COLUMBIA - With the Philadelphia Eagles and the New England Patriots set off to face each other in Super Bowl 2018 on Sunday, many people are getting excited to talk all things football. However, the Brain Injury Association of Missouri is raising concerns on another key aspect of football and sports in general: concussions.
"A concussion is a brain injury," said Maureen Cunningham, executive director of the Brain Injury Association of Missouri. "That's the first thing that individuals need to realize. It's a mild traumatic brain injury and it is a functional injury to the brain. There may not be damage to the brain tissue in many cases but it's a change in the chemicals."
Today, the organization held its fifth consecutive Sports Concussions Seminar for coaches, team personnel, school nurses, PE teachers and administrators to learn to learn about all things related to concussions and how they can negatively impact young athletes.
"Life is never easy with brain injury and we want to make sure that individuals have the knowledge, the information, the support to live a quality life with brain injury," Cunningham said.
The seminar specifically focused concussions in young athletes, something Cunningham is important when compared to the athletes who'll be playing on Super Bowl Sunday Sunday.
"Concussions take longer to resolve in kids," Cunningham said. "The younger the student athlete, the longer it takes to resolve so when you see the professional athlete that has a concussion on Sunday and they're back at practice or a game on Thursday, it's because professional athletes, adults they recover quicker."
Through panels, vendors, exhibitions, case studies, discussions and more, attendees were able to dig deep into the nuanced relationship with sports and how concussions are treated, especially in regards to younger players.
Cunningham added that football isn't the only sport that can be a cause for concerns.
"We want to make sure that the coaches and the school nurses and the athletic trainers really know how to read the research, understand the research and implications for what the research says," she said. "Even if they're working with elementary kids or if it's high school, soccer players, hockey players, lacrosse players football players, we want to make sure they're looking at the research and we want to make sure we're focusing on culture.
Clint Graham, the activities director for at Hannibal High School, works closely with athletes everyday and attended the seminar.
"I'm in contact with the athletes and the coaches on a daily basis throughout the year," Graham said.
Graham said keeping his students safe and making them prepared for when a concussion does occur is important to him. For him making sure students know they can talk to him if they suspect they have a concussion is the first step.
"It's not going to happen in one day," Graham said. "It's all about building those relationships and your coaches building those relationships over the period of time that they have them. So, you know, I talk to my coaches about them being positive and building those positive relationships and ultimately we're in education so we're going to do what's best for the kids."
For Cunningham, Graham's wanting to protect his students is respectable and reflects her own personal feelings.
"I think as a parent, everybody wants to make sure that they're protecting their kids, protecting their grandkids and not only my kids but everybody's kids. The youth today are our future and we want to make sure that they have the best healthcare, the best prevention of brain injuries as possible."