Obama: when it comes to head injuries in sports, don't just 'suck it up'

Thu May 29, 2014 3:10pm EDT
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By Susan Heavey

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama said on Thursday more effort is needed to prevent concussions in young athletes, including greater awareness of the severity of head injuries, which are too often dismissed as headaches instead of serious brain trauma.

Obama, speaking at a White House conference highlighting the risks of concussions to young athletes, called for more research, improved safety equipment and better protocols.

"We've got to have every parent and coach and teacher recognize the signs of concussions, and we need more athletes to understand how important it is to do what we can to prevent injuries - and to admit them when they do have them," he said.

"We have to change that culture that says, 'You suck it up'" and play through the pain, Obama said.

Brain injuries, long a concern for the military, are increasingly receiving attention in sports leagues, not only among professional athletes but also youth players. Concerns have spread beyond violent contact sports such as football and hockey to soccer and even cheerleading.

As many as 250,000 youths each year are treated in hospitals for sports-related concussions and other injuries, according to the latest figures from U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has launched its own campaign on the issue.

The event at the White House, peppered with former athletes, representatives of major U.S. sports leagues and health experts, aimed to use Obama's office to draw attention to avoiding and treating sports-related head injuries.

Concussions often first appear with headache-like symptoms and can cause memory problems, confusion, nausea and dizziness, and repeated concussions can cause longer-term problems. Researchers are increasingly looking at repeated minor injuries, not just major head blows.   Continued...

U.S. President Barack Obama is introduced by Victoria Belluci of Huntington, Md.(L) at the White House Healthy Kids & Safe Sports Concussion Summit while in the East Room of the White House in Washington, May 29, 2014. REUTERS/Larry Downing