Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Western Ontario's Football Program Placing an Emphasis on Player Safety

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Western Ontario's Football Program Placing an Emphasis on Player Safety

Article excerpt

Western Mustangs adjust training routines

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Winning is important to longtime football coach Greg Marshall, but not at the expense of player safety.

Marshall has won plenty in the game. He captured the 1980 Hec Crighton Trophy as a running back at Western and has won three Vanier Cups, 18 Yates Cup championships and two Canadian university coach-of-the-year honours on the sidelines with the Mustangs and McMaster University.

In 2004, Marshall claimed the Annis Stukus Trophy as the CFL's coach of the year while with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

But with concussions in football having been linked to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) -- a degenerative brain disease -- Marshall and Western University are doing their part to make football as safe as possible.

"I get it, I had my three sons go through it," Marshall said. "I think as you get older, you get a little wiser and realize there are so many good things about this game that make it special for young men because it's an opportunity for them to be part of something.

"But it's got to be safe."

So like many football programs, the Mustangs have changed how they practise. There's some live contact during training camp, but that ends once the regular season begins.

Mustangs players practise in pads just twice during the week (usually Tuesday, Wednesday) and revert to just helmets on Thursday and Friday before a Saturday game.

Last year, Western purchased new, state-of-the-art helmets from Vicis, a Seattle-based company that states its products reduce the severity of head impacts. The helmet's outer shell acts like a car bumper, flexing upon impact then immediately bouncing back.

Last May, the company was awarded a contract from the U.S. Army to improve its combat helmets. It says it's also working on a youth football helmet.

The Mustangs have fitted each of those helmets with a GForceTracker. …

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