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Special Report: Playing with Safety

Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) is a degenerative brain disease found in people with a history of repetitive brain trauma.

Posted: Nov. 1, 2018 7:16 PM

ROSEBURG, Ore. -- Oregon Ducks quarterback Justin Herbert and wide receiver Dillon Mitchell are both in concussion protocol after last week's loss to the Arizona Wildcats. With football-related concussions all over the news lately, many people are concerned.

KEZI 9 News investigated to find the truth about how dangerous football and other contact sports really are. 

Dr. Michael Koester, director of the Sports Concussion Program at the Slocum Center for Sports Medicine, said it's important that parents know the facts and not be scared about what he calls the "concussion explosion" that's been happening in the media.

“I hate to see people being scared away from (football) when there's not necessarily good information that's being given,” Koester said.

Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) is a degenerative brain disease found in people with a history of repetitive brain trauma.

Koester said the key word is "repetitive," as in over many years and not just a few years in high school.

"We've got over a million boys who play high school football across the country and significantly less that play college and much less that play NFL, so that continuum of exposure is three or four years for most of these kids,” Koester said.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that in 2017, 2.5 million high school students had at least one concussion related to sports or physical activity during the year leading into the survey and 1 million students had two or more concussions during the same time frame.

Now, a local high school is making a change.

Roseburg High School has installed a Cushdrain pad that lies underneath the turf. It helps with shock absorption and is meant to reduce the risk of serious injuries.

Colin Warmouth, a senior quarterback at Roseburg High School, said he is more confident playing on the new turf.

“It’s giving us a mindset that we're not scared to get hurt. The main reason you get hurt is if you’re trying to not get hurt. So just us feeling safer is going to help a lot,” Warmouth said.

Athletic Director Russ Bolin said this new field is the next step toward making Friday nights safer.

"Anything that deals with the safety of our kids is a top priority, and we take the concussion signs and symptoms very seriously,” Bolin said.

This new field cost $800,000 dollars and has a 30-year guarantee. The field was installed in September, so they've only played a few games on it so far.

One parent of a Roseburg High School athlete, Manuel Colunga, told KEZI 9 News that he feels more comfortable sending his kid to practice.

"Injuries can be anywhere, but with this kind of field for me and my kid, I’m more comfortable and I (feel) safer,” Colunga said.

Koester, who also works with the Roseburg High School Football team, said although this field will help reduce injuries, it is not a cure all.

"It's just like any other injury we see in sports," Koester said. "We can minimize, but we can't eliminate."

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