WASHINGTON (AP) — Concerned that too little is known about the effects of head injuries in young athletes, President Barack Obama is bringing representatives of professional sports leagues, coaches, parents, youth sports players, researchers and others to the White House to help educate the public about youth sports concussions.
Tackling the issue at a White House summit Thursday, Obama also will highlight pledges of money and other support from the NFL, the National Institutes of Health, the Pop Warner Little Scholars and others to do the research, promote safety and speed development of materials designed to provide better protection.
Obama comes to the issue through his well-documented love of sports, and as the father of two daughters active in sports. The president thinks sports are also a good way to keep kids healthy and out of trouble, but he raised some eyebrows last year by saying he would “have to think long and hard” before letting a son, if he had one, play football because of the risk of head injuries.
“He, as a parent, is concerned about the safety of his own daughters,” said White House communications director Jennifer Palmieri, one of several officials who previewed the White House Healthy Kids & Safe Sports Concussion Summit for reporters.
In a report last fall, the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council called for a national system to track sports-related concussions and begin answering questions about the risks of youth sports, such as how often do the youngest athletes suffer concussions or which sports have the highest rates.
A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury that can be caused by a blow to the head. Concussions also can be caused by body blows that cause the brain to bounce around or twist inside the skull. Nearly 250,000 kids visit hospital emergency rooms each year with brain injuries caused by sports or other recreational activity, the White House said.
The pledges Obama will announce Thursday are designed to start gathering the needed data.
Among the largest commitments, the NCAA and the Defense Department are launching a $30 million effort to produce research on concussion risks, treatment and management. Concussions and other types of brain injuries are an issue for U.S. service members too. Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army chief of staff, was to participate in the summit.
The National Football League is committing $25 million over the next three years to promote youth sports safety.