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NFL commissioner Goodell, Chiefs CEO Hunt talk concussions with hundreds of area moms

Updated: 2013-12-04T17:00:07Z

By RANDY COVITZ

The Kansas City Star

Tavia Hunt, wife of Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt, shared a story with nearly 300 other moms on Tuesday night.

It was about concussions, which are not limited to pro football players.

“We had to learn in depth about these things,” Hunt said during USA Football’s Heads Up Football health and safety program for mothers of football-playing children at the Chiefs’ indoor practice facility.

The Hunts’ oldest daughter, Gracie, suffered a concussion while playing soccer three years ago, and their daughter, Ava, 7, suffered a concussion after a fall on the playground.

“My greatest learning has come, not because of tackle football, but because of these girls’ injuries,” said Hunt, who told the women about a website, NFLevolution.com, that provides information on treating concussions.

“It was such a blessing to go to the Internet and find great information that is ground breaking I could share with coaches.”

Tuesday’s event was the third Football Safety Clinic for Moms sponsored by the NFL and USA Football. The first was held last summer at Ohio State University; the second was last month in Chicago.

The Chiefs sent representatives to the clinic in Chicago and wanted to be next to hold one, and it featured a panel that included NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, as well as doctors who specialize in neurosurgery and head trauma.

“Health and safety, not only at the professional level, but also at the youth level, is very important to us,” Clark Hunt said. “This past fall, our son Knobel decided he wanted to play tackle football for the first time. It was an issue Tavia and I talked about and ultimately decided it would be a great experience for him and something we wanted him to do.

“We were concerned about his safety and the safety of his teammates. It was my responsibility as one of the coaches of his team to make sure the coaching staff knew about heads-up tackling, knew about proper hydration, knew about having equipment that fit right, and ultimately he had a a tremendous experience.”

The women in attendance also received hands-on tips from former Chiefs players, including Hall of Famer Bobby Bell and Chiefs Hall of Famer Will Shields, who demonstrated proper techniques.

Alisha Hernandez’s son, Emilio, was a freshman tailback and linebacker this season at Spring Hill High School, where Nathan Stiles died in 2010 from a head injury suffered in a game.

Emilio suffered a concussion five years ago in a youth game.

“That absolutely frightened me,” Hernandez said. “He’s played football since he was 6.

“It’s scary. I don’t encourage him to play. But he loves football. Football is his passion. I let him make his decisions with the hope he doesn’t have any serious injuries.”

Some of the women have sons who are just 6 or 7 years old, and they worry about letting them don a helmet and shoulder pads for the first time.

“There’s concern,” said Venita Ames, who accompanied a busload of women from Fort Leavenworth. “We see the type of hits that are made this day and age. Tacklers aren’t wrapping up below the waist. They’re using their helmet as a weapon. So whether you’re a running back or a defensive back, you feel worried.”

Other women, such as Tracy Crabill, said of her son, Aiden, “He can get hurt playing soccer and basketball.”

Chiefs president Mark Donovan hoped the fears some of the women were allayed by what they heard from the experts, including Heads Up Football advisory committee members Diane Long, wife of Hall of Famer Howie Long and mother of St. Louis defensive end Chris Long and Chicago guard Kyle Long, and Diane Golic, wife of former NFL lineman Mike Golic.

“We can do all the safety. We can do all the statistics. We can do everything we want, but until we’ve got the moms, who make decisions, we’ve got to put this information in front of them,” Donovan said.

“Their questions were on the mark, they are concerned and want the information. Not only the information on the concussions, but how to play the game, and how the coaches should be teaching the game.”

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