WI -- There has been a lot of buzz about concussions and football lately. In a recent interview, Brett Favre said he suffers from memory loss and he wouldn't let his own son play football because of the potential for brain damage.
Time off and rest are the best ways to treat concussions, but there are ways to avoid them. A leading expert at the Medical College of Wisconsin is working with the NFL. He's hoping some cutting edge science holds the key, or at least some new clues.
Players hit the field every game, ready to play. Rose Pridgeon is running back Michael's mom. She says she feels every hit he takes and moves from the edge of her seat, ready to go down to the field just in case. Michael is only in 7th grade and he's already had three concussions. As a result, he's had terrible headaches and even missed classes. Rose doesn't want him to quit football because he likes it, but even Michael knows concussions are a serious matter. "I'm scared because if I get a really bad concussion, I can never play sports again," he says.
For his mom, it's about more than just sports. She worries about the rest of his life. "When they come home and say 'Mom I have a broken bone.' I would take that over a concussion any day," she says.
"The great unknown right now is what are the potential long-term or mid-life risks," says Dr. Michael McCrea, a neurologist with the Medical College of Wisconsin.
Dr. McCrea works with the NFL's Head, Neck, and Spine Committee and he knows when it comes to the brain, there are still a lot of questions. "When an athlete has achieved a complete symptom recovery, they're performing normal on all our objective tests, are we certain that the brain has returned to completely normal function and there is now more window of risk?" he questions.
His mission is to turn that speculation into science. He puts sensors on college athletes, like Carthage College football players, to record all hits to the head. "Is it about how much total force, how much total exposure or how many hits they sustain during their participation?" he wants to know.
And in crunching the data, he's already found some interesting results. "In a number of cases, that injury event is preceded by one or multiple impacts of even greater magnitude. It's more about a series of events instead of one single event."
"I think we're going to see football change significantly," says Carthage College Head Athletic Trainer Jacob Dinauer.
Dinauer says he welcomes the study because people like Dr. McCrea are setting the guidelines for treating injuries. "There's just so many things that we don't understand and this helps sort of answer some of those questions," Dinauer says.
The Raiders went home happy from their game that night because they won. Rose is happy for another reason, "Michael got home and said, 'Mom, everything on my body hurts but my head.' And I said yes! I'll take that!"
Dr. McCrea's study is on-going. We will keep you posted as the results get released. And in case you're wondering, Dr. McCrea is a parents and yes, he would let his son play football.