TODAY   |  November 16, 2013

College footballer calls for education on concussions

Concerned parents and youth football organizations are raising awareness about the potential dangers of kids and young adults participating in football. One college student has taken time off to recover from his third concussion, and told TODAY’s Erica Hill what he thinks needs to change.

Share This:

This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> brett favre is one of the greatest football players ever to at that time field in the nfl. so he raised a few eyebrows in an exclusive interview with matt lauer when asked if he would let his own child play football .

>> heck, if i had a son, i would be real leery of him playing. in some respects, i'm almost glad i don't have a son because of the pressures that he would face.

>> favre may not be the only concerned parent. pop warner , which is the largest youth football organization, says participation rates dropped by 10% between 2010 and 2012 . brett is taking this semester off from college so he can recover from his third football concussion and he is with us this morning along with his dad darren. and also with us is a doctor. dr., i want to start with you. i'm sure parents come in and they talk to you about this. people ask you questions. if a parent came to you and said, i'm concerned about the possibility of a concussion or a head injury , should i let my child play football ? what do you say?

>> that's a great question. in my office, i deal with that all the time. i think it's different for every parent and for every kid. you know, i always start that discussion by saying the risk of inactivity is much greater than the risk of any activity. so our biggest problem is people not doing enough. we have a huge problem with obesity but concussions particularly i think the more we learn about this and the more we are learning about it in kids makes us all very cautious and individual decision by parents.

>> what do you do if you have a kid come in with a concussion and do you vise them to go back and when it's safe?

>> the key thing about concussion which is quite different in kids than adults this is the only injury in sports medicine that actually heals slower in kids than adults so we are very careful with kids. we make sure their symptoms are fully better before they get on the field and if they have multiple concussions we talk about trying to find another sport.

>> you've had multiple concussions, brett . you did very well with the sport playing in college. at trinity. you made a decision to leave aafter your third discussion. what happened? how did the last one change your life?

>> i originally got my first concussion this year in august during training camp during the first practice. i went through the process to return to play. you have to be symptom-free for 24 hours and you do certain activities and i came back from my first padded practice after my first concussion and 24 hours i was back to square one being in what i feel full-on concussion land is what i call it.

>> what is that?

>> you are dizzy and piercing migraines and i couldn't leave my room by i had to way sunglasses when i went outside. pretty much my life was on standstill 24/7 in my dorm run.

>> darren, to hear your son talk about what that is like, you're watching that as a dad. is there ever a moment when you said, maybe i shouldn't let him play football ?

>> we certainly reached that moment after going back to school and listening to him and discussing what was going on. me and his mother went back there and really looked at the opportunity to see what we could do the next step. it was an awareness program. we realize the protocol system is good. once you lack symptoms you can get back on the field, but with you were unaware of the next step and that is where we are in the process now and that is healing the brain because the brain needs a total different dynamic to heal.

>> did you think the game, though, needs to change so you don't have to worry so much will healing the brain?

>> i think the game doesn't need to change. i think what needs to happen is the awareness of healing the brain needs to be so much of a bigger effort from youth football through the professional side and that is what happens. these young men and ladies get off the field, whatever sport they are playing, and they are without the tools to teach themselves how to heal the brain after the damage occurs.

>> you say every sport is important. it's not just football this can occur. brett , after what happened to you if your child came to you and said, hey, i want to play football , your answer?

>> it's hard to say because i don't have any kids yet.

>> but knowing what happens, you're thinking down the line or another parent said should i let my kid doing what you're doing?

>> knowing what i do now, kind of what my dad said. it's important to know the steps to recover your brain. as a college -- i played pop warner . all through the years i was trained to be the fastest and the biggest and trained to be the best football player out there and nobody trained me on how to take care of my head. everyone trained me how to ka care of my body and recover my body but nobody taught me how to recover my head after the season. i think if that decision comes around, it's important to kind of educate my kid and maybe the kids around him to recover their brain after the season, do the things that are needed, the steps to be taken.

>> to make that a part of the learning process as