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NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Are sports becoming more violent? Athletes are getting bigger and stronger, and studies show athletic-related concussions are on the rise at an alarming rate.
As the NFL tackles the concussion problem, CBS 11 News investigates why some sports medicine experts say North Texas schools are not doing enough to keep children safe. The information we’ve uncovered may cause you to think twice before telling your child to “shake it off” the next time he or she is hurt.
In the last decade, the number of children taken to emergency rooms with sports-related concussions has more than doubled. The danger is forcing young athletes to make some very grownup decisions.
“Football is just something I’ve always been passionate about,” explained Tre Newton, as he walked the football field at the University of Texas in Austin. “That was my dream, you know, to play football for the [Dallas] Cowboys and the NFL.”
Tre watched his father; former Cowboys offensive guard Nate Newton, live out that dream playing in the Super Bowl among the Cowboys’ greats.
“Even though he had experienced other sports, he still just wanted football,” Tre’s mother, Dorothy, said of her son.
But the young man’s goals would come to change and later be a relief to his dad. “After the first concussion, I wanted him out of football,” Nate Newton said.
Tre suffered his first concussion around the age of 12. He didn’t quit playing the game, though. Instead, he charged forward becoming a star running back for Southlake Carroll High School in Southlake. He later received a full scholarship to the University of Texas in Austin, but more hits lead to more concussions.
“I’m like whoa dude, this has got to stop,” Nate said, remembering some of his son’s concussions.
It was November 2010 when Tre took his final hit. He recovered, but made the difficult decision to never play again. “I started learning more about concussions and how they could affect you later on in life,” the 21-year-old recalled. “I really took it to heart and started thinking about it.”
Zackery Lystedt, from Washington state, wasn’t that fortunate. A concussion caused the high school football star to collapse on the field. Today, he needs around the clock care. In 2009, the state of Washington passed the Lystedt Law requiring a doctor’s approval for athletes to return to play following a concussion. A rule like that did not exist in Texas until April 2011.
If Texas is behind, everybody is behind,” said Scott Galloway, member of the National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA) and the head athletic trainer at DeSoto High School.
The American Journal of Sports Medicine reports concussions in high school sports are on the rise. The journal cites that incidents are up 15.5-percent each year.
“Concussions are going to happen,” Galloway said. “It’s a nature of the game. The question becomes, ‘How are you going to handle those?’”
Galloway says every school should have a licensed athletic trainer who can recognize the symptoms of a concussion.
“If you can’t have an athletic trainer there, should you have a game?” CBS 11’s Ginger Allen asked Galloway. “Absolutely not,” he said. “In my opinion, it’s a tragedy for the student athlete.”
According to the Texas State Athletic Trainers’ Association, fewer than 50-percent of Texas schools have a full-time athletic trainer on campus. CBS11 called more than 40 school districts in North Texas and learned that about 30-percent of them, mostly 1A and 2A schools do NOT have full-time athletic trainers on campus.
The districts include Melissa, Grandview, Lipan, Brock, Rio Vista, Tom Bean, Poolville, Itasca, Maypearl, and Van Alstyne.
Most of the 4A and 5A school districts have athletic trainers but two the biggest, Plano and Dallas; don’t have enough trainers for all of their high schools.
Plano has two athletic trainers for each of its three senior high schools – Central, West, and East. Those athletic trainers also service the districts five other high schools. But school district officials said every game has an assigned athletic trainer on the sidelines, at all grade levels.
Meanwhile, DISD officials say they have 10 athletic trainers who cover the district’s 22 high schools. Those 10 athletic trainers cover DISD all events with football taking top priority. The district says it does contract out for more athletic trainers if necessary, but there may be some sports that are not staffed.
Dallas Cowboys’ Dr. Robert Fowler refused to allow an angry Jason Witten to return to a recent game after a concussion.
Dr. Fowler agrees that all schools need a specialist trained to spot the signs. “Have you seen lives change because of concussions?” Ginger Allen asked. “I’ve certainly seen careers shortened, so I think that’s life changing for someone,” answered Fowler.
Texas State Representative Eddie Lucio is now sponsoring one of several bills focusing on the danger. One would require school athletes to take a baseline cognitive test so doctors could compare before and after results if an athlete suffered a head injury.
“This will be able to overcome some of those situations,” Representative Lucio said. “Where you get into long term consequences is when you haven’t fully healed from your first concussion and it’s the second concussion that occurs.”
«««Click Below To See Other Bills Related To Concussions In The Texas State Legislature»»»
Lucio Bill #2 – Football Helmet Safety Requirements In Public Schools
Price Bill #1 – Prevention, Treatment, And Management Of Concussions Affecting Students
Price Bill #2 – Safety Measures For Certain School Extracurricular Activities
But, many experts’ say new rules are only the beginning, and they worry the financial crisis could keep school districts from paying for athletic trainers and medical attention.
“How can you not afford it?” Galloway wondered out loud. “Are we more concerned with trophies or are we more concerned with taking care of kids?”
Meanwhile, in Austin, Tre Newton is still considered a member of the Longhorn team, and continues to carry fond memories of playing for UT. But, it was the thought of the memories he would create – possibly with his own son someday – that allowed him to walk off the field for good.
“I was sad about it. I was down, but I know that God has something better planned for me,” he said.
On the day CBS 11 met with Tre Newton, he had just told his story at a news conference at the state capitol. He’s also been testifying before Congress in support of all legislation that protects student athletes. Tre believes through high school and college football career he received all the medical attention he needed, but worries not all athletes in Texas are that lucky.
Football is not the only sport where concussions are a concern. The American Journal of Sports Medicine studies show football was number one, but girls’ soccer was number two followed by lacrosse.
«««Check Out Other AAP Guidelines on Sports-Related Concussions»»»