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‘Concussion’ Drawing Head Injury Attention

DANVILLE — A movie coming out this week is drawing even more attention to concerns about head injuries in football, specifically the NFL. The movie “...
School problems in children after concussions

DANVILLE -- A movie coming out this week is drawing even more attention to concerns about head injuries in football, specifically the NFL.

The movie "Concussion" hits theaters on Friday. While its focus in on the pros, we talked with those who deal with athletes on a high school level about their thoughts on the movie, and the big concussion changes they've seen over the years.

"Concussion" profiles a doctor from Pittsburgh who first discovered repeated head injuries lead to a long-lasting brain condition known as CTE. It shows his struggles to convince the NFL.

The movie deals with the pros, but head injury concerns go way beyond that.

"There's no question it's on the forefront in all areas of football and because of that, the game's probably the safest it's ever been," said Southern Columbia head coach Jim Roth.

Coach Roth's Southern Columbia Tigers just won their record seventh state championship on Saturday.

Over the years, Roth has seen dramatic changes in high school football when it comes to head injuries.

Equipment and tackling techniques have improved, and Southern was among the early schools to get athletic trainers

"That's where parents should be put at ease," said Roth. "With trainers in place and all the protocols in place for dealing with and treating head injuries, they're not allowed back in the game."

Roxanna Larsen heads up the team of athletic trainers at Geisinger that work for high schools in our area. She believes the movie bringing attention to concussions is a good thing. She says the more people know about them, the more they look out for them in young athletes.

When it comes to high schools, her trainers have a six-step process before a player can return to play.

"It's a step-wise process to get them back to make sure they're truly ready," Larsen explained. "Just like you would do with someone with a bad ankle sprain, you'd have them run first, can they do that? Have them pivot, can they do that? It's testing the injury making sure they're truly safe to be back on the field."

"I hope kids have enough awareness that, I just can't deny my headache, I can't fake it to my coaches. My teammates will call me out, my coaches will be concerned about my health," said Dr. Matt McElroy, Geisinger Sports Medicine

Dr. McElroy is in sports medicine at Geisinger near Danville. He says more awareness about head injuries means it's tougher for athletes to play on when they're hurt, even though they want to.

"The ones that worry me the most in terms of concussions are the ones who minimize the symptoms. They haven't come to my attention, coaches, or athletic trainer, continue to take hits and continue to play the contact support and then their symptoms get worse with lesser type impact."

Participation in high school football is down nationwide in recent years.

Those we talked with know some parents have concerns about their kids playing, but they do believe it is much safer now, but of course -- like many sports injuries -- are always possible.