Thousands attend Indy convention on concussion prevention in football

INDIANAPOLIS - Six thousand football coaches are in Indianapolis this week for a convention, and one of the themes is how to advance youth football safety. Concussion identification and prevention has been at the forefront of the conversation.

The Heads Up Football program focuses on tackling techniques. Twenty-five percent of youth football organizations were registered for the program last year, and that number will grow.

The American Football Coaches Association endorsed a youth football safety program for the first time in its 93-year history. Its executive director says the message to players is straightforward.

"Keep your mind on the game and your head out of it. That's pretty simple,” AFCA Executive Director Grant Teaff said. “Keep your mind in the game and keep your head out of it."

Taking care of players’ heads and reducing and preventing concussions is a concern for parents.

"From a parental standpoint, from a maternal standpoint - every time he got hit I cringed," parent Kim Aurs said.

Her 12-year-old son Logan eventually quit football on his own, not because she forced him to. But in 2012 there was a 6-percent drop in youth participation in football nationwide. That is a concern for youth football.

"There is no such thing as a concussion-resistant helmet,” USA Football executive director Scott Hallenback said. “What we can do is focus on teaching the proper fundamentals and techniques and improve and get coaches certified to improve the entire experience that a kid may participate in."

There may be no concussion-proof helmet, but a firm called Brain Sentry is marketing a sensor that can be placed on helmets to assist in determining players who have suffered concussions.

"They won't admit it. They want to stay in the game,” Brain Sentry CEO Greg Merril said. “The Brain Sentry sensor lets us know which players have experienced the unusually large hits to the head, so we know which players need to be assessed. It takes the ego out of that decision."

To be sure, the sensor is not a brain-injury detector. No sensor can diagnose a concussion; doctors do that.

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