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Neurologists Push for Proactive Response to Concussions

This Monday, the American Academy of Neurology (the largest professional association of it's kind in the United States) recommended that athletes suspected to have suffered a concussion be removed from play immediately. The group also suggested that any player in this situation not be allowed to return until a doctor with specific training in the area of concussions and head injuries had a chance to evaluate him or her.

As Melissa Healy reported yesterday in the Los Angeles Times, the recommendation speaks to a newfound urgency around the issue of concussions and the potential for severe brain injuries in amateur athletic leagues. The academy's official position was revealed only two weeks after the National Football League announced stricter rules around blocking and tackles - levying fines against several players for making helmet-to-helmet tackles.

The Academy of Neurology also asked that a certified athletic trainer be available at every game and practice, if possible. As Healy points out, this would be a dramatic shift from the way in which practice is usually run at the amateur level. Though, to that point, the risk of concussion or head injury can be just as great outside of official game play.

The recommendations come at a crucial point for amateur athletes, specifically those between the ages of eight and 14. According to a study published in the journal Pediatrics, in the five-year period between 2000 and 2005, the number of children who appeared in the emergency room for concussions that occurred during a game or practice more than doubled.

For parents and coaches, it's important to remember just how vulnerable young athletes are on the field.

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