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Doctors Hope To Gain Insights Into Concussions While Some Schools Take Pandemic Break From Contact Sports

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Take a doodle of your noodle. Sounds like a board game, but it's actually the concept behind an Illinois-based company that treats many student athletes for concussions.

CBS 2 Morning Insider Lauren Victory takes us inside the technology, and shows us some of the strides made in head injury research this fall, even with several players forced to stay off the field.

Just like that, high school football came and went in Indiana this fall. Come this weekend, a state champion will be crowned.

As play ends, the work begins for Dr. Wellington Hsu, professor of orthopaedic surgery at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, who is studying high school reports of concussions from across the U.S.

"We were one of the first groups to show that there are other sports that have perhaps even a greater risk than football," Hsu said.

Like girls' soccer.

Also surprising, rates of head injuries for teens are climbing, despite increased awareness of concussion risks in various contact sports.

Hsu presented his concussion research to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons earlier this year.

CBS 2 wanted to know what happens to concussion analysis now that many student athletes are sidelined.

COVID-19 cancelled or postponed some sports seasons this year, so how will Hsu handle 2020 in future research?

"The lower sample size you have, the fewer conclusions you can make," Hsu said.

Still, empty fields in Illinois could help future concussion prevention and treatment, when used as a comparison to areas that did allow contact sports this fall.

"Certain injuries may be higher because of a reason we never even thought of. Like, maybe it's the quality of the turf, or the training program, the fact that they can play year-round," Hsu said.

Neuropsychologist Dr. Laura Jansons is also looking beyond 2020. Young athletes come to her Buffalo Grove company, NeuroNoodle, for a brain map.

"There's blue areas there denoting that, yeah, the tissue has been hurt," she said.

She hopes scans like this become as common as an annual sports physical.

"It's a picture of what your brain looks like before the season; kind of what areas are doing what," she said.

The scans also show what spots may need attention after games are done.

It might be an unusual year for sports, but both doctors hope to make a dent in tackling a problem that will still be here in 2021.

"There could be a silver lining," Hsu said.

Hsu says the COVID-forced year off from sports is good for some athletes, whose noggins need to heal. Students who already suffered a brain injury could benefit from the rest.

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