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Protecting Brains of Young Football Players

  • Published: 2011-03-22 : Author: Kessler Foundation
  • Synopsis: The concussion rate for young athletes has doubled in the past decade.

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A bipartisan bill aimed at decreasing the concussion rate in youth and high school football players by improving helmet safety was introduced to Congress on Wednesday, in recognition of Brain Injury Awareness Day.

Senator Tom Udall (D NM) and Congressman Bill Pascrell (D NJ) sponsored the bill, which would give companies that make football helmets for youth and high school athletes nine months to improve helmet safety standards. If they fail to do so, the Consumer Product Safety Commission would be required to set standards. The bill would also enforce stricter penalties for companies that make false safety claims.

At a press conference with the bill sponsors, Nancy Chiaravalloti, PhD, Director of Neuroscience Research at Kessler Foundation in West Orange, N.J., explained the medical implications of concussions: "Concussions are brain injuries that impact the brain permanently...with every concussion, you are weakening the connections in the brain. Repeat concussions increase the risk of mild cognitive impairment [problems with thinking, learning and memory] and depression later in life, as well as illnesses such as Alzheimer's Disease."

Rep. Pascrell, co-founder and co-chair of the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force, said, "We want our children to be active and athletic, but in the safest possible circumstances right down to the helmets they put on their heads. This bill is the logical next step in Congress' effort to protect our young athletes from brain injuries." In September, the U.S. House of Representatives passed Rep. Pascrell's Concussion Treatment and Care Tools Act, which calls for national protocols to be established for the management of sports-related concussions.

A concussion is caused by a blow or jolt to the head. The concussion rate for young athletes has doubled in the past decade. According to WebMD, 40% of the approximately 250,000 sports-related head injury cases seen in the emergency room between 2001 and 2005 were children, ages 8-13 years.

A study by the National Association of Injury Prevention, released in January 2011, reported that 47% of high school football players endure a concussion in one season while 35% have multiple concussions in a season. Approximately 85% of concussions, however, remain undetected.

Kessler Foundation Research Center conducts groundbreaking research, examining the medical, rehabilitation, cognitive and functional problems associated with acquired brain injury and related conditions.

About Kessler Foundation - Kessler Foundation strives to be a leader in rehabilitation research and grant making. The Foundation's mission is to improve quality of life for people with physical and/or cognitive disabilities through discovery, innovation, demonstration, application, and dissemination. Kessler Foundation Research Center conducts research that improves function and quality of life for persons with injuries of the spinal cord and brain, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and other chronic neurological and orthopedic conditions. Expanding employment is the main objective of the Foundation's grant-making program. Kessler Foundation is unique among public charities in its focus on programs and initiatives that help people with disabilities enter the workforce. The Foundation has provided more than $20 million in funding to a variety of employment-related projects that are benefiting veterans, young adults, students and others who are dealing with physical and cognitive disabilities. Preventing disability is the focus of a Foundation's Special Initiative Grant that supports 'ThinkFirst', an injury prevention program aimed at children and teens. Kessler Foundation's fundamental strategy is to link science and grantsmanship so that people with disabilities can lead more productive, independent and fulfilling lives. For more information, visit


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