Updated:ATLANTA,None — When the Knights of Grady High School take the field, a doctor from Atlanta Medical Center watches from the sidelines. Dr. Stephen Kane looks for any sign of concussion.
"The research is starting to show that the more concussions the more probability you have to suffer long term or even permanent neurological disability," he said.
Sports-related concussions are an epidemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. Channel 2's Linda Stouffer looked into what local schools are doing to protect student athletes.
Most states have laws to protect injured athletes. Georgia does not.
Grady High School senior Lance Bennett says hard hits are part of football.
"You shake it off. Its part of the game, just kind of be tough," Bennett said.
At every Grady home game, medical professionals are watching from the sidelines as part of a new and expanding partnership between Atlanta Medical Center and Atlanta Public Schools.
Kane said, "My biggest worry is undiagnosed conditions that go home, are not seen, the concussion that nobody knows about, concussions are sneaky. He may have a little bit of a headache and feel a little bit off, but nobody knows."
Experts say its often the second or third hit that can be devastating. Researchers say children and teenagers are actually most at risk of a second impact syndrome.
Kane said, "After a concussion if you return to play too quickly it can have devastating effects. In some cases fatalities have been reported."
One measure of potential damage is the ImPACT cognitive memory quiz. Students are tested on their ability to remember shapes and words. Gwinnett teams and other area schools are using the test as a baseline before the season.
"The younger you are with a concussion, the longer it takes to recover. The more symptoms you have," said Dr. Matthew Pombo of Gwinnett Medical Center. "They go to school on Monday, and they're in the classroom thinking, their symptoms worsen, they start to feel bad, have headaches, have nausea and the symptoms can actually worsen with just thinking in school."
Atlanta Public Schools Athletic Director Jeff Beggs said he supports medical professionals if they sideline a player, even if a coach or parents question the decision.
"They may be the best player on the team," Beggs said. "But we want to get them well."