#C4CT UN Conference: We've Come A Long Way, But A Long Way To Go

When MomsTEAM launched its Youth Sports Concussion Safety channel back in 2001, I suspected that people at the time must have thought the time and energy a team of experts, MomsTEAM staff, and I spent on the topic of youth sports concussions bordered on the obsessive, especially as no other youth sports website, much less the mainstream media, was talking about it at all back then.

If I had told them then, that one day, fourteen years later, sport-related concussions had become a national obsession, to the point where some were questioning whether football as we know it would still be around in another 10 years, and that I would be speaking at the United Nations of all places at a day-long concussion symposium about what MomsTEAM, MomsTEAM Institute, and I were doing to help save the game of football with a solutions-based concussion risk management program called the Six Pillars, which MomsTEAM unveiled in an hour-long documentary still running on PBS stations around the country, they surely would have called me crazy.

Brooke de Lench and panelists at #C4CT concussion conference 


NFL Network correspondent Andrea Kremer

Yet there I was doing exactly that. This past Wednesday, I travelled to New York City (a busy place under the best of circumstances, but a madhouse during Super Bowl Week), where I was honored to be a panelist at the #C4CT (Coalition For Concussion Treatment) conference at the United Nations. The panel was moderated by one of my favorite journalists, Andrea Kremer, chief correspondent for Player Health and Safety for the NFL Network, and was titled, "Future of Contact Sports." 

#C4CT was quarterbacked by former NFL player, Jack Brewer, and his talented team at Brewer Sports International, and brought together some of the brightest minds in the concussion realm. (for a list of speakers, click here)

While I enjoyed all the speakers, the ones I most liked hearing were Dr. Bob Cantu, who was MomsTEAM's concussion expert from 2001 until 2007, and Leigh Steinberg, who I had not seen speak since he invited to me to be the keynote speaker at his National Sports Concussion Summit back in 2008. He did an excellent job of pulling all the talk together. 

Here's a video of the second half of the conference (my presentation starts at about 1 hour 51 minutes and you may need to refresh browser to load video). 



Focus on solutions

While concussion awareness and attention from the mainstream media have increased exponentially over the past 14 years, I am hoping that the next 10 years will see a shift in the focus from the concussion problem to concussion solutions, from shining a light, not on what is wrong, but instead, as we do at MomsTEAM, on what is right and what we can do right now to make football and all contact and collision sports with a risk of head injury safer, both by reducing the risk of concussions but by doing a better job of identifying concussed athletes, seeing that they are removed from play and evaluated as soon as possible, and by making sure they get the cognitive and physical rest they need to return to the classroom, and, eventually to sports.

As I listened to more than nine hours of speakers, it was not lost on me that I still have a lot of work to do. Also not lost, at least on me, was that we were meeting at the United Nations, whose Conventions of the Rights of the Child has yet to be ratified by two countries: Somalia and the United States.  I wrote about the CRC in my book, Home Team Advantage, back in 2006, and continued to be guided in my efforts to make youth sports safer by the principle it sets out: that our children, all of our children, not just those who are the victims of family abuse and neglect, but those who play sports as well, a fundamental duty of care. 

Alicia Jensen, Clinton Portis, Brooke de Lench, Jack Brewer



Left to right: High school student and concussed athlete Alicia Jenson, former NFL running back Clinton Portis, Brooke de Lench, and former NFL player and head of Brewer International, Jack Brewer.







As the classic Virginia Slims commercial said years ago, "We've come a long way baby." But, to quote Robert Frost, we also have "miles to go before we sleep." 

I know I won't sleep easy until I know that every kid who plays sports is safe as he or she can be.  It's our duty. It's my passion. And it's my committment to the children of America. 

Brooke de Lench at #C4CT concussion conference at United Nations January 29, 2014

Brooke de Lench is the Executive Director of MomsTEAM Institute, Founder and Publisher of MomsTEAM.com, author, blogger, and documentary film producer. Her most recent film, "The Smartest Team: Making High School Football Safer," is airing on selected PBS stations in 2014.

You can email Brooke @ delench@MomsTeam.com and follow her on Twitter @brookedelench.





























"Friday Night Tykes": A Viewer's Guide To Episodes 1 and 2

Friday Night TykesYou have probably read a lot already about the new reality television series, Friday Night Tykes (FNT) which premieres tonight on the Esquire Network.  

Like many of those who have weighed in so far, I am troubled, to put it mildly, about what it says about youth football, San Antonio, Texas-style.  [For some of what I think, watch tonight's "Inside Edition"

But I also see educational value in the show because, in so many ways, it provides a perfect example of precisely how NOT to run a youth football program. I think the best thing I can do to enhance your viewing experience is to provide you this companion guide to alert you to just some of the safety issues raised in the first two episodes that Esquire made available to the press, and provide links to related MomsTEAM content so you can decide for yourself how the way the folks in San Antonio run their program matches up - or, in almost all cases, doesn't match up - to how we at MomsTEAM think a youth football program should be run, one which puts winning first, and one which puts safety first, and let you be the judge about which one you would want your child or grandchild to play in.

Heat safety


  • Kids, at their very first practice, play in full pads and helmets in 99% heat.  
  • When they are overcome by the heat and begin throwing up, they are told to quit crying, put their helmet back on, and resume practicing.
  • Kids do not take water breaks in shade.

MomsTEAM-related content: 

Youth football players stretching

Concussion Safety

  • Kids told to "rip their [opponents'] heads off." 
  • Kids told that if their opponents' "heads fall off, so be it."
  • Coach tells players, "If you slam them to the ground, oh well."
  • Head-to-head helmet contact is routine
MomsTEAM related content:
  • Kids told to keep playing even if get "bell rung" and crying
  • Coach expresses view that if he lets player stop because of injury, you "weaken" him; kids need to just "shake off" injury
  • Player returns to practice 2 days after taking a "bad hit" in practice; mother wondered why he didn't want to play X-Box
  • $16,000 spent on new uniforms; manicured fields, concrete stands, but no athletic trainer or health care professional on sideline.
MomsTEAM-related content

Emotional/physical abuse 

  • Coaches screaming, swearing at kids
  • Coaches teaching kids to use profanity [January 30 update: The coach who led his team in a chant that used an expletive toward an opponent was subsequently suspended by the league for the infraction for the six-game spring football season).
  • Coaches threatening kids with physical harm if don't do what told ("I'm going to hurt one of y'a")
  • Coach tells players, "I don't care how much pain you are in."
  • Coach says he could "care less" if players cry
  • Players forced to run laps as punishment
MomsTEAM-related content

Winning versus having fun


  • Coach says "Whatever it takes [to win] - I don't care who plays, even if same 11 [play every week]."
  • Son of team's General Manager sits out both of first two games; seen hanging his head; mother doesn't says he doesn't understand what he did wrong, not having fun.

MomsTEAM-related content

Later blogs in this series:

Brooke de Lench is Executive Director of MomsTEAM Institute, Founder and Publisher of MomsTEAM.com, producer/director/creator of the new PBS concussion documentary, "The Smartest Team: Making High School Football Safer," and author of Home Team Advantage: The Critical Role of Mothers In Youth Sports. You can follow Brooke on Twitter @BrookedeLench. 



"Friday Night Tykes": Episode 3


Friday Night Tykes As was the case with the two-hour premiere last Tuesday, last night's episode of "Friday Night Tykes" on the Esquire Network continued to be "must see" television for youth football parents for its educational value. Here are some of the safety issues it raised, with links to MomsTEAM content for further reading:

Tackling.  It was nice to hear one of the coaches remind his players to "wrap up" opponents when tackling and not to put their heads down. Heads Up tackling may not prevent all concussions, and, as a recent episode of ESPN's "Outside The Lines" demonstrated, its effacy has been vigorously debated, but there is no doubt in my mind that teaching youth football players proper tackling technique and constantly reminding them not to lead with their heads is and will, over the long run, reduce the number of concussions and catastrophic neck and spine injuries.

Pop Warner football

Related MomsTEAM content: 

Return to play.  It was also good to hear the parents of a player who had suffered a concussion involving loss of consciousness and amnesia tell their son that he was not allowed to practice with his teammates, that the subject was "not debatable," that he had to "take a break" to allow his brain to heal, and that they had told their kids that they would not be allowed to play football after suffering three concussions (although experts say there is no magic number of concussions that should end a football player's career). I winced, however, when the father said at the same time that the concussion that sent him to the hospital was "not a big deal."  

Related MomsTEAM content:

Sideline evaluation of head injury.  When a player got knocked cold during the game, it was the coach who ran out on the field to evaluate the seriousness of his injury.  Despite the fact that the player told him he had hurt his back (which raised at least the possibility of a serious spine injury), the coach allowed the player to get up and leave the field.  I'm not an athletic trainer or a doctor, but it didn't seem to me, based on what I know about the evaluation of head, neck and spine injuries, that the evaluation was anything close to adequate to rule out a spinal injury (all the coach did was to ask him to move his legs). My question, as it was after watching the premiere, was why, in a league that spends as much money as it does on uniforms, equipment, and manicured fields, don't they have an athletic trainer or doctor on the sideline at every game??

Related MomsTEAM content:

Play through pain culture.  One of the recurring themes of the series is the degree to which the coaches and the parents attempt to inculcate the players into the "no pain, no gain," play-through-injury culture that has characterized contact and collision sports from the beginning of time. Once again, we heard a coach say, "I could care less if they cry."  When a player gets so nauseous that he throws up, the coach's response is to demean him by asking whether he was out of shape.  A player who comes to the sideline holding an injured hand is told to "shake it off and finish the game."  

A lot has been written about how the culture of youth sports needs to change if we are to combat the chronic problem of under-reporting of concussions, and how changing the culture needs to start with the next generation of coaches and players.  

As a recent study noted, coaches play a "pivotal role" in determining whether athletes reported concussive symptoms. Regardless of sport or gender, many athletes, found researchers from Seattle Children's Hospital and the University of Washington, "felt that they were expected to play injured. Unless the coach made it clear that an athlete needed to report symptoms of concussion, it was perceived to be unacceptable to come out because of a 'headache' or 'dizziness' [because] athletes did not want to be wrong about being concussed and suffer negative consequences" such as being punished by the coach for reporting concussive symptoms "by removing them from a starting position, reducing their future playing time, or inferring that reporting concussive symptoms made them 'weak.'"  

If the teams being profiled in Friday Night Tykes are in any way typical of coaches in the rest of the country and in other contact and collision sports (and, I'm afraid to say, it may well be that they are), looking to a change in the culture may be like Don Quixote tilting at windmills. 

Related MomsTEAM content:

Brooke de Lench is Executive Director of the MomsTEAM Institute, Founder and Publisher of MomsTEAM.com, author of Home Team Advantage: The Critical Role of Mothers in Youth Sports, and Producer/Director/Creator of the PBS concussion documentary, "The Smartest Team: Making High School Football Safer."  She can be reached by email at delench@momsteam.com and you can follower her on Twitter @brookedelench.

Sports Legacy Institute's Hit Count Certification Program: Hitting The Reset Button

Yesterday in New York, the Sports Legacy Institute announced a certification program for head impact sensors to track the number of hits a player sustains above 20 g's of linear force.

It wasn't exactly what I had expected, but, nevertheless, a move that I wholeheartedly support. 

When SLI first unveiled its Hit CountTM program two years ago, it expressed the belief that the "fastest and most effective path to safer youth sports is to regulate the amount of brain trauma that a child is allowed to incur in a season and a year," proposed that no athlete under age 18 be exposed to more than 1,000 hits to the head exceeding 10 g's of force in a season, and no more than 2,000 times a year, and if they exceeded these thresholds, not be allowed to finish a season.  It said at the time that its goal was to have a Hit Count adopted by major youth sports organizations by 2013, which  SLI hoped would include, among other things, guidelines for the minimum threshold to be considered a "hit," the maximum hits per day (with all counts stratified by age), maximum hits per week, and maximum hits per season.

Two years on, SLI announced four things: first, the guideline it had called for in 2012 for the minimum threshold to be considered a hit (20 g's of linear force); second, a program for certifying head impact sensors "to give consumer and research scientists ... confidence that the sensors are accurately measuring impacts, providing simple and actionable data" which it said could eliminate 500 million head impacts in football a year; third, the "beginning of a major research and public health effort to limit brain trauma in sports," and fourth, a "goal to eventually provide clear guidance for coaches and parents" about a Hit Count Threshold, which would be set by a committee of leading scientists. (emphasis supplied)

Hitting the reset button 

Why the mid-course correction? Why no announcement of the Hit Count Threshold SLI promised in 2012? 

In a word, science. 

In 2012, SLI claimed that "scientific evidence exists to support Hit Count." In 2014, however, SLI acknowledged - correctly - that "current science does not provide a 'safe' or 'unsafe' Hit Count." In other words, SLI admitted that we had not in 2012, nor today, reached the point where there was a basis in the science for saying that athletes who sustain hits above any particular threshold are at significantly increased risk of long-term brain problems or neurodegenerative diseases such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

Admittedly, the research so far does suggest that repetitive sub-concussive hits may, in some individuals, be a factor in long-term brain damage, early dementia, and, in an unknown, but believed to be very small, percentage of cases, neurodegenerative diseases like CTE. Emerging research also suggests that a high number of high force impacts, can, at least short-term, effect on neurocognitive function equal to that resulting from concussions.  

Thus, SLI's goal of reducing total head trauma in contact and collision sports, in the belief, as Dr. Robert Cantu often says, that "no brain trauma is good trauma" is certainly one that all of us in the youth sports community share, can get behind, and are working towards. So, rather than harp on the fact that SLI is now admitting that its goal in 2012 was perhaps, shall we say, a wee bit too ambitious, I choose to view the fact that SLI has essentially hit the reset button on Hit Counts as an important step in the direction (or perhaps it's more one step backward, two steps forward).  

Now that SLI has admitted that the science has not reached the point where we can pick any particular number of hits, and say to a parent, coach, or athlete, that above that number an athlete is running an unreasonable risk of long-term brain injury (or, for that matter, that, up to that number, you are safe) and that, far from having a hit count threshold in our sights, we are at just the beginning of a major research and public health effort to bring such a threshold into view (I note in passing here that some in the media, including Will Carroll in a long article for Bleacher Report, somehow missed this point, and got the idea that an actual Hit Count threshold was announced yesterday!), we can focus our energies on doing what can be done, right now, to make contact and collision sports safer, in this case, by using sensor technology in three very important ways (all of which, by the way, we highlight in our PBS documentary, "The Smartest Team"):

First, as SLI mentions in its press release, albeit in passing, we are starting to see sensors used "to alert coaches, medical professionals, and parents when a potential concussive impact occurs."  Based on my experience working with the high school football team and sensor manufacturers in Newcastle, Oklahoma the last two seasons (two in 2012, four last year), I continue to believe, as do such respected research scientists as Drs. Steven Broglio and Jeffrey Kutcher at the University of Michigan and Rick Greenwald at Dartmouth, that real-time monitoring of head impacts hold enormous promise in assisting athletic trainers and team doctors in identifying athletes for concussion screening on the sports sideline.  As numerous recent studies have shown, athletes are reluctant to report concussions themselves, such that the percentage of concussions that go undetected is unacceptably high. Many of the Newcastle players, in a private conversations, told me quite frankly, that "we do not want to have the responsibility of reporting our concussions any longer. We want the sensors."

Second, I absolutely agree with SLI that sensors have value as a "teaching tool and a behavior modification tool for athletes," at least by programs that can afford them (and this is a major concern, of course, and will continue to be until the per unit cost drops, as it inevitably will over time, to the point that they are within reach of most, if not, all programs) and there is science to support that belief: A number of top concussion researchers also think that real-time monitoring of impacts could help reduce the total amount of brain trauma from repeated subconcussive blows by identifying athletes sustaining a large number of such hits due to improper blocking or tackling technique, and sensors are already being used in this way at both the college and high school level.

In a recent article on SI.com, Kevin Guskiewicz, PhD, ATC., Kenan Distinguished Professor and Director of the Matthew Gfeller Sport-Related Traumatic Brain Injury Research Center at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said sensors are helping coaches and other personnel at UNC identify athletes who are sustaining a high number of high force impacts, especially to the top front of their helmets that appear to be the most worrisome from a brain trauma standpoint, as a result of poor tackling or blocking technique. "If a player is observed repeatedly sustaining larger impacts to the crown of his head," he told SI, "coaches will work with him on adjusting his technique," said Guskiewicz.

Using impact sensors as a teaching tool has also been happening in high school football. After Purdue researchers found, in a landmark 2010 study, that high school football linemen who sustained a high number of high impact sub-concussive hits over the course of a season were the ones suffering impairment of their visual memory, the information led at least one player to change his blocking technique. As Tom Talavage, the lead author of the Purdue study, told Frontline in a 2011 interview, he estimated that at least 50 percent of the high impact hits linemen and linebackers were sustaining were due to poor technique.

"Some of the players that we have on our team have not very good technique, to be quite honest," Talavadge said. "And what you'll find is, they will launch into a play, and they will lead with their helmet. Other players will more correctly keep their head up, try to get their arms up as a blocking technique, or when they're rushing, they will try to get their arms up as a means to push the offensive lineman out of the way. Those technique differences lead to a very large difference in the total number of blows experienced and where those blows are experienced on the head."  

Talavage said that when one of the offensive lineman who was found to have been functionally impaired after sustaining a high number of subconcussive blows - impairment that persisted beyond the season - decided to change his technique, he experienced a drastic reduction in the number of blows he experienced to the top front of his head and a moderate reduction in the total number of blows.  The result was that, after the second season, "his neurocognitive testing never detected any deficits, and from an imaging perspective we saw substantially less change in his fMRI activity. There's still some, because he's still getting hit, but his technique changed the distribution."

Third, I support SLI's certification program for sensor products in order to standardize the collection of impact data on 20 g+ hits, with devices that have been certified as reliable, to be used by research scientists to look for the twin head injury "holy grails": an impact threshold above which an athlete is highly likely to have sustained a concussion and the number of hits above which the athlete runs an unreasonable risk of long-term brain injury.  

Again, this is a use of sensors that is featured in "The Smartest Team," in particular, in some statements made by former i1 Biometrics' CEO, Lawrence Calcano: "Over time, every hit that you take gets recorded by the system and stored, and so people can keep track. Your mom, your dad, your coaches, your doctor can keep track of what's happening to your head, every impact that you receive. And that is really important to be able to understand what the cumulative number of impacts are that you receive during your playing career, whether it's that day, the season, over your high school career, and hopefully with you guys, when you play big time college football."

As Calcano noted, "The process of understanding what is happening to athletes when they compete is not a process that we're gonna end in the next three months or six months, or next football season. This is a multi-year activity that's gonna require the collection of a very significant amount of data. Over time, when you have millions of data points, then the medical community and the research community can begin to make sense of it and decide at what point, you know, is there injury?"

If I have a concern about the certification program it is that I hope that it not be used to stifle innovation in the field by imposing on companies, many of which are start-ups with limited capital, onerous fees, that all sensor companies have an equal voice in the development of Hit Counts going forward, are afforded equal consideration in any research studies that SLI funds with fees generated from the certification program, and equal access to the consumer market for their products, which, given NOCSAE's original and clarified rulings last year voiding the certification of helmets with third-party add-ons, is currently tilted in favor of products, such as MC10's Checklight skull cap and X1's earbuds, that do not physically attach to helmets, and discriminates against products. such as those of Impakt Protective, Gforce, Safe Brain and Brain Sentry, which attach to helmets. 

Multi-pronged approach 

As much as I support SLI's sensor certification initiative, it bears repeating here that the use of sensors in these three ways is just one part of what I see as a multi-pronged, all-of-the-above, approach to managing the risks concussions and repetitive sub-concussive impacts pose in contact and collision sports, one which we have dubbed the Six Pillars, which includes:

  • Reducing total head trauma by establishing sensible limits on full-contact practices; 
  • Teaching athletes how to minimize helmet-to-helmet contact by teaching them "Heads Up" tackling;
  • Better enforcement of rules against helmet-to-helmet and blind-side hits; 
  • Comprehensive head injury awareness education which focuses as much on creating an environment in which athletes feel safe in reporting experiencing concussion symptoms as it does on teaching them to recognize concussion signs and symptoms;
  • Improved identification of concussed athletes on the sports sideline, through the use of impact sensors to alert sideline personnel to blows that might cause concussion, and by having more certified athletic trainers on the sideline, even at the youth level;
  • Much more conservative management of concussions once they occur, including a period of cognitive and physical rest after concussion, a gradual return to the classroom, and return to play only after athletes are symptom-free, off all academic accommodations, and have completed a program of gradually increased exercise without symptoms returning; and
  • Recommending retirement to athletes who are slow to recover from concussion and for whom continued participation poses an undue risk of long-term brain injury.  

I look forward to working with Chris Nowinski and Sports Legacy, and all youth sports stakeholders, to reduce brain trauma in football and other contact and collision sports, to identify concussed athletes sooner, to manage their injuries more conservatively, and return them to the classroom and the field when it is safe to do so, and I thank SLI for its tireless work in increasing public awareness of this critical public health issue.

Looking for more information about impact sensors? Check out our sensor FAQs and sensor product guide.

Brooke de Lench is Executive Director of MomsTEAM Institute, Founder and Publisher of MomsTEAM.com, author of Home Team Advantage: The Critical Role of Mothers In Youth Sports, and Producer/Director/Creator of "The Smartest Team: Making High School Football Safer."  She can be reached by email (brookedelench@momsteam.com) and you can follow her on Twitter @brookedelench.



Protecting Athletes and Sports Safety Initiative Latest To Tackle Youth Sports Concussion Safety Issue


Last week in Washington D.C., I was privileged to have been invited to attend and participate in the kickoff event for an innovative two-year initiative called PASS (Protecting Athletes and Sports Safety).

A joint project of the Satcher Health Leadership Institute at Morehouse School of Medicine and the Department of Global Health at George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services, PASS is the latest in a series of national programs designed to address and combat the incidence of catastrophic brain injuries among the more than twenty million youth who participate in organized sports annually.

The event co-host and keynote speaker was David Satcher M.D., Director of the eponymously named Satcher Health Leadership Institute, and the 16th Surgeon General of the United States. 

Dr. Satcher has spent his life studying public health, and was known during his tenure as the Surgeon General from 1998-2002 for his willingness to listen to a wide cross section of Americans and respond with effective health programs.

So it was not surprising that, in launching PASS, Dr. Satcher invited thought leaders on youth sports safety, clinicians, researchers, educators, sporting goods manufacturers and the media to participate.

It was also not surprising that the first PASS conference focused on concussions, nor that in his keynote address he joined the chorus of those, like me, who have been calling for a change in a youth sports culture "in which the banging of heads is too often celebrated."

Rosemarie Moser, David Satcher, Brooke de Lench

The conference was broken into five moderated panel discussions, each lasting about an hour and a half.  After a welcoming reception on Thursday evening, the Friday festivities kicked off with a surprise during the question and answer session at a panel discussion entitled "Brain Development, Health and Wellness": Asked by youth sports journalist Mark Hyman, co-author, with Bob Cantu, MD, of the book, "Concussions and Our Kids,"  whether, given what they knew about concussions, the panelists - research scientists all - would allow their sons to play football, they all said they would.  

While I found all the subsequent panel discussions worthwhile, and the questions and comments from the audience thought-provoking, (including a question from MomsTEAM's expert neuropsychologist, Rosemarie Scolaro Moser, PhD - that's her with me and Dr. Satcher - during the public policy panel about whether legislation was needed at the federal level to protect student athletes left unprotected by state law), it was the first panel after the lunch break on the role of the media as a primary tool in concussion prevention that I found particularly interesting.

Perhaps it was because, in my multi-faceted role as a member of the media, author, documentary film maker, educator and safety advocate reporting on, and blogging and speaking about youth sports safety issues, especially concussions, I know the important, yet often overlooked, role non-traditional media such as MomsTEAM play in prevention efforts, especially given the mainstream media's seeming preoccupation with reporting just the bad news about concussions and its unfortunate tendency to oversimplify and get ahead of the science (or, in some cases, to get the science flat-out wrong!).

I would have liked to have told the group about how MomsTEAM has been providing youth sports parents, coaches, athletic trainers, and sports administrators practical advice on preventing youth sports injuries and death for the past fourteen years, but it was neither the time nor the place.

When the panelists were asked whether they thought traditional media could serve as a vehicle for "edu-tainment," they didn't see it happening because sports fans are more interested in seeing sensational hits than watching shows that teach, and shows without large audiences don't attract sponsors, and shows without sponsors, well, they have a hard time getting made in the first place.

It seems that these days, even public television - which used to be called "educational television" - can find itself playing the ratings game.

Let's be honest here, folks. Which documentary is PBS going to go all out to promote: one such as Frontline's "League of Denial" sensationalizing the National Football League's response to head injuries, one which pulls at the heart strings by retelling the tragic stories of Mike Webster, Terry Long, and Junior Seau, one designed to scare the daylights out of every parent by including pathologist, Dr. Ann McKee, expressing concern whether, "in some way ... every single football player doesn't have [CTE]," or a documentary like "The Smartest Team," showing the stakeholders in a youth and high school football program in Oklahoma working together to make football safer, not just by taking steps to reduce concussion rates, but by identifying concussed athletes more quickly so they can be removed from play, a step which the consensus of concussion experts agree is the single best way to minimize their long-term effects? I bet dollars to donuts I know how the panelist would have answered an admittedly loaded question like that!

I will continue to work, as I have for the past 14 years, on working to make youth sports safer, no matter how difficult it is to be heard over the "sky is falling" crowd. Perhaps Dr. Satcher put it best when he closed the conference with one of his favorite quotes, from John Gardner, Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare in the 1960s: "Life is full of golden opportunities carefully disguised as irresolvable problems."

January 23, 2014 update: I am pleased to announce that I have been asked by Dr. Satcher to join 20 other national experts on the National Council on Youth Sports Safety to work on the PASS initiative.  For more about the panel, click here

Brooke de Lench is Founder and Publisher of MomsTEAM.com, author of "Home Team Advantage: The Critical Role of Mothers in Youth Sports (HarperCollins), and producer/director of the PBS documentary, "The Smartest Team: Making High School Football Safer." 


Concussion Summit During Super Bowl Week Promises To Be A Stellar Event


On Wednesday, January 29, 2014, during Super Bowl XLVIII Week, I will be participating in a panel discussion at the second annual Coalition for Concussion Treatment (#C4CT) Concussion Awareness Summit to be held this year at the United Nations in New York City.   

I am looking forward to sharing the solutions-based work I have been doing with sports parents, coaches, and athletic trainers from every state of the nation since we began the MomsTEAM Youth Sports Concussion Safety Center fourteen years ago, and will be doing outreach for our PBS documentary, "The Smartest Team: Making High School Football Safer" and our Six Pillars concussion risk management program. 

#C4CT will focus on important scientific, medical, translational and prevention-related topics as they pertain to the emerging societal problem of traumatic brain injuries (TBI), particularly on their long-term impacts on athletes and soldiers.  

All panels will include industry experts, leading scientists, neurologists and international business leaders, who will be joined by current and former professional athletes including Carl Eller, Sidney Rice, Thomas Jones, and Ben Utecht.  Included among the featured speakers are Drs. Robert Cantu, Julian Bailes, and Robert Stern, and Sports Legacy Institute co-founder and Executive Director, Chris Nowinski. [Click here for a full list of speakers and panelists]

Some of the topics we plan to discuss include:

  • Diagnostics and Standard of Care 
  • TBI: World Impact 
  • The NFL concussion settlement 
  • The Future of Contact Sports 
  • Emerging Diagnostics and Potential Therapies Under Investigation
  • Current and Former Professional Athlete Stories and Perspectives

I am hoping that many in the MomsTEAM community will be able to attend what is sure to be a stellar event. For more information and to register:Coalition for Concussion Summit / Concussion Awareness Summit.

For those of you who are not able to attend, I will be doing some limited live Tweeting during the Summit, and if you have questions and thoughts, you can send them to me my @BrookeDeLench. To follow the Summit use hashtags #C4CT and #concussionsolutions.   


Landon Collins Mom Blog Certainly Got People Talking!

Since my blog on my interview with April Justin last week I have received many emails, tweets, Facebook comments and phone calls with suggestions, comments, questions and advice on all sorts of things, especially on what my blog should be focused on in the future.

The majority of the mail has been positive, congratulating me on taking the time to answer the question many had after watching the Landon Collins video - what was his mother really thinking. Some, of course, has been critical, both for reporting what April Justin told me were her reasons at all, or for the way in which I reported it, or both.

My intention in writing the blog was to get people thinking about the bigger story, by seeing April's side of the story. Whether someone agrees that she was right to feel the way she does or not is, of course, up to them, but in getting people talking, it appears I succeeded in that objective!

To the extent I approached the story from the perspective of a mother, I plead guilty as charged. Yes, I do view sports primarily through the lens, as I said in my blog, of a mom, but, frankly, I don't see anything wrong with bringing a mother's perspective to sports. It is what prompted me to become a soccer coach and to start a soccer club back in the 1990's, it is what prompted me to launch MomsTeam.com in 2000, it was the central theme of my 2006 book, Home Team Advantage: The Critical Role of Mothers in Youth Sports, and it continues to be my passion today.

As anyone who knows me, I will not shrink from taking a position with which others may disagree, or thinking outside the box. I relish the role of being a thought leader in youth sports instead of a follower, whether it was being out front on educating parents about the devastating effects of concussions, heat illness or sexual abuse by youth coaches. All I ask from my readers in return is to keep an open mind.

No pro-LSU or anti-Alabama bias

Some who have taken the time to send e-mails, Tweet or post on MomsTeam's Facebook page seem to think my blog reflected a pro-LSU and/or anti-Alabama bias. Nope. I'm a New Englander, born and bred (a fact that might not, for that very reason, endear me to some!), and am proud to say I can trace my family twelve generations back to the founding of Rhode Island in the early 1600's. I attended an all-women's college in New England, and, to the extent I am a college football fan, I lean towards Dartmouth and Harvard, with the Crimson edging out the Big Green because of a long line of family members who graduated from Harvard, and because I was married to a Harvard grad, who always enjoyed taking our sons to home games. I live in Massachusetts, so I follow New England teams.

As readers of my blog know, I am more a fan of winter sports (skiing, ice hockey, snowboarding), especially the Olympic Winter Games, than I am of the big three of baseball, basketball, and football. So, no, I'm not an LSU fan, but I have nothing against the University of Alabama.

While I can't say I know a lot of people from either Louisiana or Alabama, those I do know seem to be warm and very friendly. One of my sons' closest friends is from Birmingham and his parents have been long time ‘Bama football season ticket holders, and were at the Superdome when Alabama beat LSU a couple of weeks ago for the national championship. They are some of the nicest people I have ever known. Given that connection, chances are that I am more than likely see an Alabama game at Bryant- Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa than I am to get to an LSU Tigers home game.

So where is my bias? If it is anything it is in keeping families close. To me, sports have always been about the home team, and having the home team advantage. Girlfriends may come and go, but siblings and parents will always be there for an athlete. I know many elite athletes who will be the first to tell you they had an edge because their family was close by when they needed a break, a healing bowl of chicken soup or a pep talk that can only come from someone who has been there since their birth: a parent.

My interest in the Landon Collins story was much more from the personal standpoint than of as a pure football story. Until I watched the ESPN video I knew little of Landon Collins and could not have told you what position he played. Nor could I name any of the current LSU or Alabama players. (Again, for that reason alone, some people told me I had no business writing about this subject at all). From the start, MomsTeam's focus has always been providing advice to parents of youth and high school athletes, including elite athletes like Landon (although it is possible I saw him play this summer when I gave a presentation to parents of top college football prospects at a summer all-star camp in Williamsburg, Virginia)(see pic). As I said in my blog, the reason I called Landon's mom in the first place was simply because I was curious about was going through her head that we didn't know about, despite the flurry of media coverage in the wake of the video going viral on the Internet.Brooke de Lench at Top Gun football camp 2011

When I initially watched the video I was looking at all of the people surrounding Landon and was struck that the only person openly smiling was the young lady standing directly behind Landon, who turned out was his girlfriend, Victoria. This seemed very odd to me. My immediate impression was that this was a very deep and complex situation. When the media continued to put the focus on the mother being unhappy about her son's decision, I wanted to know more. I knew there was more to the story. I wanted to know why his sister and brother and all the other family in the video were not smiling and why Landon himself lacked the usual enthusiasm high school athletes show when making their school choices known.

For those who wonder why, if April Justin was so concerned about her sons playing football together as part of the "family's goals," did she allow Landon to go live with his father and play football at another school, the answer seems pretty simple: Hurricane Katrina and the devastating effect it had on their family, like so many thousands of others, in the New Orleans area. Besides his dad was a football coach. It was a very difficult thing for April to do to send Landon to live with his dad and step-mom, but she knew it was in his best interest.

Another criticism of my blog is that I didn't interview Landon or his father to find out what the family's goals were. My answer to that is straightforward as well: the intent of my blog was report the mother's side of the story. I know that there are always two sides to a story, but, as I pointed out in the blog, Landon's side had already been told in the article in the ESPN The Magazine article, for which I provided readers a link. I don't think it was wrong to focus on her side of the story, but in doing so I didn't in any way, shape or form say hers was the only side, much less that she was right and everyone else was wrong. If Landon, or his girlfriend, or Landon's dad wants to talk, I am happy to listen.

But the fact that my only source was April doesn't mean my story was poorly researched and biased. Watch cable news for even five minutes these days and you will likely see people telling their side of the story, with no one there to tell the story from another vantage point. Again, the criticism misses the point: what better way to get April's side of the story than talk to April? (As my original blog noted, I did contact the University of Alabama.  Before I published my original blog, I also tried to get a statement from Lorrie Clements, Human Resources Coordinator, at the University of Alabama, as to whether Landon's girlfriend had been offered employment beginning next fall, but I did not receive a call back).*

I am not an expert on college football, or the NCAA rules that govern recruiting. But I didn't hold myself out as one. Likewise, the effort to dismiss what I had to say as simply the views of a "soccer mom" reflects exactly the sort of entrenched sexist and misogynistic attitude among the "good ol' boy" culture of youth sports that I have been working to eradicate for a long, long, time (I'm sure I will get some more criticism for saying so, but so be it).

Some have asked why April Justin rained on Landon's parade, ruining the biggest moment of his life. Again, I am not judging April, one way or the other. I don't have to live with the consequences of what she did; only she does (asked if she had it to do all over again, would she had done anything differently, she told me, flatly, "No.").

April isn't the first person to have a hard time putting on a smiley face in front of a camera and hiding their true emotions, and she won't be the last.

Was it sad to see? Absolutely.

Is April entitled to think that her son's decision to go to Alabama isn't in his best interests? Absolutely.

Was the decision ultimately Landon's alone to make?

No question.

For my original blog on the Landon Collins story, click here.  

Comments/Questions? Join the conversation on MomsTeam's Facebook page.

NOTE: For more of my blogs, click here.

Brooke de Lench is the author of Home Team Advantage: The Critical Role of Mothers in Youth Sports (HarperCollins) and Founder and Publisher of MomsTeam.com, Executive Director of MomsTEAM Institute, and producer/director of the PBS documentary, "The Smartest Team: Making High School Football Safer."

Follow Brooke on Twitter @brookedelench, MomsTEAM @MomsTeam, and The Smartest Team @thesmartestteam 


Caitlin Cahow: Being Openly Gay Not Only Reason For Inclusion In U.S. Delegation To Sochi Olympics

Sometimes, when it feels like all I read about in the newspapers and hear on television is about war and conflict, along comes a young woman with wisdom, grace, confidence and dignity beyond her years, an "old soul", if you will, ready to bring us together, to teach the world that we are all one people.  Catlin Cahow is just such a person.  

Since President Obama announced that he was including Caitlin as a member of the U.S. delegation to the Closing Ceremonies of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, the media's focus has seemed to be on the fact that, along with former tennis great and founder of the Women's Sports Foundation, Billie Jean King, Caitlin was somehow picked because she is openly gay, not because she won a bronze and silver medal in women's ice hockey at the 2006 and 2010 Winter Olympics and is an outstanding young woman.  Brooke de Lench and Caitlin Cahow at Fenway Park January 2010

The media's speculation was that, by naming Caitlin and Billie Jean, and by not attending himself - or sending First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, or another member of his cabinet - the President was somehow sending a message to Russian President Vladimir Putin about the Russian Federation's new anti-gay laws.  Gay rights groups were quick to applaud the picks for just that reason. 

But while some may question whether Caitlin would have been selected had she not been gay, including the inevitable question from Matt Lauer in his interview of Caitlin this morning on the Today Show (which Lauer appropriately prefaced by saying that, by his question, he "meant no disrespect"), there is no question in my mind why President Obama chose Caitlin to be part of our delegation to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.  

As she demonstrated in her Today interview this morning, Caitlin is an extremely articulate, thoughtful woman who cares passionately, not just about LGBT rights, but about a wide range of issues.  As a two-time Olympian, Harvard graduate, and soon to be lawyer, Caitlin is a wondeful example of how sport in general, and the Olympics in particular, can unite, rather, than divide nations and people. She embodies the spirit of inclusiveness and fair play that the Olympics have, at their best, always stood for.

Four years ago, when I first met Caitlin, she was raising money for breast cancer research. I knew very quickly after speaking with her that she would be someone in the world who would make a difference.  

In January 2010, I had a chance to meet up with Caitlin and her teammates at the 2010 Winter Classic at Fenway Park in the run-up to the Winter Olympics in Vancouver.  (see picture at right of me and Caitlin at Fenway)  Later, I was there in person to watch the U.S. women's national team put up a valient effort against host Canada in the gold medal game.  

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

A month ago, a couple of weeks after posting an article about Caitlin's long road to recovery, with the help and support of her mom, Barbara, from post-concussion syndrome, and after Caitlin came out as gay, I asked her whether she would help MomsTEAM develop out the section of our site on parenting LGBT youth athletes.  

It will be an honor to have Caitlin contribute to MomsTEAM.  Like her, we look forward to the day in the not-to-distant future when whether an athlete is black, white, gay, straight or transgender won't be described as an "openly gay" athlete or a "black athlete"; as Caitlin so eloquently put it in her Today Show interview, to a "tomorrow when these classifications no longer exist."





Looking Back With Pride, Looking Forward With Excitement

All is quiet at the MomsTEAM office this week. As we have done for the past thirteen years, we take a two-week year-end vacation to gear up for the New Year.

Stopping by to pick up a book, I look around the quiet office, I close my eyes and reflect on the biggest youth and high school sports stories of the year and wonder if we as a nation are any closer to our MomsTEAM mission of making sports safer, saner, less stressful and more inclusive or if we continue to spin wildly out of control in the crazy vortex that is youth sports in the 21st century.  I would like to think we are making some progress on the safety front, but less stressful? More inclusive? Not so sure we are making progress there. 

Concussion story dominates 

The big story of the year, as it has been for the last half-dozen or so years, continued to be about head injuries and concussions, from the pros all the way down to the pee-wees. As those of you who have been following us for the last 14 years know, this is not a new subject for MomsTEAM - it is one we have been following in depth since 2001.

The Smartest Team

But this year the story was bigger, much bigger, not just for the mainstream, popular media, but for MomsTEAM.  Amidst all the finger pointing and negative reporting on the dangers of concussions, 2014 saw us redoubling our efforts to be pro-active, to offer practical advice to the youth sports community, not just on ways to reduce the rate of concussions, but to how to do a better job of identifying and managing concussions when they occur.  

We knew that all the reporting in the world, all the documenting of injury and death, while drawing attention to the problem, offered little in the way of solutions, so in early 2012 we decided the best way we could educate the largest possible audience on the steps that can be taken right now to make football safer was to produce a video to show the steps one high school football program took to make the sport safer by implementing what we now call our Six Pillar approach to concussion risk management.  We undertook the project with no prior experience making films, with minimal underwriting, and with no assurance that, once we were done, the finished product would ever be broadcast. Our expectation was that the video would be posted on MomsTEAM, and that would be it.

As anyone who has been following my blog over the past year now knows, we succeeded beyond our wildest dreams. What started out as a simple video for MomsTEAM morphed into "The Smartest Team: How To Make High School Football Safer"; a documentary, I am proud to say, was good enough to be picked up and broadcast by more than 300 PBS stations in the fall of 2013 (some airing up to ten times), despite the fact that it was submitted to affiliates after most had already set their schedules, and will be re-broadcast on many of those stations in 2014 (and, hopefully, be picked up by the rest of the networks 380 some odd stations).

So, not surprisingly, MomsTEAM's big story for 2013 was how we have been able, we believe, to help make football safer and to start shifting the concussion conversation from focusing on the problem to providing solutions. While "The Smartest Team" has not achieved the notoriety of the other big-budget concussion documentaries that have been released in the past couple of years (all of which focus on the problems), slowly but surely the word is getting around.  We have you, our readers and Twitter followers, to thank for the essential role you have played in letting the country know about the film and about MomsTEAM as a trusted source for objective, well-researched information, not only about concussions, but about youth sports injury prevention and treatment, nutrition, hydation, heat safety and parenting.   

MomsTEAM Institute 

As much as we have accomplished in 2013, we look forward to an even bigger 2014, not only for MomsTEAM.com but for MomsTEAM Institute, the non-profit we have recently established to take our efforts on making youth sports safer to the next level, as well as to expand on our ability to produce the kind of in-depth "White Papers" - like those we issued in 2013 on, among other topics, CTEheading in soccer, the emerging importance of so-called "return to learn" after concussion, and the controversy surrounding the July decision by NOCSAE to void the certification for helmets with third-party add-ons, and subsequent clarification - which many of you tell us you find particularly valuable.

I will continue as Publisher of MomsTEAM but will be shifting my focus to being the Executive Director of the Institute.  While we aren't quite ready to share our plans for the Institute, we are excited about the powerful youth sports safety initiatives it will be launching. Watch this space.

Until next year, play smart, be well, and keep your suggestions, comments and concerns coming in 2014.

All the best,



Brooke de Lench is Founder and Publisher of MomsTEAM.com and Executive Director of MomsTEAM Institute. She is author of Home Team Advantage: The Critical Role of Mothers in Youth Sports (New York: HarperCollins), and the producer and director of the PBS documentary, "The Smartest Team: Making High School Football Safer."

You can follow Brooke on Twitter @BrookedeLench and email her @ delench@MomsTeam.com 



What Landon Collins' Mother Understood That Her Son Didn't Say

The video clip of Landon Collins went viral almost instantly, not to mention setting the blog- and Twitter-sphere ablaze.

There was the nation's top ranked high school safety announcing his decision to attend the University of Alabama during the Under Armour All-America Game three weeks ago, while his mom, April Justin, looked on with a pained expression on her face, shaking her head in disapproval of his choice.

Brian Denny Stadium at University of Alabama

By now, most of the story of how Landon came to announce that day that he had chosen the Crimson Tide over the L.S.U. Tigers - emphasis on "most" - has been told, including a long article by Christopher Schultz for ESPN The Magazine.

While the "tide" of public opinion (sorry, couldn't resist) has been, as far as I can tell, running against April, much of it portraying her as an over-protective mom unable to let go, my initial, instinctive, reaction upon watching the video, was a bit different. Not surprisingly, as a mom, I viewed it a bit more from her perspective, through the lens of a mom.

I am sure she wasn't thrilled that Landon was going to play his college ball a four and a half hour ride away in Tuscaloosa, Alabama instead of right up the road in Baton Rouge. But that couldn't be it. After all, Landon had played his high school football in Geismar, Louisiana, where his dad, Thomas, and stepmother, Jamie, had built a home after Hurricane Katrina, which was an hour's drive from her home in New Orleans, where April is raising his half-brother, Gerald Willis, III, and half-sister, Gerrah. As April told ESPN The Magazine, she had agreed at the time that the move was in his best interest.

But I knew there had to be much more to the story than that. I have spent years around moms and their athletic kids and have honed a keen sense of awareness of how protective a mother can be of her children, like a Mamma Bear guarding her cubs.

Then yesterday the following Tweet appeared in my timeline:

Emily Cohen @gobearsemily
Saw this on #ESPNU. The hurt in the kid's eyes was so obvious. Mom, why can't you support him? ow.ly/8DfMx  #youthsports


I wanted to know myself, so I got April's number, and gave her call. I started off by telling her that I was the author of Home Team Advantage: The Critical Role of Mothers in Youth Sports, the founder of MomsTeam.com, and a fellow sports mom.

No doubt sensing that, given my background, I might lend a more sympathetic ear (she was right), we ended up talking for the next hour. Mostly, I just listened. Some of what she told me has been previously reported, but some of it was new, and it confirmed my mother's intuition that there were reasons she wasn't supporting her son's decision to go to Alabama instead of LSU that the rest of us didn't know about.

April expressed some serious concerns about the college choice her first-born son had made, and not just because of the distance between Tuscaloosa and New Orleans. "Every year we as a family develop short term goals and long term goals," she told me. "His choice doesn't fit into Landon's or the family's long term goals. Landon has met all of his short term goals. I am so proud of him and the way he met those goals, but his choice does not meet his long term goals."

A single mom, and a former athlete herself, April has raised her three children, Landon, Gerald and Gerrah, to put family, education and sports - in that order - at the top of their list of priorities. "I only allow my children to play video games on Saturday and Sunday and never during the school week," she said. She knew that her athletically talented children needed to focus on sports and their academics in order to get a college scholarship.

She said it was really tough not being able to watch all of Landon's games after he moved away to live with his dad and step-mom. "He was playing an hour away, and his games were on Friday night, the same time his younger brother [Gerald] was playing". Factor in the volleyball games that her daughter Gerrah had on Tuesday and Thursday, and I quickly got the sense that April was a mom who has a lot to juggle, and is doing the best she can as a single mom. Not only is it a logistical challenge to get to Landon's games, but it is a financial challenge as well: two hours on the road requires a fair amount of gas in the tank. At close to $4.00 a gallon, the cost adds up fast.

But logistics and expense aside, were there other things that were bothering her? As she had told other reporters, she also told me she was upset about the recruiting process and "the politics that surround it."  Most worrisome, April said, was that "At ‘Bama they want to red shirt - or grey shirt - him and they want him playing nickelback instead of safety. He is the top safety in the country and he will never play a game his freshman year. Now, at LSU coach Les Miles is offering to play him as safety during his freshman year. His (Nick Saban's) goals don't meet the criteria of the family; they meet the criteria of Alabama."

What were, then, her goals? "For Landon to win the Heisman Trophy and to be able to play close to home at LSU with his younger brother, Gerald, who is also an outstanding football player who has offers to play at LSU." She said these weren't just her goals; they were shared by his younger siblings.

I got what she was saying. I think all sports moms, especially those with more than one child playing sports, do. From the time they started playing T-ball when they were five until high school, my three sons all played on the same team. There is something magical about watching your children play together, especially on the same sports team. I remember how tough it was when they were on three different teams during high school and I had to decide whose games to attend. Mama April was hoping to see both of her sons play on the same team at LSU.

Was there anything else that didn't sit right with April? As it turned out there was. It had to do with Landon's girlfriend, Victoria. ESPN The Magazine reported about a confrontation between April and Victoria at the All-America Game after Landon's sister had urged her to stand onstage for his big announcement. April wanted only family in front of the camera. Landon's dad, Thomas, ended up having to intercede. When the cameras began rolling, there was Victoria standing directly behind Landon.

What the article didn't mention, however, was the reason April was apparently upset, which may have tipped the scales in Alabama's favor. According to April, Victoria had allegedly been offered a job to work in head coach Nick Saban's office.  I

In all fairness to Saban and Alabama, I have been unable to independently confirm April's story on this point (Citing NCAA rules, Doug Walker, Associate Athletics Director, Communications, at the University of Alabama, stated in an email to MomsTeam that the school "would not comment on anything relating to the recruitment of a prospective student-athlete."  Asked if Landon's girlfriend had been offered a job, he stated, "I have no information regarding that.").  All I know is what April told me.

But suffice it to say, April appears to have reasons for feeling the way she does about her son's decision, and they have less to do with her being an LSU fan and a mom who doesn't want to let go, and more to do with her understanding what was happening behind the scenes, outside camera range, that may have played a role in that decision that didn't square with the way she raised her children.

Take a look at the video clip again. The focus has been on the reaction of Landon's mom to the news. But Landon doesn't look all that thrilled either.

There is a Jewish proverb that says, "A mother understands what a child does not say."  Perhaps it explains everything.

It would not surprise me if Landon were to step back to try to understand exactly where his mom is coming from before he formally commits to the Crimson Tide. We'll find out if he does on February 1st.*

Comments/Questions? Join the conversation on MomsTeam's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter @MomsTEAM.

NOTE: For more of my blogs, including reaction to this blog, click here.

Updates (February 2, 2012):

  1. For a follow-up interview with April Justin on al.com, click here.
  2. An article on Landon Collins choosing Alabama written just after he made his announcement, click here

* Landon ended up signing with Alabama as he had announced at the All-America Bowl, with the support of his mother.

 Brooke de Lench is Founder and Publisher of MomsTEAM.com, Executive Director of MomsTEAM Institute, author of Home Team Advantage: The Critical Role of Mothers in Youth Sports, and producer and director of the PBS documentary, "The Smartest Team: Making High School Football Safer."



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