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Many High School Athletes Not Reporting Brain Injuries

Tsutomu Takasu

New data from the Utah Department of Health show more than a third of high school students who played all kinds of high school sports, including football, say they had symptoms of a concussion and didn’t report the injury.

In a health department survey given to Utah high school students, one third of athletes said they had symptoms of a concussion but never told anyone. About 16 percent of those surveyed were actually diagnosed with a concussion and removed from the game. Jennifer Johnson is the Violence and Injury Prevention Program coordinator for the health department

“So you can see there is still a disconnect of almost double the number of kids who say that yeah, I probably have a concussion, I should be removed, but I’m not telling anybody versus how many are actually being seen and treated,” Johnson says.

But Johnson says it’s not just kids who aren’t taking these hits seriously.

“You also have coaches that still unfortunately have that old boy, pull yourselves up, your tough kind of mentality and don’t think they’re serious either and may see a hit to the head in a game but don’t realize that it could be devastating to that kid on and off the field,” Johnson says.

Ron Roskos is Executive Director of the Brain Injury Association of Utah.  He says with more than 56,000 Utahns are currently living with the lasting damage of old head injuries; he’d like to see more accountability.

“We don’t want to take the love of the game away,” Roskos says. “I wouldn’t want to get to where we control it, but the kids are getting bigger. They’re getting faster and there is a lot more damage that’s going on to these kids.”

A 2011 Utah Law required schools and sports organizations to remove kids with symptoms of a head injury or concussion from a game or practice until they’ve been cleared by a medical professional. Roskos says these new requirements have met pushback from coaches and parents.

The Brain Injury Association of Utah and KUED Television will be hosting a free screening of Frontline’s League of Denial: The NFL Concussion Crisis on Wednesday, October 30th at 7 pm at the Salt Lake City Library. 

Whittney Evans grew up southern Ohio and has worked in public radio since 2005. She has a communications degree from Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky, where she learned the ropes of reporting, producing and hosting. Whittney moved to Utah in 2009 where she became a reporter, producer and morning host at KCPW. Her reporting ranges from the hyper-local issues affecting Salt Lake City residents, to state-wide issues of national interest. Outside of work, she enjoys playing the guitar and getting to know the breathtaking landscape of the Mountain West.
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