CBS47 has important information about football and the risk of brain injury. A recent report says NFL players are four times as likely as non-NFL players to die from Alzheimer's or Lou Gehrig's disease. But football players at any level, from elementary school to college, can injure their brain.
The effects of repeated head injuries have made headlines recently as several former NFL players have committed suicide. Doctors say concussions can actually be more harmful to children than adults, which is scary news for parents of young football players.
It's a sport that celebrates hard hits. But even with a helmet, the impact can damage the brain. Just ask Robin Hardiman, the mother of a Clovis North High School football player.
“He went for a hit, landed on his face, got up and didn't know where he was. They asked him what day it was, he said Thursday and it was Saturday,” said Dr. Hardiman.
She later learned her son had a concussion. Hardiman is also a doctor, and fearing for her son's safety, she kept him out of the game for three months. Just a year prior, one of her son's teammates, John Lara, suffered a head injury that ended his career and nearly took his life. Dr. Adam Brant, a Fresno neurosurgeon, says concussions are very serious, especially if a second one is suffered before the brain has fully healed from the first.
“That can be a fatal condition,” said Dr. Brant.
He adds that athletes under 18-years-old are at higher risk for concussions and need longer to recover. That's why recognizing the symptoms can be life-saving. An athlete can become disoriented, distracted, lose their memory, and sometimes lose consciousness. He says the warning signs should not be ignored.
“It's a serious issue that's going to potentially effect these kids for their lifetimes, long after their sports careers are over,” said Dr. Brant.
A recent study by U.S. government researchers says retired NFL players are four times more likely to die from Alzheimers and Lou Gehrig's disease, although they couldn't say it was because of repeat concussions. Meanwhile, several former pro football players have committed suicide. Now thousands of players and their families are suing the NFL for concealing the risks of brain injuries.
Back at high school practice, Dr. Hardiman always keeps a close eye on her son. Even though she knows the risks, she also wants her son to be happy playing a game that he loves.
“It's a serious thing. I think parents really need to be careful with their kids,” said Dr. Hardiman.
Recovery time for concussions can vary based on the severity of the injury. It can range from a month to several months. Doctors warn parents not to assume their kids will self-report a possible concussion, since their mentality is usually to always play the next.