Some of the nation's largest youth sports organizations are forming an alliance to address concussions.
The National Sports Concussion Coalition will partner with concussion experts and athletic medicine professionals to establish best practices for diagnosing and treating young athletes.
Coalition members also will, among other things, share findings from their sport-specific concussion research, pool financial resources for joint studies and coordinate outreach programs to educate athletes and parents about concussions.
"As is often the case, you're stronger collectively than individually," US Lacrosse chief executive Steve Stenersen said Sunday. "There is understandable concern about this injury nationally. We want to make sure that concern is appropriately addressed but doesn't dissuade kids from playing sports."
Coalition members are the National Council of Youth Sports, Pop Warner Little Scholars, Sports Concussion Institute, US Lacrosse, US Youth Soccer, USA Hockey, American College of Sports Medicine, Amateur Softball Association/USA Softball, USA Basketball, USA Football and the Datalys Center for Sports Injury Research and Prevention.
Coalition partners are the NCAA, NFL, NFL Players Association and National Football Foundation.
The coalition started discussions earlier this year and held a planning session in September. Organizers said its underlying purpose is to enhance participation in sports by providing a safer playing environment.
Organizers said representatives of the coalition and its partners would meet regularly.
Tony Strickland, who heads the Sports Concussion Institute, said as many as 60 million U.S. youngsters play sports. He said it's nearly impossible to determine how many sustain concussions because many go undiagnosed.
The number of sports- and recreation-related emergency room visits for traumatic brain injuries, including concussions, was estimated at 248,418 for people ages 10-19 in 2009, the most recent year data was available, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Overall there were about 2.6 million sports injuries treated in ERs for that age group.
Strickland said youth sports have never been safer. He attributes that to growing awareness about the dangers of concussions, better methods of diagnosing and treating concussions and state laws that mandate a young athlete not be allowed to return to play until he or she is cleared by a medical professional.
For as much progress that has been made, Strickland said, a lot remains unknown about the effects of concussions on all people but especially youngsters.
Pop Warner Football executive director Jon Butler said his organization has conducted its own studies on concussions and, as a result, altered rules governing the amount of contact allowed in practices.
Butler said he's certain the other youth sports organizations would value Pop Warner's research, just as he would value theirs.
"The coalition," he said, "will take the research and basically be a library or depository where we can compare notes and establish best practices."