Psychologists featured at White House summit on concussions
Before Barack Obama was President
Obama, he was a high school
basketball player who dreamed of
going pro. Now, with two athletic
daughters and a wife who’s made
“Let’s Move” her platform, sports
remain central to Obama’s life, the
president said at the Healthy Kids
and Safe Sports Concussion Summit
at the White House in May.
“There’s a huge public health
interest in making sure that
people are participating in sports,”
Obama said. “But sports is also
just fundamental to who we are as
Americans and our culture. We’re
competitive. We’re driven. And sports
teach us about teamwork and hard
But for all their benefits, many
sports also come with the risk of
concussion. According to the latest
data from the CDC, young people
make nearly 250,000 emergency
room trips annually due to
brain injuries from sports and recreation. And exactly how
they’re caused and the extent of the damage is still not well
understood, Obama said.
That’s why, during the summit, he emphasized the
importance of concussion research and education to keep
children as safe as possible while staying active. He also
announced new research initiatives to further explore the
causes and consequences of concussions, including a $30
million research project funded by the NCAA and the U.S.
Department of Defense and a $16 million partnership between
the NFL and the National Institutes of Health to study the
chronic effects of repetitive concussions.
The event featured psychologist Gerard Gioia, PhD, as
a panelist, and was attended by several other psychologists,
including APA CEO Norman B. Anderson, PhD. Gioia, chief
of the division of pediatric neuropsychology at Children’s
National Health System and director of the Safe Concussion
Outcome, Recovery and Education Program, outlined steps
parents and coaches can take to prevent or minimize damage
For example, he said, learn to recognize a concussion by
watching videos on the CDC website or by using tools such as
the “Concussion Recognition & Response” smartphone app,
which he created with a colleague.
Gioia also advised parents and coaches to err on the side of
caution with young athletes who may have been jolted or hit by
taking them out of the game and clearing them with an experienced medical provider before returning them to play. “When in
doubt, sit them out. If you suspect, you must protect,” he said.
In an interview after the summit, Gioia emphasized that
psychologists have a major role to play in helping children
and adults with brain injuries — including veterans who have
sustained a traumatic brain injury — since such injuries can
cause mood changes, feelings of loss of identity and other
forms of psychological distress. “The good news is that people
get better from this injury, and we have an important skill set to
help them with their recovery,” he said.
— ANNA MILLER
To watch a video of the president’s remarks
and the panelists’ discussion, go to http://
U.S. President Barack Obama talks at the White House Healthy Kids and Safe Sports
Concussion Summit on May 29 with psychologist Dr. Gerard Gioia.