On Thursday at a White House Sports Concussion Summit, President Barack Obama said he was “sure” that he may have had “mild” concussions when he played football in his youth.
“Before the awareness was out there, when I was young and played football briefly, there were a couple of times where I’m sure that that ringing sensation in my head and the need to sit down for a while might have been a mild concussion, and at the time you didn’t think anything of it,” Obama said. “The awareness is improved today, but not by much. So the total number of young people who are impacted by this early on is probably bigger than we know.”
He mentioned that kids get concussions in “lacrosse and soccer and wrestling and ice hockey, as well as football” and cited Center for Disease Control (CDC) statistics which show that “young people made nearly 250,000 emergency room visits with brain injuries from sports and recreation.”
“That number obviously doesn’t include kids who see their family doctor or, as is typical, don’t seek any medical help,” he said.
In previous interviews, Obama has said if he had a son, he would not let him play professional football and would have to think “long and hard” before allowing him to play football at all. He also said “change” was coming to the NFL regarding concussions and head injuries and compared the sport to boxing and smoking.
“We have to change a culture that says you suck it up,” he added on Thursday. “Identifying a concussion and being able to self-diagnose that this is something that I need to take care of doesn’t make you weak — it means you’re strong.”
Citing a “comprehensive report found that there are too many gaps in the understanding of the effects and treatment for concussions,” Obama mentioned that “researchers are still learning about the causes and consequences of these injuries.”
“Communities are wondering how young it is to start tackle football, for example,” Obama said. “Parents are wondering whether their kids are learning the right techniques, or wearing the best safety equipment, or whether they should sign up for — to have their kids participate in any full-contact sports at all.”
The NFL recently settled with former players regarding their concussion-related lawsuits for $765 million while former hockey players have filed a class action lawsuit against the NHL for head injuries they sustained during their careers.
According to the White House, the president of the NCAA, the MLS commissioner, senior leadership from the NHL, and US Soccer, and the NFL, and the NFL Players Association attended the event where Obama announced various grants for concussion research. Obama said the NCAA and the Department of Defense “will commit $30 million for concussion education and a study involving up to 37,000 college athletes” while the NFL is committing $25 million over the next three years for various research programs. Steve Tisch the New York Giants Chairman, is also donating $10 million to UCLA’s BrainsSPORT program to “prevent, study, and treat concussions and traumatic brain injury in youth.”
Obama also spoke about head injuries to America’s soldiers and mentioned the Armed Services received a $100 million grant last year to study traumatic head injuries.