Missouri coaching officials gather at sports concussion seminar

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COLUMBIA - The Brian Injury Association of Missouri hosted its third annual sports concussion seminar Wednesday at Stoney Creek Hotel. Each year, sports coaches and other team personnel, as well as school nurses, PE teachers and administrators, learned more about concussion care for their students. 

Maureen Cunningham, Executive Director, said this year's seminar was sports concussion facts, fallacies and new frontiers. 

"[We host this] to help reduce the risk of sports-related concussions for youth," Cunningham said. "So, that their coaches (paid or volunteer) as well as school officials, administrators, nurses understand the signs and symptoms of concussions and they're really implementing protocols to protect the health, the academics and the future of the child." 

Despite these seminars only starting three years ago, Cunningham said the group has actually been around since 1985. 

"Prevention is one of our priorities since that time," she said. "As more and more was learned about concussions, 2006, 2008 and so forth, we had the sports concussion facts, fallacies and new frontiers in St. Louis for five years." 

Cunningham said she has a son who played football for one year and then lacrosse throughout his high school career. 

"I understand the parents' side what is the risk of a contact sport, regarding concussions and, 'Should we let him play?,'" the executive director said. "There's a lot of benefits to youth participating in sports. We want to make sure that the coaches and school personal, licensed athletic trainers, medical professionals, and parents and youth understand the signs and symptoms, the risk of concussions for the academics as well as the future."

Cunningham said the top three sports with the most concussions (highest rates and percentages) are football, basketball, and soccer. However, she said concussion is not just a football issue, but it's an issue for all sports. 

"Concussions do happen at every sport," she said. "They can happen for youth, for young kids on the playground and they do." 

Mark St. Clair, head football coach/head track coach for Hannibal High School in Hannibal, Missouri, said he has been coaching football for 29 years overall for different sports, 19 years as head coach, and has seen many incidents of concussion with his own eyes.

"I think we're more aware," St. Clair said. "The awareness level of the students, parents and coaches is much higher now." 

St. Clair said the biggest part is just being aware. 

"Making parents aware and making students be aware," St. Clair. "We all want to compete. There's a lot of competition that goes on out there. Competition is just about everything in life. Football and the other sports that I've coached are out there and I think are important in life to kids."