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Concussion Screenings Now Common For Young Athletes

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FRISCO (CBSDFW.COM) – Many young athletes are preparing to hit the gridiron next week, and parents want to ensure they’re protected properly.

“It’s a little scary when you see this huge child coming and he wants to crush your child,” said Ashley Finlinson about her 7-year-old son, Cal.

Tackle football starts this season for the Bulldogs 7U team in the Frisco Football League.

Finlinson is one of a growing number of parents taking an extra step to protect their young athletes from developing a serious brain injury in the future.

Before the Finlinson boys hit the practice field in Frisco Tuesday night, their parents took them to the Ben Hogan Concussion Center at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Plano.

There, Cal and his ten-year-old brother, Sam, took baseline concussion screening tests.

“A baseline is a great tool if you can get it. It’s very easy to do, doesn’t take very long. But it’s your way to say, this is who I am. This is me,” said Jonathan Hancock, an athletic trainer at the concussion center.

Hancock said in the last couple of years, he’s seen an uptick in the number of parents having their children screened at the Ben Hogan Concussion Center.

“Once the NFL acknowledged that concussions are real, and that their former players and current players are suffering from them, that really reinforced what we’ve in the community side, been trying to do for a long time,” said Hancock.

The screening test establishes a record of a child’s healthy brain at the time of the test. It serves as a basis for comparison should they suffer a concussion in the future. But baseline concussion tests aren’t mandated for young athletes. It’s a parental choice, one coach Jeremy Finlinson encourages.

“I think it’s definitely been a positive part of raising awareness so that we can get better equipment, better training, and ultimately protect the boys,” said coach Finlinson.

The Finlinson’s said they view the tests as yet another layer of padding so-to-speak between their children and serious injury.

“In case something does happen, I wanted to make sure they had the best care we could possibly give them,” said Ashley Finlinson.

The director of player safety for the Frisco Football League says baseline testing is more common when players hit middle school age. Because it’s a cognative test, Jim Swieter says it can be tough to get an accurate reading on young kids. But researchers are working to come up with a balance component to the baseline test– a tangible measurement for screening children under age ten.

Swieter says youth leagues have become more cognizant of brain injury and are taking steps to further protect against it each season. For example, the Frisco Football League also has athletics trainers on site at games. Coaches are also trained in identifying signs of concussion, and abide by the decree, “when in doubt, sit them out”. Athletes who show signs of concussion must sit out at least two weeks, and return only when cleared by a doctor.

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