ANN ARBOR (WWJ) – Spencer Helgren was bawling his eyes out, but it was the fourth quarter and he wasn’t going to sit down on the sidelines. He kept playing through the tears.

It was the first of several head injuries on the football field for the junior from Westwood High school in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. At the time, he just thought he’d had his bell rung and he’d be fine – despite the unusual crying spell.

Months later, he’s still struggling with after effects of the concussions he suffered, but getting better after receiving treatment at the University of Michigan’s Michigan Neurosport Concussion Program. Helgren wants to spread the word about how to recognize and treat sports-related concussions.

After an athlete takes a big hit on the playing field or a blow to the head, it’s difficult for coaches to know how to respond. But more and more evidence is mounting that it’s dangerous for athletes to try to shake off what could be a concussion.

The Michigan Neurosport Concussion Program is now offering free, online courses for youth and high school coaches with up-to-date information about recognizing concussions and the best practices for responding.

The 20-minute courses are available at and include a number of resource materials and a quiz that leads to a certificate of completion.

Helgren said more education may have helped him avoid the health problems that have plagued him since football season. He was cleared by physicians to play after the initial injuries, despite symptoms like mood swings and headaches.

He ended up with a headache, 24 hours a day for about six months. He found he couldn’t concentrate, was not sleeping well and he was irritable. Sitting in class with bright lights or noise became unbearable. His parents lit candles to light their house to avoid bright lighting.

He was referred to Jeffrey Kutcher, M.D., assistant professor of neurology and the Director of the Concussion Program at U-M. Kutcher worked with Spencer to resolve his sleep patterns and devise a gradual return to physical activity. He’s hoping he can return to the gridiron for his senior year.

“I love football, I love the game, I’d love to still play,” Helgren said. “Does it scare me? Yes. Do I want to go through this again? No, I wouldn’t put this on anyone. But I feel confident with the right treatment and the right mindset about it… my chances of being able to play football, they are looking up.”

The Michigan Neurosport concussion program, in collaboration with the Mott Children’s Hospital Pediatric Trauma Program, is a comprehensive program that includes three elements: clinical care, education and research. Clinical services are available at the new clinic, located on the north side of Ann Arbor.

For more information, click here.

  1. A Michigan Athlete says:

    No matter how much intelligent sense one gets about playing tackle football and the trauma of head concussions, all of this valuable knowledge is knocked out when violently hit by a 300 pound plus player. Head concussions lead to hypogonadism on the mild side to full blow dementia and death on the heavy. Choose your sport wisely and learn to live well and die of very old age. The game of horseshoes has virtually no impact or cerebral damage.

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