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How high school football coaches learn best practices on concussion prevention and awareness.

The moment which provided this behavioral scientist with significant hope for the future of contact sports’ youth players came rather unexpectedly. But there I sat, as an expert panelist along with arguably the world's most credentialed physician experts in the space of sports head-injury; Dr. Robert Cantu (awareness) and Dr. Alan Ashare (safety). We were in a school auditorium one May evening surrounded by a raft of high school football coaches.



Pioneers in the field of sports concussion medicine, football’s Dr. Cantu essentially wrote the first book on sports head trauma awareness (diagnosis/treatment), and hockey’s Dr. Ashare has been a tireless international educator-advocate on the subject of sports head injury safety (the originator of hockey's "Heads Up, Don't Duck" program in the mid-90s).

I was there to share some good news: That behavioral epigenomics has progressed to where we can help prevent and limit the effects of sports related total head trauma (concussions and accumulation of sub-concussive blows) with an innovation called brain performance enhancement.

The visionary leader and panel moderator bringing this together was former NFL & New England Patriot 'great' Pete Brock, President of the New England Patriots Players Alumni Association, an advocate for best-practice concussion awareness and prevention services for youth. A caring, passionate bear of a man, with a penchant for business excellence and getting things done right, I don't think it would be a good idea to line up against this 12 year NFL lineman on the wrong side of this ball. A gifted public speaker, Pete teed-up our expert panel of 3 for success.

Pete was clear, the unrehearsed panel incredibly aligned and the football coaches convinced: 

A standard of concussion awareness and prevention is a youth-athlete 'must have', and shall include baseline concussion testing and basic education focused on awareness, safety and prevention.

I must say it was exciting to observe the audience’s positive and collaborative response to the panel’s overture... which offered much hope, during what has become a time of fear, challenge and division in contact sports - a theme consistently mentioned by many of the coaches.

And hope for the future sprang from how these coaches responded to what became a great give and take forum: As a group, the coaches formally documented support for Pete Brock's proposed youth concussion standard and would communicate this to those in charge of interscholastic policy/procedure. It was obvious to all panelists - these football coaches cared...and despite what might be something that could further complicate their coaching lives, they were willing to stand up - the kids come first.

And hope springs from Pete Brock's leadership commitment 'to not just play out the NFL alumni celebrity string', but instead to grind it out on a Thursday night because that's what it is going to take to get the job done right. And from my fellow expert panelists, famous and senior enough by far to claim the right to forgo fighting 90 minutes of Boston traffic after an 11 hour clinical day, showing up enthusiastically because they know how much of a game-changer it can be.

My business partner wife (also a behavioral scientist) and I have a Friday evening ritual... we sit together and review the week for happenings that were hopeful and that we are grateful for. As we sat this past Friday evening at the Hope Club (true name) and reviewed what took place the night before, our cranberry, lime juice & soda drinks never tasted better.

For more resources about brain health and wellness, please visit: www.braininplay.com.

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