Brain injuries on the gridiron: An estimated one million kids undiagnosed

Brain injuries on the gridiron: An estimated one million kids undiagnosed (WPEC)

New data shows the number of concussions in kids is far worse than we first thought.

That fact won’t stop 11-year-old Jackson Miller. He plays running back, defensive back and wide receiver.

Before he hits his teenage years, his body and brain will have already taken some big hits.

"Of course, they could have their bell rung or their eggs scrambled, but it's not something he’s unable to get up from," his father Bryan said.

Jackson is one of an estimated 44-Million kids who play sports annually.

Up to two million of them under the age of eighteen, suffer concussions every year.

And, a recently published study in the Journal of Pediatrics found up to 1.2-million children across the country could be suffering substantial injuries because of unreported concussions.

At Oxbridge Academy in West Palm Beach, Athletic Director Patrick Hollern told us his athletes don't take the blows on the field, as often.

"We've adjusted our practices strategies in all of our sports to make sure that we're not having those daily collisions," he said.

And that he claims has resulted in something that's quite controversial.

"We've had zero [concussions] last year and this year," he said.

"We're practicing much smarter. I think our people are tuned into the cues and what to look out for," he said.

We shared that information with Neurosurgeon Dr. Brett Osborn.

"They're either not acknowledging them or they're not recognizing them, one or the other," he said.

"Over time, repeated insults, particularly in a developing brain, are potentially problematic long-term," Osborn said.

Dr. Osborn said the problem is a lack of proper education. "It's not the contact sports that are the problem, it's an educational issue, not being able to identify the signs and symptoms of a concussion," he said.

Kelly Prisco, the Director of Health and Wellness at Oxbridge Academy told us her staff is always playing on the side of caution.

"If there's any complaint of a headache, dizziness, any concussion symptoms, we pull that person immediately from playing, and we go right into our protocol," Prisco said.

Despite what we now know and what we don't about concussions and football, Miller said his son will continue to play.

"I feel comfortable with the equipment and the education and at what point I put him into the game," he said.

The popularity of football continues to grow in Florida unlike most of the rest of the country which has seen a dramatic decline in participation.

As a result, Dr. Osborn says more rigorous guidelines and protocols should be put in place.

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