Doctors work to minimize concussion effects

LOS ANGELES It may be summer vacation, but the members of the Servite High School football team in Orange County aren't taking a break.

These reigning state champions take the game and their safety seriously. Head injuries are a big concern. Players are undergoing baseline testing to assess their overall brain function.

"So if they do get injured during the year we will have this baseline test that we can compare them to after the injury occurs," said principal Mike Brennon.

Football, like soccer and water polo, is a contact sport. UC Irvine researchers estimate more than 4,000 Orange County athletes get a concussion every year.

"The brain is changing especially in student athletes. We know that the brain is continuing to make connections and to grow, and insults that occur to the brain can put that student at risk," said UCI neuropsychologist David Franklin.

Dr. Franklin has performed this testing on professional hockey players. The goal of acquiring this data is to be able to identify which players suffered a concussion and assess how much damage has been done. With this information, doctors can figure out the best way to treat the player in a more timely manner.

Most players hate sitting out the season.

Researchers say having this brain function baseline also serves a dual purpose. It can help determine which athletes are well enough to leave the sidelines. Students are aware of the risks, but they're still anxious to get back in the game.

"There's a few players that couldn't play at the end of the year, so that's a little bit scary," said football player Robert Abeyta. "But I can't hold back. We have to go full speed, that's football."

UC Irvine's team also works with concussion patients to help them receive specialized medical treatment, pain management, rehabilitation, counseling and follow up care.

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