Posted in Latest News | Leave a comment February 5, 2013
By MARCIA C. SMITH / ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
The NFL is a day away from hosting the Super Bowl, the most irresistibly gaudy, glitzy and gut-bucket championship of the year.
Goliaths and gladiators collide on the gridiron, playing an aggressive, rugged brand of tackle football for the amusement of an expected 110 million TV viewers.
Junior Seau’s suicide in May 2012 and the later finding that he suffered from CTE renewed the call for improved safety for football players, especially when it comes to head injuries.
But the controversy over head injuries in this brutal game, debates over player safety, three suicides of former players in the past two years, mounting scientific research linking head trauma to long-term brain disorders and the largest class-action lawsuit in sports looming over its players’ helmets have put America’s most popular sports league on the defensive.
Football is under attack.
Even President Barack Obama delivered a hard hit last week, telling The New Republic, “I’m a big football fan, but I have to tell you if I had a son, I’d have to think long and hard before I let him play football.”
Concerns over the dangers of football’s violent and repetitive hits resurfaced as a national hot-button issue on the morning of May 2, when former USC and 12-time Pro Bowl Chargers linebacker Junior Seau, 43, put a .357-caliber Magnum to his chest and fired a bullet through his heart in his Oceanside home.
AN NFL WIDOW
As soon as she heard the news, Eleanor Perfetto immediately – and correctly – suspected Seau suffered chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease that can be caused by the vicious blows he sustained and delivered during his 20-year NFL career.
Perfetto’s husband of 25 years, Ralph Wenzel, a former Pittsburgh Steelers and Chargers guard from 1966 to 1973, died June 18 of complications from dementia. He was 69.
He played in an era when “seeing stars,” “getting your bell rung” and “taking a ding” weren’t alarming symptoms of a concussion but badges of courage earned by soldiering on for the sake of a paycheck, a spot on a depth chart and the respect of your teammates.
In 1995, he began wrestling with depression and short-term memory loss. Soon after, Perfetto helplessly began to watch “his brain and his body literally deteriorate from him being an extremely healthy, active, intelligent man who ran five miles a day, lifted weights, taught school, read biographies and loved old movies … to being someone who sat in a vegetative state in a wheelchair, who lost 80 pounds of muscle mass, who couldn’t walk, and in the end, couldn’t recognize his own name,” she said.
Six months after his death, researchers at Boston University’s Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy told Perfetto on Dec. 18 that Wenzel had “very severe CTE, one of the worst cases they’d ever seen.”
On Jan. 10, neuropathologists at the National Institutes of Health said that Seau, despite never being diagnosed with a concussion while in the NFL, also suffered from CTE.
Since the 2006 suicide of Philadelphia safety Andre Waters, the disease has been detected in 33 of 34 brain examinations of former NFL players, including Atlanta “Gritz Blitz” safety Ray Easterling, 62, who died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound April 19, and four-time Pro Bowl Chicago safety Dave Duerson, 50, who shot himself in the chest Feb. 17, 2011.
Perfetto believes the NFL played a role in her husband’s dementia and ultimately his death. Her lawsuit is among at least 195 others involving more than 4,000 former players and their families that have been consolidated in a master complaint filed in federal court in Philadelphia.
The plaintiffs accuse the NFL and official helmet-maker Riddell of “deliberately and fraudulently” misleading players by concealing information connecting football-related head trauma to long-term brain damage. They contend that the NFL failed to properly treat players for concussions and “exacerbated the health risk by promoting the game’s violence.”
Seau’s family also filed a wrongful-death suit against the NFL in Superior Court in San Diego on Jan. 23.
Perfetto won’t be watching Super Bowl XLVII even though everyone around her Annapolis, Md., home is talking about the Baltimore Ravens’ matchup with the San Francisco 49ers.
“Why? What a waste,” she said. “It’s a whole lot of money and a whole lot of hype for something that could be very damaging to the guys playing the game but also to the kids watching it who want to go out and do the same thing.”
David Sparks, a past president of the Huntington Beach Pop Warner, said he believes that his league’s 500 players are “100 percent safe.” His coaches sit through yearly clinics on concussions. Helmets are inspected every two years.
Newly hired El Dorado coach Mike Crawford, 33, said he’d sit a disoriented player after a hard hit and have him examined by a trainer rather than let him play with a possible concussion.
He also plans to have every player in the program wear headgear – lycra Gamebreaker helmets with shock-attenuating foam inserts – at every practice not involving a helmet.
Veteran Mater Dei coach Bruce Rollinson made concussion prevention “a personal passion” in the six years since he watched two of his pass-rushing players violently collide head-to-head when the quarterback stepped out of their crosshairs.
“Nothing is going to prevent the concussion completely because the reality is that this is a fast, physical game of collisions,” he said. “What we can do is minimize the impact on the body, take every precaution and be aware when head injuries might occur.”
Which is why Rollinson has players wear helmets and full pads at every possible practice, fully anticipating that players will always try to go full speed and hard contact would be inevitable. And it’s why he agreed with the team doctors’ program for all players to have baseline neurological testing at the start of each season.
“I’m from the old school where you hit ‘em till you can’t see straight, but I don’t believe that anymore,” said Rollinson, 63, who played flanker at USC in 1971.
“When I lose my keys and later find I left them in the freezer, I stop and think: Is it age or all the shots I took playing the game?”
Clay Matthews Jr., 56, retired in 1996 after 19 NFL seasons as a four-time Pro Bowl linebacker with Cleveland and Atlanta. He said he suffers no headaches or memory issues from his bruising, headbanger’s-ball playing days but wonders “if something might pop up later.”
As the linebackers coach at Oaks Christian High in Westlake Village and father of two current NFL linebackers, Clay III and Casey, Matthews said he is concerned about the modern NFL game with bigger, stronger and faster players. Clay III, the 2010 NFC Defensive Player of the Year, already has sustained two concussions in his four seasons with Green Bay.
“At this point, I think they (the NFL) are doing everything they can to err on the side of caution,” the father said.
“The facts are that in some way, shape or form, they will be hurt, and the belief was that everything could always be fixed. Now we’re learning that might not be the case with head injuries.”
Educational pamphlets on concussions were sent out to players in 2007. Stiffer penalties for helmet-to-helmet contact have been implemented in recent years.
In 2012 the league awarded $30 million to the NIH for medical research and rolled out NFL Total Wellness, a program with enhanced mental health benefits and a confidential toll-free hotline developed and operated in part by specialists in suicide prevention.
There are plans for independent neurological consultants to be on the NFL sidelines in 2013. The NFL Players Association has asked for the establishment of a chief of safety post.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who has helped make the league a $9.3 billion enterprise, delivered his customary state-of-the-league address Friday, reaffirming the NFL’s commitment to make the game safe.
He spoke of escalating discipline for illegal hits, implementing postseason physical and mental health player evaluations, and treating head injuries conservatively.
“We have more to do, but we will keep working on it,” he said.
There’s no more time for head games.
Contact the writer: firstname.lastname@example.orgPosted in Latest News | Leave a comment February 4, 2013
Clay Matthews is known for his big hits and teeth-rattling sacks.
But the Green Bay Packers linebacker never wants them to come at the expense of a serious injury.
Matthews is an advocate for making football as safe as possible, and realizes the NFL sets an example for younger players.
Matthews recently put his words into action by making a personal contribution to the cause.
His older brother, Brian, coaches a team in the Triunfo YMCA Flag Football League, and Clay purchased soft-shell helmets for every player to wear.
Matthews, an Agoura High graduate, surprised the team with his donation last Friday at Chumash Park in Agoura.
“Awareness should begin at an early age, and anything that can be done to give kids a little more protection is something I want to be a part of,” Matthews said. “Brain injures are being studied more and more and they have determined they are much more serious than they thought.”
Concussions and traumatic brain injuries have become a major issue in professional football, and the concern is trickling down through the lower levels.
More than 2,000 former players are suing the NFL alleging they weren’t warned about the long-term risks of concussions.
Recent suicides by former players like San Diego Chargers linebacker Junior Seau have been linked to brain damage.
Even President Obama weighed in on the topic, telling “The New Republic” if he had a son he would have reservations about allowing him to play football.
According to experts, children and teenagers are particularly at risk for concussions because their brains are still developing and their heads are proportionally larger than their bodies and don’t absorb impact as well.
Many youth leagues have instituted new rules to specifically address concussions and enhance education for coaches and parents.
USA Football, an organization backed by the NFL, has introduced the Heads Up program — an online educational program for parents, youth coaches and commissioners that teaches proper tackling techniques.
In March, USA Football plans to bring more than 20 current and former coaches to Indianapolis to help train a group of “master trainers” that will help more than 100 youth leagues across the nation.
Although flag football doesn’t require pads and helmets, Brian Matthews was still concerned about the safety of his players on the field.
Brian is an area sales representative for Gamebreaker Helmets, which is based in Newbury Park and was co-founded by Agoura High graduate Joey LaRocque.
The company’s soft-shelled helmets are molded out of EVA rubber foam, and are used by many high school football teams in passing leagues.
“The helmets have been tested by USC, UCLA and Stanford and they reduce concussions by up to 61 percent,” Brian said.
The helmets cost nearly $100 each, and Clay donated eight to brother’s team, which is appropriately named the Packers.
“It’s not really something that I expected him to do nor did I ask him to do, but he did it out of the kindness of his heart,” Brian said. “He told me one day he wanted to make a donation and buy the whole team helmets. I would have done it a long time ago if I had the ability to afford them. But I don’t have that luxury.”
Clay’s appearance last Friday came during a steady rain, but the weather didn’t dampen the spirits of the players and their parents.
The helmets were personalized with the Green Bay logo on one side, Clay’s number on the other side and the player’s number on the front.
After handing out the helmets to each player, Clay stayed to sign autographs and pose for pictures for anyone in attendance.
“The fact that he is standing out here in the rain taking pictures is a testament to him knowing what is really going on,” Brian said. “He knows there is an epidemic with concussions and hopefully this is taking a step toward doing something.”
Drew Nora, 11, whose nickname is “Hollywood” because “I go for the big plays,” was thrilled to meet Clay in person.
“Oh, wow, it’s so exciting. He is one of my favorite players,” said Nora of Westlake Village. “I thought it was really nice he gave us the helmets because they are worth a lot of money.”
Clay would have preferred to keep his donation under wraps, but his brother wouldn’t let him.
“He didn’t want to make a big fuss about it like this, but I knew the kids would go crazy so we had to get him out here,” Brian said. “It’s pretty inspirational, especially for the parents who call me and email me telling me how much it means to their kids.”
Once Clay saw the team’s reaction to his gift, it only reaffirmed his decision about the donation.
“I thought this was a fantastic idea, especially with them being named the Packers,” Clay said. “It gave them something to look forward to and gives them a little protection. Hopefully, it provides them with a little spark.”
Brian would like for the helmets to light a spark beyond just his own team.
“I would hope that other parents will start asking why they don’t have these once they see our kids falling and hitting the ground and not staying down,” he said. “The company is working with so many schools and flag football leagues it doesn’t make sense for this league not to have them.”
Read more: http://www.vcstar.com/news/2013/jan/30/clay-matthews-surprises-brothers-team-with-soft/#ixzz2JwDoXgA0
Team Matthews conscious of head injuries
By Stephanie Bertholdo
The rain falling last week didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of fourth- and fifth-grade flag football players when National Football League star Clay Matthews III sloshed onto the field at Chumash Park in Agoura Hills to deliver concussion-preventing helmets to the young Packers team.
Matthews, a member of the NFL’s Green Bay Packers, is the older brother of Brian Matthews, the coach for the Triunfo YMCA flag football team and head of sales for Gamebreaker Helmets, a protective headgear that has been shown to reduce concussions in young players.
The danger of brain-related injuries sustained by players who are violently and repeatedly hit during football games garnered national attention following the suicide of linebacker Junior Seau in May 2012, the most recent NFL player death linked to head injuries.
Clay Matthews, a 26-year-old Agoura Hills resident, donated the eight protective helmets to his brother’s flag football team to emphasize the importance of safety, especially for children.
Matthews was a fixture in the youth football leagues while growing up in the community.
Revisiting the turf of his childhood, he asked the boys to introduce themselves by the nicknames his brother gave them. “Silver Bullet” said he earned the name because he had a “strong arm,” while “Hollywood” earned his name because he goes for the “big plays.”
The donated helmets were emblazoned with the No. 52, Matthews’ number on the Green Bay Packers.
Brian said his brother Clay may be known professionally as the “poster boy of intimidation,” but in reality he is a soft-spoken, considerate man who “leads by action.”
Clay Matthews Jr.—the father of Clay and Brian and a former star NFL linebacker who brought his family to Agoura Hills in 1986— told parents after the helmets were distributed that “no one is allowed to get hurt now.”
Brian, a Thousand Oaks resident, said the protective headgear also is being used in high school football practices when regular helmets aren’t required.
The younger Clay Matthews said he sustained his share of concussions over the years, but that he always viewed the injury as less serious than, say, a broken bone. Today he said he knows better and believes that concussions can have long-term consequences.
Brian said concussions in football have reached epidemic proportions. He said Junior Seau demonstrated symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder similar to those of soldiers in combat and that the hard-hitting player sometimes appeared “punch drunk” like a boxer.
The elder Matthews, who helps Brian coach the Packers flag football team, said when he was playing professionally coaches would use a rather unscientific method to see whether a player sustained a concussion.
They would “hold up a finger,” Matthew said, and “you had two guesses” to get the number right. Most players could pass the test even if they had a more serious underlying injury.
He agrees that the way football injuries are handled needs to be “cleaned up a little bit.”
The Matthews brothers have a younger brother, Casey, who plays for the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles, and an uncle, Bruce Matthews, who was an offensive lineman for the Houston Oilers and is a member of the NFL Hall of Fame.
http://www.theacorn.com/news/2013-01-30/Front_Page/Agouras_first_family_of_football_puts_safety_first.htmPosted in Latest News | Leave a comment November 8, 2012
A youth flag football coach calls them “goofy,” but it’s an endearing reference delivered with a chuckle.
The head of a prestigious medical clinic says it works.
And a former NFL star and coach at one of the top prep football programs in California says it just makes sense.
The Gamebreaker is a new type of protective headgear designed to reduce the threat of concussions and other head injuries for participants in what are considered “non-contact” sports.Latest News | Leave a comment October 19, 2012
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — It’s a blustery early fall day, the wind whipping through Anchorage Football Stadium, one of the city’s oldest athletic facilities.
It isn’t raining — for a change. The weather has been unseasonably unpleasant here the past few weeks, with flooding, lots of rain and wind gusts of more than 100 miles an hour.Latest News | Leave a comment October 19, 2012
Last fall The Malibu Times ran an article on the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District and its institution of preventative measures to protect athletes against brain injury. A year later we explore new measures being taken at Malibu High School.Uncategorized | 1 Comment October 3, 2012
In the United States, about 30 million children and teens participate in some form of organized sports, and more than 3.5 million injuries each year, which cause some loss of time of participation, are experienced by the participants. Almost one-third of all injuries incurred in childhood are sports-related injuries. By far, the most common injuries are sprains and strains.Latest News | Leave a comment October 3, 2012
The Irvine Chargers will spare no expense to protect the health and welfare of our players and cheerleaders. WIth that in mind, the program has made a large investment in Gamebreaker helmets for each and every one of our Flag Football players. More details on the helmets are available at the Gamebreaker website http://www.gamebreakerhelmets.com, with some of the highlights of the helmets below:
- Gamebreaker Helmets are a uniquely designed performance protective cap.
- It is molded out of the finest EVA rubber foam, offering maximum protection upon impact.
- The hook and loop chin strap combined with adjustable laces in the back, enables the headgear to custom fit each persons head.
- It’s even washable. LYCRA surrounds the outer shell, allowing air to flow throughout and prevent the player from enduring any extra heat. No more sweaty, smelly head gear. Bad odors wash right out! Gamebreaker Helmets are Washable, can be custom decorated (ours have our Chargers logo) and offer 100% peripheral vision.
- Gamebreaker has undergone rigorous load impact testing.
We ordered these helmets in the offseason and we are proud to be the first OCJAAF program to do so for all it’s Flag Football squads, and we’re glad to see other programs following in our footsteps. We hope and expect other programs will be doing so in the near future. Just another reminder why you help make us the number one Youth Sports Program in all of Southern California!
http://www.irvinechargers.comPosted in Latest News | 4 Comments October 1, 2012
Chaminade’s Middle School athletic program will provide soft-shell helmets for all their flag football athletes beginning this season. With all the recent data and news on concussions, the athletic department decided Chaminade would become one of the first schools in the area to outfit players with soft-shell helmets to protect their athletes by reducing the potential for head trauma and concussion.
Manufactured by local company, Gamebreaker, the helmets include a washable neoprene-type covering with padding underneath and a Velcro chinstrap. The helmets are reminiscent of the leather helmets worn in the 1920s. High School Varsity Head Football Coach, Ed Croson highly recommends these helmets for both flag and tackle football. A majority of high schools in the area, including Chaminade, use these helmets for their 7-on-7 spring football.Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment ← Older posts