Dallas doctor says concussions are worth the risk

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by JOE TRAHAN

Bio | Email | Follow: @joetrahan

WFAA

Posted on February 4, 2014 at 11:44 PM

Updated Tuesday, Feb 11 at 11:41 AM

 

Dallas  -- Dr. Sandra Bond Chapman is providing a new and controversial voice in the debate over concussions in football.

"Its something that identified and treated properly the majority of the time repairs itself," said Chapman,  "The brain can be healed."

Dr. Chapman, a Cognitive Neuroscientist, is the founder and chief director of UT-Dallas' Center for Brain Health.  She was a featured speaker recently at the American Football Coaches Association convention.

Her message is something every coach would love to hear.  She says after researching the brain for more than 25 years, she's giving the green light for kids to play tackle football, an uncommon position in the medical community.

"I believe the reward is worth the risk if we identify it and do proper treatment for the concussion," said Chapman.
 
As popular as it is, football is enduring a concussion crisis - the fallout from bone-crushing hits that have become all too common.

Former players, like Cowboy great Tony Dorsett, have sued the NFL and will be awarded hundreds of millions of dollars

The effects have been felt at the grass roots level too.  One of the nation's largest youth football leagues, Pop Warner,  says participation is down some 10 percent over the last 4 years. Part of the reason - concern about concussions.

Its the same concern felt by parents all over North Texas.  Trip Bellard, grandson of former Texas A-and-M head coach Emory Bellard and his wife Rebecca say the possibility of long-term damage raises the most fear.

"Is it a one percent chance if someone plays that this is going to happen to or is it an 80 percent chance," Bellard asking the question most parents want to know.

Rebeccas says when her 8 year old Shepard said he wasn't interested in football she was relieved that her fear factor would be cut in half.   Watching 11 year old Kade play is tough enough.

"I spend half my time in the stands crossing my fingers hoping they'll put him in because I know he wants to play," she said, "and then as soon as they put him in I spend the other half of the time praying nothing happens to him. Its scary."

Dr. Ryan Gianatasio, a neurologist with Medical City and the Texas Stroke Institute says caution should be the watchword for parents, implying Dr. Chapman may be jumping the gun.

"I don't think we as a medical community can say that for sure and have parents trust us to say that everything will be ok because I don't think we definitively know yet," said Gianatasio.

Noted neurologist Dr. Robert Cantu, author of  "Concussions and our Kids" is more definitive, saying children shouldn't play tackle football until they're 14.

"He's pointing out the greatest worst possible scenario that can happen," according to Dr. Chapman.  She says her research focuses on improving brain function, while doctors treat what's wrong.

Meanwhile, Bellard who also played collegiately at Army, says he'll stay tuned.

"As the information becomes more and more developed I might skew towards the spectrum of trying to forbid them from playing," said Bellard.

He and his family at least considering a decision decision they never thought he would.

E-mail: jtrahan@wfaa.com

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