SALT LAKE CITY – With Super Bowl 51 this weekend, the University of Utah is raising awareness about concussions suffered during sporting events.
As many former and current NFL players are experiencing years-worth of concussions, the NFL has invested in traumatic brain injury research leading to changes in the game to protect players.
They took direction from Dr. Kevin Guskiewicz, a professor at UNC-Chapel Hill and world renowned expert on concussions. He was part of a panel discussion held at the University of Utah Friday.
“This assumption now that if you’ve played football for 7,8,10 years that you`re kinda doomed, gloomed and doomed: That`s not the case,” he said.
Guskiewicz says concussions are being taken more seriously these days. The key is to educate parents and coaches on the signs and symptoms. He says injury prevention should be taught at an early age.
“I`m a big fan of trying to teach kids how to block and tackle properly, look at potential rule changes,” he said.
Ryzen Michael Benson, Highland High School’s Assistant Football Coach, developed five neck exercises that he believes will help prevent concussions.
Five high school football teams in Utah tested out the movements, and Benson says their concussion rates dropped significantly. He’s sharing his research with the NFL.
“If we’re preventing concussions by half a percent, that’s saving people and that’s keeping the sport I love, and millions of Americans love, going and making it safe for everyone to play,” Benson said.
Jesse Boone played football at the University of Utah and then in the NFL for eight years.
“My position as a center is to line up against the biggest, meanest, strongest guy on the field, and his job was to hit me as hard as he could on every single play,” he said.
He’s encouraged by the research, but would like to see more data on concussion impacts down the road.
“While I’m functioning fine today, what do I look like 10 years from now, 20 years from now, 30 years from now because of all of the hits that I’ve taken?”