Practice Like Pros founder and 16-time Emmy Award winner Terry O’Neil stressed the importance of concussion prevention and recognition to high school football coaches last week during a clinic session at Reynolds Performance Hall.
O’Neil is a decorated television producer, working for ABC’s "Monday Night Football" and ESPN’s "The Sports Reporters," but he wasn’t there to talk about his accolades.
He wasn’t there to promote Practice Like Pros, but was there to teach coaches about the severity of concussions, especially at the high school level.
After a quick story about O’Neil learning football from legendary Arkansas Razorbacks coach Frank Broyles, O’Neil said an estimated 157 concussion cases per year occur in the National Football League.
He said estimates in high school football reach more than 100,000 cases per year.
"This is the worst statistic in football," he said.
He used a story of a kid that suffered a concussion a couple weeks prior to the start of the previous football season as a segue into stressing more importance of concussions in high school.
He said the player went to the doctor and told him he was feeling well enough to play, and the doctor cleared him.
O’Neil said the father and wanted to have him tested.
The young player ended up scoring a .001 out of .07 on the ImPACT (Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing) Clinical Test.
O’Neil noted the player missed the first four weeks of the season.
He then revealed it was his son.
He said his son is lucky because he made it to Division III football by having him properly identified with a concussion.
O’Neil gave several examples of high school football players suffering from concussions who weren’t so lucky and died because they weren’t properly evaluated.
There are several cases where a concussion was not evaluated as well as it could be and coaches were sued because of the player’s physical condition.
O’Neil told the coaches to make it apparent that they are not team doctors.
He said only 42 percent of high school football teams have a medical professional on their sidelines.
O’Neil said part of the problem with several of these cases is kids are saying they are feeling well enough to play.
"We’ve got to get these kids to self-diagnose themselves," he said.
For the second half of O’Neil’s talk, he spoke about ways to prevent concussions.
He said Ivy League schools are ahead of everybody when it comes to preventing concussions because of how they tackle.
Dartmouth College coach Buddy Teevens decided to find ways to practice without contact.
Teevens’ teams tackle 10 days out of the year, which are its 10 gamedays.
This has caused a 50 percent drop in missed tackles for Dartmouth and a better record because it keeps players fresher throughout the season.
It was a relevantly new process that has reached Seattle Seahawks assistant coach Rocky Seto.
O’Neil provided several examples and ways to prevent concussions by ways of identifying symptoms earlier, have no contact in practices and change the way the players tackle.