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With $2.6M grant, NFL taps UNC to conduct concussion research

Posted July 4

— As the concern rises about concussions and head injuries among young athletes, the National Football League is calling on one University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill department to explore rehabilitation strategies.

Whether it's football, rugby, soccer, basketball or ice hockey, athletes are at risk. Eileen Stough learned that the hard way.

"My oldest had a concussion his freshman year of high school during a game, and basically it was a clean hit, but his head did hit the ground and kind of bounced off the hard ground," Stough said. "So, he lost consciousness for a few seconds and he was brought to the hospital."

Fortunately, in Stough's case, her son was OK. But doctors say similar brain injuries are dangerous, and all too common, especially in sports like football.

"About 10 percent of athletes on a football team will sustain a concussion within a given year," said UNC professor Dr. Kevin Guskiewicz.

With worries rising, the NFL is funding the first large-scale study of the best techniques for rehabilitating concussion injuries. Guskiewicz will lead that $2.6 million dollar project at UNC, which will study concussed athletes from the high school level to the pros.

One thing they'll study is if exercise can help.

"We'll be able to protect them most likely from a second concussion or protect them from that very rare catastrophic brain injury that can occur," Guskiewicz said.

That protection is all that matters to parents like Stough.

"It should've been done a while back, but we're finally there," she said.

The study at UNC will continue for three years. UNC's research team will then present recommendations for high school, college and professional athletes.

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