Football-related deaths bring debate on mental health, concussions

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INDIANAPOLIS (Dec. 1, 2014) – The death of another football player has the sport’s governing body responding to more concerns about concussions, mental health and player safety.

On Sunday, authorities confirmed they had found the body of a missing Ohio State University football player, who had apparently taken his own life after suffering from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Kosta Karageorge’s parents told police that their son, a former wrestler who joined the football team this year, had complained about concussion symptoms before he disappeared last week. The circumstances of his death were still under investigation on Monday.

The tragedy in Ohio comes the same week as a USA Today report highlighting several recent deaths related to football-related head and spine injuries.

It’s not good news, but lately an organization right here in Indy has been trying to change that.

“First and foremost, our thoughts are with the families that lost youngsters,” said Nick Inzerello, the senior director of football development for Indianapolis-based USA Football, which recently launched a major effort called ‘Heads Up Football’ to highlight the need for properly-fitted helmets, and safe tackling techniques.

“Any death is clearly a tragedy,” said Scott Hallenbeck, the organization’s executive director. “So we want to do everything in our power to avoid that.”

“We want parents to be engaged, because they’re a critical element to ensuring a better and safer experience for our kids,” said Inzerello.

“We want to listen to moms. We want to listen to the concerns they might have,” said Hallenbeck. “Ultimately it’s their decision. We understand that they need to make a decision about what’s in the best interest of their child.”

USA Football is hosting another safety clinic for moms at the Indiana Convention Center this weekend to coincide with the Big Ten Football Championship events. The clinic will be held Friday evening, and registration information has been posted on USA Football’s web site for those who are interested.

“We’re all actually very proactively analyzing, how do we work on this with the medical community to make the game safer?” said Hallenbeck. “The good news is the high school coaches want this. They recognize that something has to be done. They want to work with us to make the game safer and we’re doing that.”

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