Cover Story: Concussions in Youth Sports: Is The Risk Worth It?
Kayla Meyer was a normal kid growing up on the family farm in New Prague, Minnesota, where she used to ride horses around the property. But now, the 14-year-old can no longer ride or even attend school on a regular basis after receiving two concussions in ice hockey.
Ali Champness, too, is experiencing difficulty resuming normal activities at her parents' home in Bakersfield, California. Earlier this year, the 14-year-old high school freshman took a soccer ball to the nose. Months later, she was found to have suffered a brain hemorrhage due to concussion. To this day, Ali still goes to therapy for three hours a day.
This week's cover story, which I wrote with Gus Garcia-Roberts of Miami New Times, uncovers the potentially dangerous effects of sports-related concussions on the young brain. Our summer-long investigation took us to the family homes of youth, high school and college athletes who have had their lives changed -- perhaps permanently -- by concussions.
In Dallas, former soccer star Natasha Helmick, when she was 14, played nearly two full games without half of her eyesight after receiving a concussion. Today, the 19-year-old, who now has a youth concussion law named after her, struggles to keep pace with her coursework at Texas State University-San Marcos.
Over in Miami, David Goldstein, who sustained three concussions in four years, is back on the varsity soccer team following a confusing and costly battle to treat his injuries.
Meyer of New Prague, Minnesota isn't so lucky. On top of losing the ability to function normally at school, the teenager has seen many of her family's possessions vanish. That's because her mom and dad don't have health insurance and Kayla's medical bills continue to pile up.
We also spoke to doctors regarding the changing attitudes -- as well as the remaining unknowns -- of concussion treatment. Additionally, attorneys and athletic trainers are debating what may come out of concussions legislation that, to date, have passed in a number of state governments.
And finally, our research took us to a Texas high school to test out helmets. You can read about our findings in tomorrow's web-extra story.