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More than 125 former professional football players have filed a lawsuit against the National Football League and helmet-maker Riddell, claiming the NFL should do more to warn current players about the dangers of head injuries and help retired players who are suffering from them.
But what about teen athletes, whose undeveloped brains are even more at risk?
Schools have been responding with new testing and training procedures, and state lawmakers are passing new laws to protect student athletes. But that wasn’t enough to help 16-year-old high school defensive tackle Ridge Barden, who collapsed during a game earlier this month and died within hours from a brain bleed.
He was wearing a Riddell helmet and his coaches pored over every play Barden was in and couldn’t find a hard hit or tackle.
He showed no evidence of a previous concussion and he didn’t have a history of head trauma, though he did tell his coach he’d had a helmet-to-helmet hit during the game. Experts think he likely had had a previous concussion but didn’t know it, and then suffered from something called “second impact syndrome.”
According to the website sportsmd, second impact syndrome, or SIS, “occurs when an athlete returns to sport too early after suffering from an initial concussion. The athlete does not need to receive a strong second blow to the head to set the effects in motion. The athlete may receive only a minor blow to the head or a hit to the chest or back that snaps the head enough to have the brain rebound inside the skull.”
Dr. Donald Phykitt, director of sports medicine at the Guthrie Clinic in Sayre, Pennsylvania, says you can have a concussion without losing consciousness, and that symptoms of a brain injury sometimes aren’t picked up in a normal doctor’s exam or a CAT scan. Phykitt says often the best way to recover from a concussion is total rest.