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Concussions A Risk For Kids In All Types Of Sports

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A scan of a brain. (Credit: CBS)

Rob Johnson Rob Johnson
Rob Johnson is the weekday anchor of the CBS 2 Chicago evening...
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CHICAGO (CBS) – The latest research shows repeated head trauma can cause irreparable brain disease. As CBS 2’s Rob Johnson reports, for parents whose kids are active, this can be extremely troubling, especially when you consider that almost any sport can leave your child with a concussion.

Leo Catholic High School senior guard Lantz Roberts suffered a concussion in late November. Since then, it’s been a slow recovery.

“We was doing charging drills and I ended up falling back and hitting my head on the wooden floor. After that happened I started feeling dizzy like everything started getting blurry,” Roberts said

He’s only recently been cleared to play again. Roberts explained that, “for a long time I couldn’t do nothing, no type of activities.”

“You can tough your way through a sprained ankle, you can tough your way through a bruise, but if you try to tough your way through a brain injury you’re going to make it much worse and you are going to risk your life,” said Chris Nowinski, 33, a former football player and pro wrestler.

He should know. He graduated from Hersey High School in Arlington Heights, played football at Harvard, then became a professional wrestler where, by his count, he sustained six concussions.

Nowinski said his multiple concussions “took away my ability to think for a year and a half. I really couldn’t remember much; destroyed relationships, destroyed friendships.”

After his wrestling days, Nowinski teamed up with doctors from Boston University to study the brains of deceased ex-athletes. They learned that Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE, was present in many of the brains. It can mimic Alzheimers Disease or ALS, and was found in the brains of former Chicago Blackhawks Reggie Fleming and Bob Probert, and Chicago Bears Super Bowl champ Dave Duerson.

Nowinski said “with CTE, the symptoms you usually see are memory loss, impulse control problems, and mood disorders like depression.”

For the younger athletes, Nowinski said any sport can cause concussions; football, hockey, basketball, soccer (with all of the headers), even cheerleading, with its jumps and flips.

Nowinski warned that “any kid, whether they’re playing sports or whether they’re riding their bike, concussion’s a real risk.”

If that advice doesn’t get your attention, just listen to former Chicago Bears linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer, whose 8-year career was cut short by concussions.

Hillenmeyer said “teaching people that there’s a distinction between being hurt and being injured – and anything to do with your head is always being injured – would pay tremendous dividends.”

It’s certainly changed Lantz and his mother’s way of thinking.

Kendall Daniels, Lantz Roberts’ mother urged “as soon as you get hit, just go straight to the doctor.”

Roberts said “because it can be a bunch of side effects that you do not want to happen.”

So what is being done in Chicago to address the concussion issue? Click here for information from the Chicago Concussion Coalition.

On Wednesday, Johnson will have the story of how young athletes all over Chicago now have a resource that not only teaches them about concussions, but provides places where they can be evaluated to see if they actually have concussions.

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