Teens speak out to bring awareness to brain injuries in Utah

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SALT LAKE CITY –The Brain Injury Alliance of Utah reports that, in the state of Utah each year, 20,000 people receive brain injuries, 2,000 are hospitalized and 500 die.

“I got my concussion playing football. I got hit and I didn’t remember anything after that," said teen football player Austin Price.

"I had problems learning new things,” said Morgan Neibar, who suffered a concussion. “I had problems remembering what I already knew.”

Several Utah teens who suffered concussions shared their stories at a conference hosted at the Northwest Recreation Center Tuesday, hoping to raise awareness about the dangers of sports-related head injuries.

The Brain Injury Alliance of Utah reports nearly half of all emergency room visits for concussions are from children, ages 10 to 19 years old.

Clearfield High sophomore Allyson Barraza suffered a concussion playing soccer and said it took her years to recover because she didn’t visit a doctor right away.

“I kept playing after I first got my concussion because I didn’t know the symptoms at first,” she said.

George Gehling from the Brain Injury Alliance said it’s common for teens not to recognize the signs of a brain injury.

“Lots of kids are out there, playing sports, for example, and they have no idea what a brain injury is, what a concussion is, what the symptoms are,” he said.

University of Utah Asst. Professor of Neurology Dr. Safdar Ansari talked about some of the long-term consequences of head injuries.

"They cause a pretty global dysfunction in the brain, both at the cellular level and at a larger scale, which can predispose [people] to pretty significant challenges, both in learning and cognitive function and social functioning,” Ansari said.

He said it's important for teens to protect themselves when they're playing sports.

“Helmet awareness would actually be the number one way to prevent or minimize a head injury in any sort of athletic sport that teens play,” he said.

As part of their push to raise awareness, the Brain Injury Alliance is offering $5 helmets to anyone who wants them. They can be picked up at their office, located in Murray, 5280 S. Commerce Drive, or ordered online at biau.org.