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Meg Farris / Eyewitness News
Email: mfarris@wwltv.com | Twitter: @megfarriswwl

NEWORLEANS- Anew study goes against the current thinking that high school football is unsafe.

A local doctor presented his research Friday, for the first time,to the American Academy of OrthopedicSurgeons gathered here in New Orleans.

Parents of high school football players may have less to worry about when it comes to potential brain injury.

'There was no decline in their cognitive function based on the number of years that they participated in sport.In fact, on one of the studies, their scores improved based on the number of years they had participated in football,' said Dr. Gregory Stewart,associate professor oforthopedics at Tulane. He is also a specialist in physical medicine and rehabilitation.

Dr.Stewart followed nearly 1,300New Orleans high school football players for more thanfour years, and found the opposite of what he expected.Only 4%, not 20%, had concussions.And those who tookhits year after year without a concussion, showed no decline on mental tests.

We asked thesection head of LSU Health Sciences Center Emergency Medicine, Dr. Keith Van Meter,to react to these findings. He believes the best high tech helmets are important andspeculates that possible injury from hits, or sub-concussions, could be healed from the known brain benefits of exercise.

'Ithink we'll find that the brain is much more plastic in recovery than was ever imagined before.I think parents should hold out for improved protective technologies and equipment.I think that parents should know that exercise has to follow each of their children all the way to the end of their lives,' explained Dr. Van Meter.He is also ahyperbaric medicine specialist at LSUHSC.

Both doctorsbelieve concussions need to be aggressively treated.

'The mandatory rest periods still should be instated and that will bring improvement and allow more safety in the field,' added Dr. Van Meter.

'People who have concussions,that's a whole separate group of individuals,andI think that our management and care of individuals with concussions has to be very careful,' said Dr. Stewart.

Dr. Stewart says football rules make the contact sport even safertoday than when he gatheredhis data 15 years ago.

'I think this is accurate.I think thatif you go and look over the years at people who participated in high school football, even the ones who didn't go on to play college, that you're not seeing those people saying that they are having significant cognitive decline and coming back and blaming high school football for it,' said Dr.Stewart.

Another newstudy finds that more than half of high school athletes with concussions, play without coaches knowing about their symptoms. Details here: http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/14/us-high-school-athletes-concussions-idUSBREA2D1AL20140314

Dr. Stewart said localstudents reported playing with symptoms of concussions. He now wants to start an educational program for high school athletesso they won't play with the warning signs. Somesigns include dizziness, headaches, and blurred vision.

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