NFL commissioner talks player safety

csmith@newsobserver.comMarch 7, 2013 

— Football fans packed the George Watts Hill Alumni Center Wednesday afternoon to listen to one of the more polarizing figures in the game today, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

After referencing the North Carolina basketball team – “I’m told you’ve produced some decent basketball players from time to time,” he joked – Goodell addressed growing concerns in football, including player safety.

“There is a national conversation taking place about football and we welcome it,” Goodell said. “Concussions are a global issue, not just a football issue. Most concussions don’t even occur in competitive sports.”

While discussing current safety concerns in the NFL and at lower levels of the game, Goodell mentioned a prominent figure in efforts to reduce the risk of concussions.

Dr. Kevin Guskiewicz, a member of the NFL committee and chairman of the department of exercise and sport science at the University of North Carolina, has been working with the league over the last decade to develop safer ways to play the game.

Guskiewicz developed the Helmet Impact Telemetry (HIT) system, which allows teams to assess the force and impact of a blow to a player’s head in real time. While the North Carolina football team already uses this technology, it is an advancement the NFL has yet to implement.

“We will be piloting some aspects of [the HIT system] into the NFL,” Goodell said. “We are very confident that the work that Kevin [Guskiewicz] and this University is doing is going to have a huge impact on football and the NFL moving forward.”

Another issue Goodell addressed was players not coming forth with their injuries – concussions or otherwise – which the sport struggles with at every level.

“The single biggest impact in the short term ... is changing the culture of our sport,” Goodell said. “There’s very much a warrior mentality. We have to make sure that it’s OK to raise your hand when you sustain these injuries so that you get the proper treatment.”

Smith: 919-829- 8995; @RCorySmith

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