Saturday, May 28, 2011

Concussion media conference could be a step forward

Head injuries are one of the most critical situations facing football, and they're one that could require some drastic changes to promote player safety on the part of the CFL. Monday, the news came out that change may be on the way, as the CFL sent out a release that they will be holding a press conference "on the subject of concussion awareness" in Toronto Tuesday with "representatives from Football Canada, Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS), the Canadian School Sport Federation, the Canadian Football League Players Association (CFLPA), the Canadian Football League Alumni Association (CFLAA) and ThinkFirst and the Krembil Neuroscience Centre."

It's a pretty impressive lineup of listed representatives that are going to be at this conference, involving a wide variety of people with important roles to play and different perspectives on the subject. CFL commissioner Mark Cohon (pictured at right with the Grey Cup last November) will be there to represent the league administration and owners, while Toronto Argonauts' CFLPA representative Bryan Crawford will be there to give the perspective of current players. CFL alumni are also prominently included, with alumni association executive director Leo Ezerins and famous CFL alumnus/current TSN analyst Matt Dunigan (who's had his own concussion struggles) both listed as taking part. It's also quite promising that the conference will include attendees from all levels of amateur and grassroots sport, with CIS chief executive officer Marg McGregor there to represent the university game, Canadian School Sport Federation president Doug Gellatly there to talk about the high school game and Football Canada director of sport Rick Sowieta there to give an overall perspective. One of Canada's leading concussion researchers, Dr. Charles Tator, will also be there to lend his valuable medical perspective.

We don't know exactly what's going to be discussed at this conference, but the presence of leading figures from so many different organizations and backgrounds would hint at something reasonably significant. There's certainly plenty to talk about on concussions; another disturbing story came forth Monday when it was revealed that former Chicago Bears safety Dave Duerson, whose final action before taking his life (purposefully leaving his brain intact in the process) was to leave a note asking for his brain to be donated to concussion research, did in fact have the same chronic traumatic encephalopathy disease found in over 20 deceased players.

It's clear that something needs to be done about concussions; whether that's in the form of rule changes that emphasize safety, forced holdouts of players who have been concussed, different helmets, alternative tackling techniques or a combination of several of the above aspects remains yet to be seen. Hopefully, Tuesday's conference will provide us with an idea of what tack the CFL intends to take.

I'll be listening in on the conference via telephone and will post whatever comes out of it here Tuesday. You can also follow me on Twitter to get quick quotes and reactions from it.

Kat Von D Ana Paula Lemes Vanessa Simmons Chyler Leigh Julie Berry

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