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Stone Phillips Chats About Youth-Football's Concussion Crisis

Investigative reporter Stone Phillips spent an hour Tuesday chatting on PBS.org about the dangers of concussions in youth football, in honor of PBS airing his report, "Hard Hits, Hard Numbers," on Monday night.

In the piece, Phillips, a former "Dateline NBC" anchor, examined findings from a joint Virginia Tech-Wake Forest study that measured the severity of head impacts endured by 7- and 8-year-old football players. The study, which I wrote about in February, found that most of the high-level impacts for these young athletes came during practice, not in games.

Phillips originally posted "Hard Hits, Hard Numbers" on his website, Stone Phillips Reports, last year. PBS showed a slightly condensed version on Monday night after PBS "Newshour" executive producer Linda Winslow was told about the piece by a colleague, according to the New York Times.

In the PBS chat today, Phillips explained that his history with concussions—he experienced two over the course of his 10-year playing career as a youth—piqued his interest in the ongoing concussion crisis facing youth football.

"After that second concussion, I was counseled not to continue on," he said. "I have long be[en] struck by the fact that so many high-level players/NFL continued to play after many more concussions than I sustained."

The newsman stressed, based on his time spent with Virginia Tech professor of biomedical engineering Stefan Duma, that coaches have a large role to play when it comes to preventing concussions in youth football. According to Phillips, Duma says proper coaching of proper blocking and tackling techniques is the most critical factor in reducing youth-football concussions.

"I think coaches need to be very cognizant of head impact, and drills that lead to/encourage direct head to head collision," he continued. "Obviously, contact, and head impact, cannot be completely eliminated from football, but live hitting drills can be reduced or better controlled, so that young athletes learn, with less exposure."

Later in the chat, one coach claimed that in his 12 years of experience, none of his athletes had ever sustained a head injury because they practice proper technique—"keep your head up!" Phillips praised the coach for teaching a "see what you hit" mentality, and said, "Not every big hit leads to a concussion. It's all about exposure and risk. Reducing exposure, reduces risk."

You can read through the full chat here, and watch Phillips' full report, "Hard Hits, Hard Numbers," here.

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