Buddy Curry shared stories from his football playing days and highlighted how concussions were previously underestimated for years, shrugged off as a mere “ding.”
“It’s not a ding,” Curry said. “It’s a brain injury.”
The former Atlanta Falcons linebacker led a football safety clinic for about 100 mothers Monday night at North Hall High School. Sponsored by the Falcons, the free clinic outlined safety procedures for helmets and shoulder pads, plus information on the dangers of supplements and steroids.
Then the moms had the chance to take the field, run drills and see some of the safety protocols in action.
Curry said a head coach or play-caller shouldn’t evaluate a player for a concussion, but rather someone objective should. He added that athletes should rest the brain after a concussion to avoid second-impact syndrome, a dangerous condition that occurs when a second concussion is suffered before the first is healed.
He also advocated keeping as much normalcy as possible for kids who have suffered concussions.
Bobby Butler, a former Falcons defensive back who along with Curry conducts Kids & Pros safety clinics across the Southeast, said it was important to get this information to mothers.
“The moms are the better policemen with their little boys playing football,” Butler said.
Shalimar Johnson of Braselton had been to such a clinic last year in Buford but showed up Monday because her 12-year-old son, Dwight, had suffered a concussion three weeks ago. She thought she might have missed something and wanted to get a safety refresher.
Johnson said Curry’s explanation of making sure a helmet fits snug caught her attention. She planned to go home and make sure her son’s helmet is fitted right.
Nancy Williams of Conyers has an eighth-grade son who plays football. She said the information about helmets and shoulder pads fitting safely stood out, especially since her son was fitted at school and she wasn’t there. Williams said she “definitely will be double-checking to make sure it’s fitted right now.”
Martha Brown has two sons who play football: Derrick Brown at Auburn and Kameron Brown at Lanier High. She came to Monday’s event looking to learn more about the game and concussions, saying she felt it would help her better communicate with her sons about the sport.
Brian Parker of the Taylor Hooton Foundation addressed supplements and steroids. He said 20 to 25 percent of supplements have banned substances in them because they aren’t regulated. Parker shared the story of Hooton, a 17-year-old who took anabolic steroids to get bigger and stronger for baseball before later taking his own life.
Parker emphasized the importance of educating teenagers on the dangers of steroids and supplements, noting a culture where coaches often tell players to get bigger and stronger but don’t say how. He pointed to nsfsport.com and aegisshield.com as resources to check the safety of supplements.
Curry told the audience tackling with the front of the shoulder is safer than the traditional “wrapping up” form of tackling.
“We’ve got to change the way that we teach contact,” Curry said in an interview before the event.
He said the structure of practices is now trending more and more away from contact and toward fundamentals in practices, which should help current players sustain way fewer hits than those who played when he did.
Curry was a linebacker for the Falcons from 1980-87. After playing collegiately at UNC, Curry was Associated Press Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1980.
The clinic was the 19th hosted by the Falcons in Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and South Carolina, reaching more than 2,100 moms.