WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama, who has said he would “have to think long and hard” before letting a son play football because of the risk of head injuries, is planning a summit this month on youth sports safety and concussions.
The White House announced the May 29 conference Thursday and said it will include athletes, parents, coaches, experts and other interested parties. Obama’s aides said the White House Healthy Kids & Safe Sports Concussion Summit will bring new commitments from the public and private sectors to research sports-related concussions and to raise awareness on how to identify, treat and prevent them.
The White House said Obama, as a parent and a sports fan, appreciates the role that sports play in young people’s lives and is committed to helping ensure that children continue to play safely.
Obama said in a 2013 interview with the New Republic that football may need to change to prevent injuries.
“I’m a big football fan, but I have to tell you if I had a son, I’d have to think long and hard before I let him play football,” Obama said. “And I think that those of us who love the sport are going to have to wrestle with the fact that it will probably change gradually to try to reduce some of the violence. In some cases, that may make it a little bit less exciting, but it will be a whole lot better for the players, and those of us who are fans maybe won’t have to examine our consciences quite as much.”
Obama said he worries more about college players than professionals.
“NFL players have a union, they’re grown men, they can make some of these decisions on their own, and most of them are well-compensated for the violence they do to their bodies,” Obama said. “You read some of these stories about college players who undergo some of these same problems with concussions and so forth and then have nothing to fall back on. That’s something that I’d like to see the NCAA think about.”
The NFL has agreed to pay $765 million to settle concussion claims from thousands of former players whose complaints range from headaches to Alzheimer’s disease. That settlement is still awaiting a judge’s approval, while a group of former professional hockey players have filed their own class action lawsuit against the National Hockey League for head injuries sustained on the ice.
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