At concussions summit, Obama urges cultural shift

President Obama poses with Little League baseball players and their coach at Friendship Park in Washington on May 19; he will head to the Baseball Hall of Fame Thursday. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
President Obama poses with Little League baseball players and their coach at Friendship Park in Washington on May 19; he will head to the Baseball Hall of Fame on Thursday. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

Speaking at a summit on concussions Thursday, President Obama argued the culture of American sports must shift even as he urged young players to stay on the field.

"We have to change a culture that says, 'You've got to suck it up,' " Obama said to a packed audience of amateur and professional athletes as well as medical experts and parents.

"We want our kids participating in sports," he said, adding moments later, "as parents, though, we want to keep them safe, and therefore we need better information."

The summit features both panels and new financial pledges by the federal government and private sector to research mild traumatic brain injuries.

"There's a lot of concern but there's also a lot of uncertainty," Obama said.

The  president spoke of how young women, including Victoria Bellucci, a 2014 graduate of Huntingtown High school in Huntingtown, Md., who introduced him Thursday, and his own daughters are now participating in greater numbers in sports.

"Malia and Sasha are part of that generation," he said, noting that they have participated in basketball, soccer, tennis and track. "They think, 'Of course we're playing sports.' "

Bellucci spoke of how she started playing soccer at 4, and by the time she stopped playing in high school, she had suffered five concussions that had affected her academic work and relationships with her friends.

“It’s critical to educate the public on the emotional and physical [damage] of concussions,” she said.

Juliet Eilperin is a White House correspondent for The Washington Post, covering domestic and foreign policy as well as the culture of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. She is the author of two books—one on sharks, and another on Congress, not to be confused with each other—and has worked for the Post since 1998.
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