Call it a concussion knowledge blitz.
The CFL is teaming up with Football Canada and other organizations to promote head injury awareness, prevention, management and research. Flyers and posters with information and guidelines on how to deal with concussions will be distributed to tens of thousands of players around the country.
The goal is to educate players and coaches at all levels and dispel any remnants of the old-school gridiron habits where players made premature returns to the field.
“I think that culture has shifted,” CFL commissioner Mark Cohon said Tuesday. “I think that concept has shifted and these guys want to live long and healthy lives. And part of that is managing concussions.”
The material, titled “Concussion Awareness & Management,” lists basic signs and symptoms of a concussion. There are guidelines for coaches, players, parents and officials to follow and a list of recommended steps that should be followed before a player returns to the field.
Distribution will be aimed at amateur football players and coaches along with student-athletes in high schools and post-secondary institutions around the country.
“Our goal is to ensure this basic but all important information is on every coach’s clipboard, posted in every team’s locker-room, and available to every player and parent,” Cohon said.
Joining the CFL and Football Canada at the news conference were representatives from Canadian Interuniversity Sport, the CFL Players’ Association, the CFL Alumni Association, the Canadian School Sport Federation and ThinkFirst, a charitable foundation dedicated to the prevention of brain and spinal cord injuries.
Last year, the CFL instituted a standard protocol (SCAT2) for diagnosing concussions and withholding athletes from play until they have been properly cleared to participate. This season, the league will have its eight teams use a computerized system to track concussions.
Dr. Charles Tator, the founder of ThinkFirst, said it’s important for everyone to be properly informed when it comes to concussions while researchers try to learn more about them.
“I would say we are at our infancy in examining this issue,” Tator said. “That’s why it’s extremely important for scientists to be involved. Even the definition of concussion has changed over the past few years, the management of concussions, the use of exercise for example, to bring on symptoms of concussions. We didn’t know about that a few years ago.
“So in my view this is a new ball game.”
Tator is one of several experts leading a Canadian study – the KNC Sports Concussion project – into the possible correlation between repeated concussions and late deterioration of brain function. They are studying the impact of concussions on retired pro football players who have donated their brains to the research.
Former star quarterback Matt Dunigan plans to donate his brain to Tator’s foundation. Dunigan, also a ThinkFirst spokesman, suffered several concussions before his 14-year CFL career ended in 1996.
“You may have got two or three a game,” Dunigan said. “You know, that turn the field sideways on you. Give you tunnel vision and make you spin. You just got back up, handed the ball off and relied on the defence to get you the ball back, and went back out there. It was just the way you approached the game. It was the way I knew how.
“The game is being played differently now. Not so much with how physical or aggressive or whatnot. It’s just the approach. And to me it’s a huge step forward.”
Notes: Concussion flyers and posters will be available in card form on the CFL website, Football Canada website and other partner websites.
– Canadian Press
Photo: The Scratching Post