SBD/May 30, 2014/Sports in Society

White House Summit On Sports Concussions Urges Culture Change, More Research

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Obama's panelists included LaVar Arrington (l) and Taylor Twellman (2nd from l)
President Obama on Thursday said that the culture of American sports "must shift to cope with the danger posed by concussions, even as he urged young players to stay on the field," according to Juliet Eilperin of the WASHINGTON POST. Obama, speaking at a White House summit on concussions in sports, said, "We want our kids participating in sports. I’d be much more troubled if young people were shying away from sports." Eilperin notes the conference "featured a panel discussion by experts and new financial commitments by the federal government and private sector to fund research into concussions." The pledges included a $10M grant by NFL Giants Chair & Exec VP Steve Tisch to the UCLA School of Medicine’s neurosurgery department. Obama: "We have to change a culture that says, 'You’ve got to suck it up'" (WASHINGTON POST, 5/30). In N.Y., Juliet Macur writes, "This wasn’t the NFL putting out a news release; this was shoving the issue of concussions into the public conversation on the biggest stage possible." Watching all the "pomp, it was hard to ignore that an event billed to be a huge advance in concussion research was actually heartbreaking." At least Tisch "is doing something," which "can't necessarily be said for the owners of the other 31 teams" in the NFL (N.Y. TIMES, 5/30). Obama said, "When I was young and played football briefly, there were a couple times where I'm sure that that ringing sensation in my head and the needing to sit down for a while might have been a mild concussion, and at the time you didn't think anything of it." He added that a "crucial part" of the effort to reduce concussions is "filling in the gaps in concussion research" (THEHILL.com, 5/29).

FACE THE ISSUE HEAD-ON: USA TODAY's Christine Brennan writes, "President Obama brought the conversation about head injuries in sports, especially among the young, to a new and urgent level." To "illustrate the point, the White House didn't choose an NFL star" to introduce Obama, but a recent DC-area high school soccer graduate. Tori Bellucci was "a standout soccer player at Huntingtown High School near Washington, D.C., until she gave up the game and turned down a college scholarship at Towson after suffering her fifth concussion" (USA TODAY, 5/30). The AP's Darlene Superville wrote the summit "signaled an effort by Obama to use the power of the presidency to elevate a national conversation over youth concussions." The White House "brought together representatives of professional sports leagues, coaches, parents, young athletes, medical professionals and others for the event" (AP, 5/29). In N.Y. Shear & Belson write the event "highlighted how quickly the problem has turned into a mainstream cause and how uncomfortable the NFL’s role is as the conversation escalates." NFL officials and others in the sport "are increasingly confronting how to make their games safer." However, in "doing so, they risk alarming the athletes, their families and fans." Obama "waded gingerly into a beloved part of daily life that he said is 'fundamental to who we are as Americans and our culture'" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/30).

RAISING MONEY & AWARENESS: In Indianapolis, Shari Rudavsky notes a new $30M grant from the U.S. Department of Defense and the NCAA "will allow the Indiana University School of Medicine and two other schools to collaborate on the largest ever research initiative on concussions." Over the course of three years, more than 37,000 student athletes from 30 NCAA schools and four military academies "will participate in the initiative that researchers hope will shed light on concussion injuries and help change the culture around concussion reporting and management." Obama announced the initiative on Thursday (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 5/30). Meanwhile, in Providence, Mark Daniels notes New England-area moms on Thursday "got a lesson in football safety" led by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, Patriots Owner Robert Kraft and several Pats players. Over 100 mothers "came to Foxboro’s Dana-Farber Field House to take part in the 'Moms Football Safety Clinic.'" Goodell "spoke to the group about the sport and safety of football before several Patriots took them through drills." Afterward, Goodell and Kraft "spoke about improving the safety of the game and the ever-growing concerns about concussions." Goodell: "It’s part of our responsibility to make the game safer not only at the NFL level, to protect our players. But also every other level of football, and frankly, sports in general. Because this is not just a football issue" (PROVIDENCE JOURNAL, 5/30). ESPN.com's Mike Reiss noted the event "drew about 275 mothers" from the New England region. This "marked the fifth league-sponsored football clinic targeted to mothers that Goodell has attended" (ESPN.com, 5/30).
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