Today, Friday, February 1st, the non-profit Sports Legacy Institute, which Dr. Robert Cantu and I founded in 2007 to solve the concussion crisis, held a press conference at the Super Bowl XLVII Media Center to urge state athletic associations to ban full-contact offseason football practices for high school players. At the press conference, we distributed a must-read press release where you can learn more about the initiative. The goal is to reduce the risk of concussions and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease recently found by Boston University researchers in 34 former pro football players and six deceased former high school football players, including one just 17 years-old.
Several current NFL players joined me in expressing their support for this initiative to protect young athletes, including Matt Birk of the Baltimore Ravens, Matt Hasselbeck of the Tennessee Titans and Eric Winston of the Kansas City Chiefs, along with respected former NFLers Ted Johnson, Thomas Jones, Kevin Turner, Kyle Turley, Hunter Hillenmeyer, and Isaiah Kacyvenski.
Football leagues at most levels are restricting the number of days of full-contact to reduce risk of brain damage and disease. The NFL Players Union negotiated for no offseason contact and only 14 days of contact during the 18 week season. The Ivy League allows two days of contact per week during the season, and Pop Warner just three hours. We believe it is time to shed light on the fact that the high school level now may have the greatest exposure to brain trauma.
As a high school football player in the early 90s in Illinois, our summer consisted of six weeks of non-contact training. SLI and the current and former NFL players supporting this initiative were surprised to find that today the voting members of the Illinois High School Association chose to allow 20 days of full-contact in the summer, and 28 other state governing bodies allow spring and summer full-contact hitting. While we understand that each state has thorough processes through which to change bylaws, we hope this change will become prioritized and accelerated, as it is a safety issue. In this time of increased knowledge about the short and long-term consequences of brain trauma, we hope you will support this initiative so that within three years, no states will allow offseason hitting.
Please let us know if your organization will support this initiative as we advance our strategy to accomplish this goal.
I look forward to hearing from you.
SLI Co-Founder & Executive Director