Seven ways to protect your child's brain

MCT file photo/Detroit Free Press

The chilling news that Chicago Bears star Dave Duerson suffered brain damage from repetitive blows to the head raises an obvious question for parents of young athletes: How can we protect our kids?

One free strategy is to “dramatically reduce the hitting in practice,” said Chris Nowinski co-founder and director of the Sports Legacy Institute, which is working to solve the concussion crisis in sports.

“Over half the hits kids take happen in practice,” Nowinski said Monday during a press conference announcing the findings of Duerson's brain examination. “It’s a controlled environment. We need coaches to be smarter about the drills they use and the exposure to brain trauma. We count pitches in youth baseball to protect children’s elbow ligaments, but we don’t count hits to the head to protect their brains.”

Parents and athletes also need to be educated, especially if the coaches aren’t. For ideas on what you can do, read the Sports Legacy Institute’s “7 Steps for Brain Safety.” Their No. 1 guideline says that any sports program “should require preseason concussion and brain trauma education for coaches, athletes, and parents. Coaches should be required to pass the Center for Disease Control’s certification program."