Concussions from football still a health concern

Posted at 5:21 PM, Feb 04, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-05 00:38:13-05

The week before the Super Bowl has Americans buzzing.

For most people, the game is made up of blocking, tackling, extra points and touchdowns.

However, for sports medicine professionals at St. Luke’s Hospital watching the game, they focus on the injuries and potential long term effects of head trauma.

The department is so concerned it held a special screening of the Will Smith movie, “Concussion” with a panel discussion with local experts.

“We want to provide a framework for people to interpret what they’re seeing in the movie,” Dr. Kurt Neilson explained.

6 On Your Side first talked to Dr. Neilson over a year ago when Don Nelson took his son in for a baseline impact test after playing football.

Don is like many Idaho parents who are concerned about the potential damage that can occur during youth football if safety protocols are not followed or broken.

Kirsten West is a local mom who has four boys who play youth football.

Her son Trace, who although loves the game, hasn’t escaped heavy hits.

“I got hit so hard in the head that I started seeing stars and stuff,” he said.

Former Green Bay Packer Jerry Kramer can relate to the head trauma that he occurred during his legendary era in the NFL.

Kramer, who talked to 6 On Your Side last year, is no stranger to the confusion that can occur when getting hit in the head.

“I had a number of concussions, Don, and I remember against the Rams I got kicked in the head.  I didn’t know where I was or didn’t know what I was doing. I knew I was playing football but I couldn’t remember who against or what the score was,” Kramer said.

When asked what Kramer thought of the movie “Concussion” he simply stated, “I thought it was very accurate.”

Kramer still battles with memory issues to this day.

“I have moments when my memory slips and slides a little bit and I go.  Is this it?”

Despite the national dialogue surrounding concussions and the game, Kramer wanted to emphasize the game can be good for teenagers in regards to preparation, commitment and discipline.

“Football by nature is a collision sport.  It’s dangerous but there are ways to mitigate and minimize the risk,” Kramer said.

Ultimately, experts want parents to be aware of the symptoms of a bad concussion and want families who are concerned to take their teens into testing centers.  Simply put, if you have a concussion, don’t play.

When asked about ways to reduce concussions, Rocky Mountain High School football coach Scott Criner said his coaching staff is constantly updating their practice methods to reduce the number of direct heads on a helmet.

Both defensive and offensive coaches are teaching their team how to block and tackle differently than in years past to reduce hits on the head.

For more information about concussion risk, visit here.

For more information on St. Luke's sport medicine program, visit here.