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Colorado Edition: KUNC Investigates Concussions In Youth Sports

Kelli Jantz
Michael de Yoanna
Kelli Jantz holds a picture of her son, Jake Snakenberg. He died in 2004 while playing football with Grandview High School in Aurora, the apparent victim of repeat concussions.

Today on Colorado Edition: we hear a special investigation into concussions in youth sports in Colorado with KUNC's investigative reporter Michael de Yoanna.

In 2011, Colorado state lawmakers passed a bill that requires that kids as young as 11 be pulled out of play if they take a hard hit to the head. It also mandates annual concussion training courses for coaches.

Yet it is almost impossible to see how that training is working around the state. The law doesn't require any person or agency to track how often kids are removed from games or practices. It doesn't require tallies on which sports have the most concussions. Or documentation of how often kids get more than one concussion. Or collection of data in any fashion that would create reports for parents to compare coaches, teams or schools.

High school football
Credit Michael de Yoanna / KUNC
Cherry Creek and Grandview high school football teams faced off in November at the Stutler Bowl in Aurora.

That would be a lot to ask, said a co-sponsor of the law, former state Sen. Nancy Spence.

"I don't think that there's a way you could trace that — every coach of every sport of every kid from 11 to 18," Spence said. "It's difficult."

But KUNC, in a collaboration with Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting, found a way to start by applying the findings of a national investigation earlier this year locally.

KUNC filed Colorado Open Records Act requests with major school districts in the state. We found students were pulled out of play for head injuries more than 6,000 times in the last five years.

You can find more details about the investigation here

If you are interested in getting more information about concussions at schools or school districts in Colorado, fill out this form.

If you decide to submit a records request please let us know! Email 

Colorado Edition is made possible with support from our KUNC members. Thank you!

Our theme music was composed by Colorado musicians Briana Harris and Johnny Burroughs. Other music this week by Blue Dot Sessions:

  • “Come As You Are” by Cauldron

Colorado Edition is hosted by Erin O'Toole (@ErinOtoole1) and Henry Zimmerman (@HWZimmerman), and produced by Lily Tyson. The web was edited by digital editor Jackie Hai. Managing editor Brian Larson contributed to this episode.

KUNC's Colorado Edition is a daily news magazine taking an in-depth look at the issues and culture of Northern Colorado. It's available on our website, as well as on iTunesGoogle PlayStitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. You can hear the show on KUNC's air, Monday through Thursday at 6:30 p.m.

Stories written by KUNC newsroom staff.
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