Woolsey sponsors forum on concussions

August 31, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
A helmet-to-helmet collision is being blamed for the death of a 22-year-old Maryland college football player. Fullback Derek Sheely died Sunday after taking a hit during practice last week. The cause of Sheely's death is unclear, but his father suspects a brain injury is to blame.

Former Marin Catholic pitcher Gunnar Sandberg was seriously injured when he was hit in the head by a line drive last year. On Wednesday night, Sandberg appeared at a forum on sports concussions.

"I'm really lucky that I'm here to be able to be here and to talk about this," said Gunnar Sandberg.

It was a line drive to the head that put high school pitcher Sandberg in a life-threatening coma for nearly a month.

"One thing that really hinders me is my short-term memory loss," said Sandberg.

"The CDC estimates that MTBI, mild traumatic brain injury, or concussion to young athletes may be as high as one to two million incidents per year," said Eric Freitag, PsyD.

The forum, sponsored by Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Santa Rosa, is helping parents and coaches recognize and treat the effects of a sports related concussion. Parker Trahan, 15, had five concussions and his coaches never recognized it.

"I had the same pounding headache, the same dizziness, the same disorientation, and I didn't want to tell anyone because I wanted to finish the game, I wanted to continue playing lacrosse," said Trahan.

The Southern Marin Youth Football League is taking the lead on this issue, but the word about concussions in young athletes is spreading slowly.

"You guys protect yourself at all times. How do you do that? Eyes up, when the guy comes at your knees, shove them down to the ground," said Southern Marin Youth Football coach Steve Moreno to his players.

"Kids will put their heads down, either as the weapon, or some other team will come with their head down as a weapon, and we see a lot of that," said Moreno.

Former Cal and San Francisco 49er offensive lineman Ben Lynch believes brain trauma is causing early Alzheimer's, even suicide amongst fellow professional football players.

"And right now I think the NFL is setting a poor example in terms of concussions and returning to play guidelines," said Lynch.

Now he's hoping a new bill will get the ball rolling.

Woolsey is sponsoring HR 469, a bill that would train school personnel and students to recognize and treat a concussion.


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