Longform

Knocked Out: For Kids, Concussions Can Be Worse Than for Adults

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However, the 16-year-old, like his older sister, has suffered multiple concussions. Micky Helmick, mindful of her son's dream as well as his long-term health, says it will be a "difficult decision" to pull Zachary from soccer if he receives another head injury.

"He's aggressive out there. He plays a lot like [Natasha]. It's very scary for me," says Micky, who adds that an incident that she and her daughter witnessed at the Texas state Capitol has contributed to her fears.

After Natasha's initial testimony in front of the House of Representatives in Austin, she and her parents sat in a rotunda with former football players Robert Jones and N.D. Kalu. Jones won three Super Bowl rings as a linebacker with the Dallas Cowboys, while Kalu played ball at Rice University before embarking on a 12-year career with the Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins, and Houston Texans.

As the Helmicks engaged in idle chitchat with the group, they noticed that something just wasn't right mentally with these hulking athletes who had suffered countless concussions during their playing careers.

"When we left there for the day," says Micky, "Natasha turned to me and said, 'Mom, I could really tell. I hope I'm not that way when I'm their age.'"

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By Steve Jansen and Gus Garcia-Roberts