The same day that Jensen’s son raised the flag in Seattle last week, the NFL agreed to pay $765 million to settle a lawsuit filed by more than 4,500 former players and families affected by concussions and head trauma.
This lawsuit is the culmination of rule changes and other drastic shifts in all levels of football to try and make the sport more safe. Struggles of former athletes have been well documented recently, some of which resulted in suicides. Many believe these are directly linked to repercussions associated with repeated head trauma in a football career.
But the NFL is not the only level of competition that is making player safety a top priority these days. High school football teams all over the nation are doing what they can to protect the developing minds of their young players.
Mineral Wells High School Head Athletic Trainer Cliff “Doc” Payne said the Rams have been very fortunate, having only one player sustain a concussion over the last two years. He said the coaching staff places high priority on teaching kids how to tackle properly, not using their helmet as a weapon or “battering ram.” The seriousness of concussions is not lost on Payne.
“I think whatever you need to do to prevent concussions, you need to do,” he said. “If you get a concussion, it’s not just bruising your skull, it’s bruising your brain. And you have to live with that for the rest of your life.
“Troy Aikman and Roger Staubach – one of the main reasons they got out of football was the concussions. I’m for whatever they can do to help prevent them. You’re not going to stop it completely, but there are some things you can do to try and prevent them.”
Payne said the Rams coaching staff is very proactive concerning player safety. Mineral Wells Head Coach Chuck Lawrence said all of the coaches are required to go through concussion training every two years either at the Ben Hogan Clinic or online. University Interscholastic League rules now dictate that teams cannot exceed 90 minutes of full contact in practice per week, a mark Lawrence says his team never comes close to in their limited contact practices. Lawrence also credited the schools “good-sized budget” for increasing players safety.