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Duerson’s Gift Could Benefit Young Athletes

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Student athlete Jay Camper has suffered concussions while playing hockey. (CBS)

Student athlete Jay Camper has suffered concussions while playing hockey. (CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – Former Bears great Dave Duerson killed himself last week  but asked that his brain be studied after sustaining numerous concussions on the football field.

His tragic death has shined the light on head injuries, especially when it comes to younger athletes.

Nineteen-year old hockey player Jay Camper suffered his last concussion two months ago, but he’s still feeling the effects.

“Really foggy, headaches and just a lot of pressure in my head,” he says, describing his symptoms.

He sustained the first of at least five concussions three years ago and kept on playing.

Dr. Jeff Jjaanes, director of the Sports Concussion Clinic at Rush University Medical Center, says younger players are more vulnerable because their brains are still developing.

“Kids do seem to be at higher risk for sustaining concussions, for having a longer time to recover from concussions,” he says.

Between 2001 and 2005, some 250,000 children went to emergency rooms with sports-related concussions. During that time, participation in sports dropped, but the number of concussions doubled.

Young athletes are also more likely to suffer from something called “second impact syndrome.” It’s happened to 100 young players who went right back on the field after suffering a concussion.

“They take another hit to the brain and they actually can literally die within 20 to 30 minutes,” Jjaanes says.

That’s rare. But doctors are more worried about what happens later in life.

Researchers at Boston University have found protein buildups associated with degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and ALS in the brain of an 18-year-old football player. He suffered multiple concussions before his death.

Bears defensive end Corey Wootton, who put the final hit on quarterback Brett Favre, knows the chances he takes when he hits the field.

“Football is a violent, dangerous game, and everyone that plays it is aware of that so that’s the risk that we take when we play,” he says.

Next week, the Illinois Legislature is going to discuss a bill that would require athletes who sustain concussions while playing for park district leagues and school districts be kept out of the game until a doctor gives the OK.

Duerson’s friends and family paid their last respects Friday night at a wake on the South Side. The funeral is Saturday.

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