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NFL safety: League should invest in Xenith

By Julia Rivera, Columnist

Over 10 years ago, Dr. Bennet Omalu published his findings in the correlation between football players and brain damage in the journal Neurosurgery. The movie Concussion starring Will Smith tells this story.

The NFL did not publicly acknowledge the link between football-related concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) until December 2009, seven years after Omalu's discovery.

Though the NFL has taken a while to respond to the findings, over the past several years the league has instituted more than two dozen safety-related rules, including the Head Health Initiative. This program focuses on finding new technologies that can protect players from brain injuries.

The initiatives taken by the league seem to be working.

In the 2015 health and safety report, the NFL stated concussions during the regular season decreased 35 percent from 2012 to 2014 and concussions caused by helmet-to-helmet contact hits dropped 43 percent.

Although these numbers are promising, there is more the league can do to ensure the safety of its players.

Technologies such as the helmet created by the company Xenith help the safety of football players at all levels. The helmet contains a patented system of air-filled shock absorbers, underneath and independent of the polycarbonate shell, which help minimize sudden impact to the head.

In Super Bowl 50, Denver Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib wore a helmet made by Xenith.

He was the only player on the field wearing the helmet, because the NFL allows players to pick their own helmets. The only stipulation being is that they are certified by the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment.

If the NFL made it mandatory for players to wear the Xenith helmet or any other helmet that has the same features, the league may see a change in concussion-related injuries and illnesses.

Not only would there be a decrease in diagnosed concussions, but there would also be a larger retention rate. Players would stay healthy for a longer period of time, allowing them to continue playing. NFL stars are retiring early due to fears of the long-term effects of repetitive head trauma.

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In 2015, San Francisco 49ers rookie linebacker Chris Boreland retired after his first season. Later in the year, Green Bay rookie wide receiver Adrian Coxson retired for the same reason.

Besides keeping players healthy and happy, the NFL could be protecting itself in the long run. The league is appealing thousands of lawsuits from former players looking for compensation for brain damage they claim occurred during their careers. It could cost the NFL $1 billion.

The league needs to recognize that implementing safety rules - though they have helped - is not enough. More research and more precautions need to be taken in order to keep players safe. The first step in doing is mandating the use of helmets like the one Xenith makes.