Concussion.The big, scary, 10-letter word. The fear of them is getting in the way of the protection of our athletes and the game we love.The game that’s been handed down through generations. The game that entire communities are built around.
But our game has been under attack because of legitimate safety concerns. And it ends now.
If youth participation continues to drop, where will the next generation of great players come from?
The first impact protected by helmets is only a part of the problem. Just as a sound structure is important in a car crash, without multiple airbags the results are catastrophic.
With innovative design and technology, the Kato Collar addresses the real problem, rapid acceleration and deceleration inside the helmet, protecting the brain from that secondary, often times more traumatic blow by 30%.
So let’s protect our players, protect the game and let them play. Safely.
Marcus Gooden was a 5th year senior from Illinois who played linebacker and long snapper on punts and extra points for the 2015 Minnesota State Mavericks. He suffered from repeated burner/stingers, averaging 1-2 every game. Unfortunately, Marcus would have to leave for a series of plays to recover every time he sustained the injury in a game.
His Athletic Trainer at Minnesota State Mankato worked to prevent the injury from occurring through treatment, rehabilitation, and protection with other collars yet couldn’t prevent his burner/stinger from recurring. I worked with them to have Marcus wear our third prototype, and here’s what he had to say:
“My junior year I got a pretty bad stinger affecting my left shoulder and arm. Going into my senior year those stingers continued. I had one or two a game. I talked to Jeff, and he suggested I wear the collar. Deep into the season, I took his advice. As I wore the collar, I couldn’t believe it but, the stingers wore off. And I actually didn’t have any moving forward.”
This is why I developed our flagship product: To help players like Marcus stay on the field and to help protect from injuries.
How We Started
In the fall of 1997, I was the head athletic trainer at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. During this time, I had a football player named Greg Herlihy who suffered from repeated burner/stingers. Every time he got hit on the helmet it would force his head in a motion to his left and his left arm would go completely numb from the neck down. This would cause extreme shooting pain down his left upper extremity. This occurred numerous times during his career and progressively his recovery time from injuries would become longer. In fact, in his junior year, he could not attend practice for multiple weeks and had to miss his final game.
We performed as many diagnostic tests on him that we could; X-rays, MRI, bone scans and so on, and found no pathology (injury damage) that would keep him from returning to play. Up to this point, we had been trying to prevent the injury from occurring by using several different preventive/protective neck collars. Yet I could find none that would stop injury from occurring.
For the next eight months, we worked together to strengthen Greg’s neck and improve flexibility. I also placed him back in a traditional collar for prevention. Using a traditional collar, it must be positioned so the player can get their head up in their stance as well as keep their head up when making a tackle or block. If not, you set them up for an even more serious injury.
The second day of contact Greg took on a block from left outside linebacker in perfect position (head up, neck bowed, body in ready position and contact was made shoulder to shoulder, head to head on his right side. Greg’s head moved obliquely into extension, lateral rotation, and lateral flexion to the left. He immediately dropped to the ground as he had tingling, numbness and a sharp pain down his left upper extremity. As we walked off the field he said to me in frustration, “I can’t play football like this.” As his athletic trainer, I had no idea what to say to him, except whatever he decided I had his back.
I was so frustrated. I had tried everything I knew to try to prevent the injury; all the preventive collars, the necessary rehabilitation and treatment, and could not keep the injury from occurring. As I reflected upon this, I started to think about a more rounded collar, shaped like a half circle with something similar to a bicycle tire extending out from the collar. Over time I realized we put air pads in helmets. Why not a collar?
The sketches began. Brainstorming with colleagues. Talking to more players. This, my friends, is how Guardian Athletics began and I consider to be the birth of Kato Collar. It became clear that there were bigger issues facing the game of football than burner/stingers, and unfortunately, the industry wasn’t moving fast enough. There needed to be more products, training, and recovery techniques to protect players on the field.
We continued this innovative approach through a number of prototypes, and in late 2017 we started production on our current model, and begin shipping to teams in March 2018.
Burner/Stingers: We Can Help
Unless you are well versed in football, you likely haven’t heard of a burner/stinger.
Let’s start with the technical definition: The brachial plexus is a network of nerves that send signals from your spine to your shoulder, arm, and hand. When you have a brachial plexus injury or a BPI, it is when these nerves are stretched, compressed, or ripped apart from the spinal cord. When these occur, the player will feel something similar to an electrical shock on their arm, typically followed by numbness and/or weakness in the arm. This happens when the head is pushed to the side or down, and most have been considered to be part of the game and relatively harmless. And realistically, having one or two most likely are relatively harmless if treated correctly with proper recovery.
There are two main risks of the burner stinger, and they are interrelated:
Most trainers and players will agree that they go underreported, and 65% of players at a college level will experience in their career
87% rate of reoccurrence
These two points indicate we have a larger problem here. Well over half of our players are experiencing a BPI and it’s likely that they haven’t had it happen just one time.
We have got to do better at protecting our players. And the mantra of, “walk it off, son” needs to get thrown in the trash.This isn’t something you walk off and jump back in the game. For all too long, that’s the main treatment that was used for these injuries. We know now that ongoing BPI’s lead to loss of feeling, muscle atrophy, and even permanent disability.
If you’ve experienced BPI’s, talk to your trainer and your doctor. Ask questions. And most importantly, listen to your body. If you or your trainer would like to learn more, please contact us and we’ll connect you to resources to help.