Health: Local, Teenage Hockey Player Takes Own Life, Parents Now Raising Awareness
By Stephanie Stahl
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- The White House is holding a summit on concussions later this month, and a Bucks County family is hoping to raise awareness about the danger, after what they say caused a tragic ending for their family.
Health Reporter Stephanie Stahl shares the family's emotional story, and how they're hoping to prevent this from happening again.
Seventeen-year-old Alexander Thomas is described as a funny, well loved, good kid. He had everything going for him, including playing hockey at a high level, but last October he took his own life.
"It was devastating, it's just the most devastating news that anybody can get," said Cathy Thomas, Alexander's mother.
"I miss him every day, every moment. Think about him every day," said Graham Thomas, Alexander's father.
His parents believe years of being hit in the head during sports may be to blame. He had been diagnosed with a concussion shortly before he died.
"There's growing evidence that even without a formal diagnosis of a concussion that there can be cumulative damage to the brain," said Dr. Brian Kucer, the Co-Director of Magee Rehabilitation Hospital's Concussion Clinic. He never treated Alexander. He says studies show brain injury can affect people physically, mentally and emotionally.
Alexander was being treated for depression.
"The thought is that with repeated blows you may have changes in your neurotransmitter levels, which can lead to depression and then eventually perhaps suicidality," said Dr. Kucer.
The Thomas' have established The Untold Foundation to raise awareness about the potential danger of head injuries, even when they seem insignificant.
"It's okay to sit out. You don't have to get back to the sport right away. You need to take time to heal your body," said Cathy.
For now they remember the good times with their son, and hope by raising awareness other families won't have to suffer like they did.
"We want the culture of sports to change," said Graham.
President Obama announced the White House will hold a Sports Concussion Summit in late May to raise awareness about concussions.
This fall, The Untold Foundation plans on teaming up with the University of Pennsylvania to start a new education program targeting young local athletes.
The foundation's first fundraiser is Saturday morning, a 5K walk. They are accepting walk ups.
For more information on the foundation, visit: http://www.theuntoldfoundation.org/
For more information on Magee Rehabilitation Hospital's Concussion Center, visit: http://www.mageerehab.org/page.php?id=1112
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