President Obama / JIM WATSON, AFP/Getty Images
President Obama told a White House meeting of athletes, coaches and medical experts Thursday that there are no "solid numbers" on the extent of the concussion problem in football and other contact sports.
"We've got to have better research, better data, better safety equipment, better protocols," Obama said at the first White House Healthy Kids & Safe Sports Concussion Summit.
While "sports are vital to this country," Obama said, society needs to make sure that young people "are able to participate as safely as possible."
The purpose of the summit is to look for better ways to determine the severity of head injuries that could affect the brain, and how to treat them.
Moreover, adults need to discourage a "suck-it-up" culture that encourages young athletes to pay through pain, Obama said.
The president did say that public awareness of head injuries has improved since his days as a youth football player. There were times, he said, that the "ringing sensation in my head" might have been a mild concussion.
"At the time you didn't think anything of it," Obama said.
Obama praised various organizations for funding studies and awareness programs on how to prevent and treat concussions, groups that range from the National Football League to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
This kind of research can also help treat military servicemembers who sustain head injuries in the field, Obama said.
While safety improvements need to be made, Obama emphasized his love of sports and extolled the lessons it can teach young people.
Sports are "just fundamental to who we are as Americans, and our culture," Obama said. "We're competitive. We're driven."
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