighten the controversy over the inherent risks of playing football – accelerating a heated debate occurring at all levels of the sport.

Interestingly, the injury rates reported for high school football are higher than in college or NFL. The Youth Sports Safety Alliance reveals that high school players suffer concussions at higher rates than their college counterparts, with high school players suffering three times as many catastrophic injuries — including fatalities, permanent disability injuries, fractured necks or serious head injuries, temporary paralysis, or cardiac arrest — as players at the college level. Spotlight on high school football deaths

To help raise awareness and ensure the safety of young athletes, the CDC has launched aHeads up Concussion in Youth Sports Initiative targeting parents, coaches, athletes and school professionals. This initiative provides important information on preventing, recognizing, and responding to a concussion. Program materials outline the symptoms of concussions, danger signs, how to prevent and what to do if you think a child has a concussion. Read more.

Ultimately, this is a life or death issue. Rule changes, education and programs like Heads up may make the game safer – and help  prevent long term, irreversible brain damage. Movie reveals story of CTE.

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