Dr. Robert Cantu is one of the world's foremost authorities on concussions and brain trauma in sports, with a lengthy resume. He earned his undergraduate degree at the University of California, Berkeley, where he pitched on the baseball team, and then his medical degree at the University of California Medical School in San Francisco. Currently, he is the chief of neurosurgery as well as the director of the Service of Sports Medicine at Emerson Hospital in Concord, Mass. He is the co-director of the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy at Boston University, which is investigating the link between concussions and progressive brain disease. He consults with numerous NFL, NHL, and NBA teams.
Along with journalist Mark Hyman, Dr. Cantu has authored a new book titled "Concussions and Our Kids: America's Leading Expert on How to Protect Young Athletes and Keep Sports Safe" (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). The book defines what a concussion is, examines the causes and symptoms of concussions among youth athletes, explains why complete cognitive and physical rest is the best therapy for post-concussion syndrome, and provides easy-to-follow guidelines for parents and coaches to use in protecting their youth athletes.
Part polemic and part prescription, the book discusses the dangers in contact and non-contact youth sports, including soccer, ice hockey, lacrosse, volleyball, wrestling, boxing, mixed martial arts, basketball, baseball and softball, tennis, skateboarding and cheerleading. Perhaps not surprisingly, the authors identify football at the youth level as "the greatest challenge by far. Children are among the most vulnerable to injury because they have weak necks and immature musculature, and their brains are still developing. And youth football by far accounts for the largest number of players -- almost three million from ages six to fourteen, according to USA Football."
SportsLetter recently spoke with Dr. Cantu over the phone from his office.