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Sports as different as football and Olympic horseback riding events such as jumping and dressage (aka the "horse ballet") have a common denominator: concussions.

The international governing body for equestrian sports was in attendance during the weekend at an NFL-hosted summit on concussions and how to better prevent, diagnose and treat them.

Medical officials from Australian rules football, international soccer, the NHL, the NCAA and more took part at NFL headquarters.

Equestrian sports, in which concussions and other head injuries can result from falls and kicks, were represented by the Federation Equestre Internationale, based in Switzerland.

"This is a huge concern for them, and they wear helmets," said neurosurgeon Richard Ellenbogen, co-chairman of the NFL's Head, Neck and Spine Committee, noting the equestrian group was interested in helmet designs for football.

Another attendee was Martin Raftery, chief medical officer on the International Rugby Board, based in Dublin. "We recognize every sport is unique, it's different, but we all have common problems ... with respect to concussion," Raftery said.

Paul McCrory's focus is Australian rules football. "I don't think one group's got the answer. It's really pooling resources and getting the best bang for our buck," said McCrory, associate professor at the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health in Melbourne, Australia.

The groups plan to share concussion data and collaborate on research to improve diagnostic methods and facilitate recovery.

The NFL policy since 2009 has been that no player can return after a concussion until free of symptoms (at rest and after exertion) and cleared by the team physician and an independent neurological consultant.

Ellenbogen said more research was needed. "The big issue in concussion is when is it safe to return a player back to the sport," said Ellenbogen, chairman of the Department of Neurological Surgery at the University of Washington.

"The fact of the matter is we don't really know the correct answer, and we need to look at all the variations of what is done around the world."

The NFL, which funded the meeting through an educational grant, has reached a tentative settlement, subject to federal approval, with more than 5,000 players who filed suits alleging that for decades the NFL knowingly failed to protect them from the risks and long-term effects of concussions.

While the legal matter has worked its way through the courts, the NFL has funded USA Football's Heads Up program to promote safer tackling methods in youth and high school football.

Last year, the league launched a four-year, $60 million Head Health Challenge to offer funding for new ideas about treating concussions and developing better technology to reduce them.

"I watched what can be done at an organizational level across sports,'' Ellenbogen said. "We need to know what to change, what's working, what's not working. ... Let's provide the evidence of what the risks are and get rid of some of these risks."


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