Youth sports leagues team up to take on concussions

Hospital visits for concussions in kids shot up 60 percent in the last decade. Rebecca Jarvis and Anthony Mason speak with Dr. Robert Cantu and "CBS This Morning" contributor Lee Woodruff about contact sports and the danger of concussions. Cantu is calling for rules changes in several contact sports to protect youngsters.

Some of the nation's largest youth sports organizations are forming an alliance to tackle concussions.

The National Sports Concussion Coalition will partner with concussion experts and athletic medicine professionals to establish best practices for diagnosing and treating young athletes.

Coalition members also will, among other things, share findings from their sport-specific concussion research, pool financial resources for joint studies and coordinate outreach programs to educate athletes and parents about concussions.

"As is often the case, you're stronger collectively than individually," US Lacrosse chief executive Steve Stenersen said Sunday. "There is understandable concern about this injury nationally. We want to make sure that concern is appropriately addressed but doesn't dissuade kids from playing sports."

Coalition members are the National Council of Youth Sports, Pop Warner Little Scholars, Sports Concussion Institute, US Lacrosse, US Youth Soccer, USA Hockey, American College of Sports Medicine, Amateur Softball Association/USA Softball, USA Basketball, USA Football and the Datalys Center for Sports Injury Research and Prevention.

Coalition partners are the NCAA, NFL, NFL Players Association and National Football Foundation.

The coalition started discussions earlier this year and held a planning session in September. Organizers said its underlying purpose is to enhance participation in sports by providing a safer playing environment.

Organizers said representatives of the coalition and its partners would meet regularly.

Tony Strickland, who heads the Sports Concussion Institute, said as many as 60 million U.S. youngsters play sports. He said it's nearly impossible to determine how many sustain concussions because many go undiagnosed.

The number of sports- and recreation-related emergency room visits for traumatic brain injuries, including concussions, was estimated at 248,418 for people ages 10-19 in 2009, the most recent year data was available, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Overall there were about 2.6 million sports injuries treated in ERs for that age group.

A recent study in Pediatrics found thenumber of kids admitted to emergency rooms for sports-related head injuries has increased by more than 90 percent since 2001.

Studies suggest children need longer recovery times following a concussion, especially repeat concussions.

This March, the American Academy of Neurology released new guidelines for treating sports-related concussions. The Academy emphasized an "if in doubt, sit it out" approach, nothing athletes who have suffered a concussion are at more risk for getting another within 10 days.

Strickland said youth sports have never been safer. He attributes that to growing awareness about the dangers of concussions, better methods of diagnosing and treating concussions and state laws that mandate a young athlete not be allowed to return to play until he or she is cleared by a medical professional.

For as much progress that has been made, Strickland said, a lot remains unknown about the effects of concussions on all people but especially youngsters.

Pop Warner Football executive director Jon Butler said his organization has conducted its own studies on concussions and, as a result, altered rules governing the amount of contact allowed in practices.

Butler said he's certain the other youth sports organizations would value Pop Warner's research, just as he would value theirs.

"The coalition," he said, "will take the research and basically be a library or depository where we can compare notes and establish best practices."