Local coaches invited to attend Redskins' concussion forum

WASHINGTON -- The Redskins are inviting 500 local high school football coaches to a concussion forum during a minicamp next month.

Speaking Wednesday at a panel discussion as part of Brain Injury Awareness Day on Capitol Hill, Redskins general manager Bruce Allen said the team has sent letters to coaches in Washington, Maryland and Virginia, asking them to attend an April 17 practice during new coach Mike Shanahan's first minicamp and participate in an information session about concussions.

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"We're going to teach them what we have learned," Allen said in a meeting room at the Capitol Visitors Center. "We are going to expose them to all the information we have because it does trickle down.

"I'm hoping their message goes back to the parents at their schools and makes them aware what we're facing in the NFL, and (conveys) the emphasis that we're putting on this," Allen added.

The event is a Redskins initiative in conjunction with USA Football, which is based in Washington.

The NFL has placed a stronger emphasis on concussion prevention and education in recent months, particularly in the aftermath of an October congressional hearing at which lawmakers were critical of the league's approach to head injuries. The league instituted new return-to-play guidelines for players with concussions, for example, and made each team enlist an independent neurologist who is to be consulted when a player has a head injury.

"The NFL's effort to shine a bright light on this is very important to everyone," Allen said.

After Wednesday's panel, which also included former NFL player John Booty and doctors who study or treat brain injuries, Allen said the topic "is important, but it's not new."

"This has been a long-standing policy of the league. ... When a concussion affects a player, it affects not only the team but his family, so anything we can do to help the players, that's what we're going to do," Allen said.

Redskins running back Clinton Portis missed the second half of last season because of a concussion.

During Wednesday's session, Dr. Robert Stern of the Boston University School of Medicine said the brains of all 12 deceased football players over the age of 25 studied by his group have had chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which is a progressive, neurodegenerative disease he likened to what is found in boxers.

The NFL has partnered with Stern's Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy, encouraging current and former players to donate their brains for research after they die.

"Our scientific understanding is at its infancy," Stern told the audience.

Afterward, Stern applauded Tuesday's announcement by the NFL that it has appointed two new co-chairmen to lead its committee on concussions, calling it another sign that the league is taking the issue more seriously than it has in the past.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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