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Concussion Concerns Shape Parents Choices About Kids' Sports

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Super Bowl weekend is upon us, and America has football on the brain.

But for many parents of kids who play football, brain injuries have them steering their kids away from the sport, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

That survey found 57 percent of American parents say they would have no problem with their children playing organized football if they wanted to. That said, 40 percent of those polled also said they would encourage their children to play a different sport instead, because of fears about concussions.

Local high school athletic directors we talked to say that's not surprising.

"The initial reaction is 'this is unsafe, I'm not going to let my kid do it.' We understand that, we respect that in our parents, that's why we do our best to educate our coaches our players and our parents that we're taking whatever measures we can take," said United Township High School Athletic Director Mike Tracey.

For United Township High School, those measures include strictly following the concussion safety standards handed down by the Illinois High School Association.

Bettendorf High School says its policies and practices are strictly in line with the state of Iowa's expectations, too.

"We have a protocol when a student athlete is injured that's very detailed that we follow consistently and it's been very effective for us," Kevin Skillett, Bettendorf High School Athletic Director, said.

Unfortunately, the potential for concussions is an inherent risk in just about every athletic activity, including football.

"Football is a game of collisions, a game of contact, and those things happen," Tracey said. 'To say that you are going to eliminate them is just not true."

But, a lot has changed, even in the past decade, to better protect student athletes - in all sports.

"I think the precautions are far greater," Skillett said.

"Concussions before were always kind of a mystery, and now they're more factual," Tracey agreed.

In recent years, there has been a lot more research into brain injuries, which has lead to better equipment, better responses, and better education for everyone involved.

That's why United Township posts concussion information on its website. Bettendorf sends a fact sheet to every student athlete's parent.

"I think obviously this is a very important topic which has been in the forefront here in the last couple years," Skillett said.

And, within the last couple years, both Iowa and Illinois have passed laws setting standards for when student athletes with concussions can return to play.

Local athletic directors say they're happy to follow:

"It's not a 'win at all costs' type of situation," Skillet said. "Obviously the health of the student athlete is first and foremost."

"The number one thing we are trying to do is keep kids safe," Tracey said.

Even with parents concerned about concussions, athletic directors around here say they don't think they'll ever have a hard time filling their team rosters.

The athletic directors we spoke to said all of the discussion about concussions in the NFL is a good thing, because that shines the spotlight on an important issue.

The NFL says game and practice concussions have dropped 13 percent in the last year.

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