Concussions occur when a blow to the head shakes the brain, resulting in a temporary loss of normal brain function.
A recent study commissioned by the National Football League found that players are 19 times more likely to suffer from dementia and other long term brain ailments than the average person between the ages of 30-49.
However, according to CBS News Medical Correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton, it's not just pro-athletes that have to worry. She says student athletes are actually at greater risk for concussions. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 300,000 students suffer one every year. She said younger student athletes are particularly at risk.
Ashton shared the story of Kevin Saum, who began playing football when he was just 7 years old.
"Football was my life," Saum told Ashton.
However, Saum's football career and dream of playing after high school ended before he could finish his senior season after suffering a concussion.
Saum was the star running back and captain of his high school football team. Then he started getting violent headaches after a game.
He told Ashton, "Every time I was running, I felt like my brain was bouncing in my head."
Despite the headaches and blurred vision, Saum played the following week. Then one hard hit changed everything.
"I went back to the huddle with my buddies and I told them, 'I definitely have a concussion or something, I definitely have a concussion.'"
Saum walked back to the sideline and collapsed. He was air-lifted to a local hospital, where an emergency procedure was performed to relieve the pressure on his brain.
Doctors told him he was extraordinarily lucky to be alive, but would never play again. Saum said he cried when he got the news.
Now a sophomore in college, he wants other athletes to learn from his painful mistakes.
"(The) most important thing is just not be afraid to tell someone," he said. "You're not going to look like a sissy if you tell someone you have a headache. If your head hurts, don't play."
Ashton said that one recent study found that 40 percent of high school students get back on the field too soon after a concussion. She added at least six states are considering laws like the one passed last year in Washington State, which requires an athlete to be removed from the field if a concussion is suspected, and prohibits their return until they receive written medical clearance.
But how can student athletes avoid concussions altogether?
Ashton suggested new upgraded helmets that now have individual shock absorbers in the helmet that act like an airbag to the head during a collision.
"It changes the physics and the vector of movement that your head hits and your skull moves when you're hit," she said. "The best type of prevention is not to get hit in the first place, but absent that, new helmets are making a huge difference."