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Va. father's push to fast-track district concussion policy

Sunday - 4/10/2011, 5:06pm  ET

Kathy Stewart, wtop.com

PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. - Following his own personal tragedy, one local parent is hoping to educate others about the dangers of concussions.

Gil Trenum, a Prince William County School Board member who represents the Brentsville District, lost his 17-year-old son to suicide last year -- days after his son suffered a concussion on the football field.

Trenum is now working to fast-track concussion policy at the county to protect other kids.

Trenum's son, Austin, a high school senior and football star, suffered a concussion while playing football during a Friday night varsity football game in August.

Austin Trenum was taken to Inova Fairfax Hospital in Falls Church that Sunday night. He died Monday morning.

His death was ruled a suicide.

Austin's concussion was not part of the official investigation into his death, Prince William Police said at the time.

Trenum says, he wants to make sure parents know about the dangers of concussions on the playing field and how to avoid the tragedy his family experienced.

The school district's new policy would cover more than just benching an athlete due to a concussion. It will include a crucial recovery element called "cognitive rest."

"Cognitive rest" is an area of concussion study that is so new that many - including some in the medical field - don't know about it yet.

Trenum recently invited international concussion expert, Dr.Gerry Gioia to speak before the school board.

Dr. Gioia heads the Safe Concussion outcome, Recovery & Education Program at Children's National Medical Center in D.C. He stressed the critical need to give the brain time off to heal properly, especially a developing brian.

Dr. Gioia says that means no learning, computers or texting. Those activities use too much brain power and divert energy away from healing, which can impede recovery or even cause permanent damage.

Dr. Gioia says people need to call concussions what they are - mild traumatic brain injuries and should be treated as such.

He says just like other injuries, the brain has to be rehabbed.

Dr. Gioia testified to Congress in 2010 about the impact of concussions on high school athletes.

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(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)