Community Learning Series panel to discuss concussion in youth sports

Sharon Moskowitz
Sharon Moskowitz

Sharon Moskowitz, a NIU graduate student and life-long athlete, suffered her first concussion at 15, the result of a particularly aggressive foul during a high school basketball game.

Moskowitz’s opponent hit her so hard that it broke her nose and knocked her out for a few moments. Her coach benched Moskowitz for a month – not because of the concussion but because of the broken nose. At the time, athletes were expected to shake it off after having “their bell rung.”

Since then, Moskowitz has suffered as many as eight concussions, most recently from a ski-boarding accident that left her stuttering for a month afterward.

“Awareness of traumatic brain injury was almost non-existent while I was growing up and in college,” she said.

But that awareness is growing.

Publicity surrounding brain damage among retired professional football players and research into the long-term effects of head injuries among young athletes have left parents wondering about their child’s safety on the field and prompted lawmakers nationwide to pass new laws regarding concussion in youth sports.

The NIU College of Education’s Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education will address these issues from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 22, during a panel discussion on “Concussion and Youth Sport.”

The event is free and open to the public.

Panelists will include medical doctors, policy makers, researchers and others associated with youth sports who will provide information about the effects that concussions have on young and developing brains, as well as details of the Youth Sports Concussion Safety Act that goes into effect at schools across Illinois this fall. Moskowitz also will be on hand to share her own experiences with concussion.

Paul Wright
Paul Wright

NIU professor Paul M. Wright will moderate the panel.

Wright oversees a multi-disciplinary group known as the Physical Activity and Life Skills Group. That group combines expertise from NIU’s programs in kinesiology, psychology, speech and language pathologists and public health. Together they work with organizations like the YMCA and youth sport leagues to promote positive youth development through sports, and to ensure that the well-being of athletes is always at the forefront.

“I think the most important thing the science has shown us is that concussions, even sub-concussive events like heading the ball in soccer, have more serious consequences for young athletes than we thought just 10 years ago,” he said. “That the practice for decades has been to tell the injured participant to shake it off and get back in the game has only compounded the problem.”

A 2013 report released by the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council examined concussions in a variety of youth sports with athletes aged 5 to 21.

Among the findings:

  • The reported number of individuals age 19 and younger treated in U.S. emergency departments for concussions and other non-fatal, sports- and recreation-related traumatic brain injuries increased from 150,000 in 2001 to 250,000 in 2009.
  • Football, ice hockey, lacrosse, wrestling, and soccer are associated with the highest rates of reported concussions for U.S. male athletes at the high school and college levels.
  • Soccer, lacrosse and basketball are associated with the highest rates of reported concussions for U.S. female athletes at the high school and college levels.  Women’s ice hockey at the collegiate level has the highest rate of reported concussions.
  • Youths with a history of prior concussion have higher rates of reported sports-related concussions.

“NIU is hosting the panel to bring together an array of experts in the field of youth sports and concussion to answer questions that parents, school administrators, nurses, coaches and others involved with youth sports have about concussions and the new law,” Wright said.

The event takes place at the Barsema Alumni and Visitors Center, 231 N. Annie Glidden Road. A reception with light hors d’oeuvres begins at 5 p.m.

For more information, contact Wright at (815) 753-9219 or pwright@niu.edu.

Photo of a basketballPanelists

  • Cynthia LaBella, M.D.
    Medical Director, Institute for Sports Medicine
    Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago
  • Jeff Mjannes, M.D.
    Director, Chicago Sports Concussion Clinic
    Rush University Medical Center
  • Matt Wilson, Ph.D.
    Assistant Professor, School of Allied Health and Communicative Disorders
    Northern Illinois University
  • Adam Potteiger, MS, ATC
    Certified Athletic Trainer, Division of Orthopedic Surgery and Sports Medicine
    Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago
  • Thomas Kim
    Principal, coach and former high school athletic director
    Huntley Middle School
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