Concussion Misconceptions

As I write this blog post, I can’t help but feel frustrated about the misconceptions and misleading click-bait articles that have caused a variety of reactions that seem to surround football conversations.

These conversations are happening in homes, within football communities, football teams and boosters, and with countless advocates for the game of football. We started Guardian Athletics to innovate around products that can help elevate player safety — not only football but also any high-impact sport. And we also observed a lack of awareness around head injuries and concussions overall.

I recently listened to a dynamic conversation on Minnesota Public Radio with a roundtable of folks on a similar mission as ours. Please take time to listen to this conversation for yourself! Here’s the link. We are going to discuss their roundtable over a series of posts in the coming weeks.

The increase of concussion awareness has led to increased pressure for protocols related to how concussions are observed. Yet the additional research around concussions and sports is extremely complex and while football is a great place to start increased protocols, and all of us need to commit to greater advocacy for education around concussions and injuries overall.

Did you know that girl’s hockey has a higher rate of concussions vs. boys hockey (source: Washington Post)? What are some potential reasons for this, and what can we learn from this disparity in hockey that relates to football?

First, a girls neck is less strong largely due to the lack of proper neck strengthening tactics taught by trainers and coaches. That means the deceleration of the head can be greater, and as an intervention, we need to prevent injuries by providing proper training to girls.

Generally, young girls aren’t trained on how to tackle or simply how to tumble. Teaching kids how to tumble is important to learn at a young age. Stats show that boys learn this easier than girls and we need to close that gap by being better trainers.

Finally, girls have a different chemical and biological makeup that requires a different means of training and strengthening to ensure they are safe. It isn’t simply a one-size-fits-all approach to keep them safer from injuries. This is a good reminder that we should be continuing to provide training practices that best relate to the player, no matter the sport.

Dr. Uzma Samadani and Mr. Grant comment that football is the safest its ever been, and we agree. Additional resources — driven by a mix of media influence and overall fan/player voices being heard — support the safer game overall. Consider the evolving nature of concussion protocols. Dr. Samadani speaks of the process, and how through a series of eliminating a list of variables, the player can be quickly (and many times incorrectly) put back into the game with potential damages that weren’t seen in these first moments after the hit. Coaches have the voice to make a decision on how to pull the player. However, this is arbitrary (outlined in a post by our founder here) and potentially guided by other considerations, some not medical in their nature.

Working on building algorithms that help identify what are correct protocols for post-injury is essential and exciting: This means we can advance in safety overall. Testing eye movements are quite standard in a variety of medical tests and having a standardized approach to this test will enable safer treatment after an impact.

In a future post, we’ll discuss the importance of the sport related to what comprehensive research shows for kids later in life. In the MPR story, Dr. Samadani speaks about trust and how that is given her confidence with her permission for her son to play the game. We’ll dive into that topic and how it’s part of a new discussion that we need to have with our families.

Football has a Problem

This is how we win again. We let them play.

Kato Collar helps keep players safe in the game by decelerating the head by up to 30% after an impact. This helps prevent concussions, burner/stingers, and other injuries. To check out the collar, click here.

What is Heads Up Training?

Over my years as a trainer, I always kept abreast of the latest in techniques and researched/implemented parts that worked best to improve player safety. I’m often asked what I think about these programs, and I’m happy to share my thoughts with you here.

There are two main Heads Up Programs:

  1. CDC’s Heads Up Concussion program for youth and high school sports
  2. USA’s Heads Up Football program for youth, and junior and senior high school sports. [USA’s program for Jr. & Sr. high school is combined with the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS).]

CDC’s Heads Up program focuses on changing the culture of concussions through online education and printed materials for parents, coaches, and athletes of all ages through their high school years. Their educational courses and materials focus on recognition and understanding of a concussion, return to play/activity after a concussion, and prevention of concussion.

USA’s Heads Up Football program is focused on creating a culture of football safety going beyond just focusing on concussion. They offer professional development courses and coaching certifications at all levels of football which address recognition of concussion and prevention of concussion through proper coaching technique and proper equipment fitting. USA Football Heads Up also addresses youth coaching philosophy.

As a former Certified Athletic Trainer for close to 35 years and the Founder of Guardian Athletics, I support any program that advocates for player safety. The CDC Heads Up program focuses on recognition and follow-up care of a concussion to ensure proper healing a mild traumatic brain injury to prevent the next episode from occurring. USA Football Heads Up program focuses on recognizing a concussion and goes into prevention through education of coaches and players on the proper fundamentals of tackling and blocking. Additionally, their program addresses a couple other injuries/illnesses occurring in football.

People are looking for a quick answer to the concussion question. There isn’t one. The keys are education and innovation. Guardian Athletics believes concussion prevention is a combination of properly fitted equipment, coaching the correct fundamentals of tackling and blocking, education on the recognition and proper care of concussions, and innovation of equipment for protection against concussions. Not one thing will safeguard against all concussions, but if we combine all of these things together in a concerted effort we can reduce the number and significance of concussions.

I encourage you to review these programs and implement them at a scale that makes sense for you. And if you have utilized these training mechanisms, I want to hear from you. What worked well? What didn’t? Send me your thoughts at