Can simply educating football players on concussion prevention reduce incidence?


I want to share a recent initiative I’ve been apart of called The Smartest Team, a documentary about preventing concussions in young football players.

It takes place in Newcastle, Okla., where a high school football team was experiencing a high number of concussions.

Today, I had the chance to speak with WAKR host Ray Horner about this documentary. A group of specialists from around the country flew out to this town to educate the players about preventing concussions. The outcome was astounding.

Below is an audio file and transcript of our discussion.


HORNER: Let’s bring in our good friend here, Dr. Joe Congeni from Sports Medicine Center at Akron Children’s Hospital. Joe, what do you have for us this week?

DR. CONGENI: Well, Ray, I just wanted to mention a little about The Smartest Team that I’m apart of. This is an initiative by a group called MomsTeam. They have a website that really has some good information for parents about youth sports, which you know I’m all about: getting news and education out there.

I ran into this group a couple of years ago and they invited me to take part in The Smartest Team.

A year and a half ago, we flew to just outside Oklahoma City, Newcastle, Oklahoma, [where they were experiencing] a real outbreak of cases of concussions.

So, this director of The Smartest Team invited 5 or 6 of us from around the country to see if we took this young football group of guys there in July and August, taught them [about] the prevention and protection aspects of concussion that we talk about a lot, [if we] could lower the incidence.

Dr. Joe Congeni

Dr. Joe Congeni

I was there for a day and a half, and they filmed the entire camp. They gave stories about it. It came out with a PBS presentation.

Last night was the first night that it played. It was on Akron PBS and Cleveland PBS, and it has about 12 more times this month that it’s [playing].

If you really have amnesia late at night, there’s one at 4 a.m. and 11 o’clock at night, and 2 o’clock during the day. There’s a full schedule of The Smartest Team.

But, anyway, it’s a one-hour documentary. There was a 75 percent drop of concussions in this city, in this high school team, after they went through this education seminar and everything else that we looked at.

So as to try and take Newcastle, Okla., out to the rest of the country, there are 287 national affiliates of PBS that are playing The Smartest Team through the months of October and November to kinda talk about some of the things that we instituted to try to reduce the risk, prevent the risk of concussion in young football players.

HORNER: One or two of the key things, Joe?

DR. CONGENI: Well, I’d say one of the biggest ones is a very excellent coach from California came out who does a thing called head-free tackle. He did a half-hour, hour seminar with these kids about appropriate tackle technique.

And I’ve always said, Ray, and you know that, how good our coaches are here at teaching appropriate technique, even at a young level. But this guy, Bobby Hosea, he is actually branded as head-free tackle.

Bobby did an excellent job teaching these kids proper technique and taking the head out of the tackling technique. And you can go online and see that. That was extremely good, and he’s an inspirational coach.

There were several other people that came in and spoke to these kids. I think what we were heartened by is the educational aspect of this can really help kids and parents and coaches and officials quite a bit.

HORNER: Alright, Joe. Good information, my friend. Thanks for joining us again.

DR. CONGENI: Okay, Ray. Have a good week.

HORNER: Alright. We’ll catch up with you next week.

DR. CONGENI: Okay, sounds good.

HORNER: Alright. Dr. Joe Congeni, Sports Medicine Center at Children’s Hospital, joining us this morning.

“The Smartest Team: Making High School Football Safer”: 30 Second PBS Promo

About Dr. Joe Congeni - Director of Sports Medicine

Dr. Joe Congeni is the Director, Sports Medicine; Clinical Co-Director, Center for Orthopedics and Sports Medicine at Akron Children's Hospital. For the past 25 years, Dr. Congeni has been the “go to” source for national and local media looking for information about pediatric sports medicine.