SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. -- U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller on Thursday encouraged parents and coaches to help further protect young athletes from concussions.
Rockefeller organized a conference at Shepherd University's Wellness Center as part of Youth Sports Safety Month.
"We all have a responsibility to make sure that kids who play sports are as safe as they can be," the senior West Virginia Democrat said. "Much of the conversation about concussions has focused on professional athletes, but it affects so many children on the field, court, mat or track."
Medical experts at the conference discussed the dangers and frequency of concussions for young athletes. Officials from youth sports explained the steps being taken to protect athletes on the field.
Also, representatives from the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Federal Trade Commission discussed the role of the federal government in creating safety standards for products and investigating manufacturers' marketing claims that their equipment reduces the incidence of concussions.
Rockefeller is chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee. In October, the committee heard from brain-injury experts and a pair of former college athletes who had to give up their careers because of repeated head injuries.
Rockefeller said his goal for Thursday's meeting was to raise awareness of how serious the problem is in youth sports.
"There is this myth that, somehow, if you play football and you wear a helmet and you get a concussion, it's OK because the helmet -- per their advertising -- takes care of the concussion," he said. "It does not. The only thing that the best helmet in the world does . . . is prevent you from having your skull shattered.
"You can't buy something that'll prevent you from getting a concussion. Concussions are really serious stuff."
Rockefeller said football and women's soccer are the most vulnerable sports. He said his son had three concussions as a young player.
"He wanted to be a doctor, so he went to see a doctor and asked about it. The doctor said, 'You've had three? Well, put it this way: If you have four, don't ever bother coming back to ask me,'" Rockefeller said. "He cleaned out his locker that night and never played football again."
The senator said he worries that people still aren't getting the message. American culture, after all, teaches that athletics and outdoor activity are positive.
"It's good for you," he agreed. "Unless you get a concussion."