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Seminar on concussions sheds light on long-term effects

Chris Nowinski of the Sports Legacy Institute answers questions from the audience Friday while leading an advanced concussion training seminar at Sycamore High School.
Chris Nowinski of the Sports Legacy Institute answers questions from the audience Friday while leading an advanced concussion training seminar at Sycamore High School.

SYCAMORE – During a tag-team World Wrestling Entertainment match in June 2003 with the Dudley Boyz, Chris Nowinski took a kick to the face that, by the standards of professional wrestling, went wrong. He could not figure out where he was, let alone who was supposed to win the match. What Chris Nowinski had experienced was a concussion.

Nowinski had at least five concussions in the WWE and thinks he had two more when he played college football at Harvard.

On Friday night, Chris Nowinski, current President, CEO and co-founder of Sports Legacy Institute, talked to a group of coaches and parents of football players at Sycamore High School as he informed them about head trauma in sports.

“I am all for contact sports, I played them for years,” Nowinski said, “but this is a real battle with the number of brain injuries today, and through education the battle can be overcome.”

He expected that after the concussion training workshop, that was brought to Sycamore by Northern Illinois ENT Specialist Joseph Scianna, that everyone in attendance would have more knowledge of concussions than many doctors and professionals.

Nowinski made sure to hit on many points at the workshop such as a concussion and what happens when an athlete experiences one, policies of returning athletes to a game and long-term effects that head injuries may have on an athlete.

Parents and coaches were informed of past athletes who had taken their own lives or died at a young age because of the high amount of concussions in sports. Most of the athletes that were discussed in the workshop suffered from the disease known as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). The audience would learn that CTE is only diagnosed after a person dies and that there was no way that a person can be diagnosed while still alive.

Nowinski was joined by former offensive lineman Reggie Smith, the president of the Chicago chapter of the NFL Retired Players Association, who talked about his college and professional football playing career.

“As an offensive lineman, every day I hit someone with my head,” Smith said. “I can’t do something about what happened and the head injuries I faced, but I can help with what will happen in the future.”

Nowinski said that the rate of concussions should start to decrease because of the higher amount of education people are able to have on concussions today.

After Nowinski finished his presentation that informed the audience on how to handle athletes with concussions, there was about a 30-minute question and answer that took place. The question and answers became more of a discussion between some of the coaches in the audience.

The informational workshop was very successful to Dr. Joe Scianna, who also is the president of Sycamore Youth Football League. Scianna was happy that he was able to bring SLI and Nowinski to Sycamore High School to talk about the dangers and risks of head injuries.

“I love this sport and I would never want other coaches or parents to be afraid of any of their kids participating in football,” Scianna said. “That’s why I wanted to bring in this workshop so that more people would be educated on concussions.”

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