Concussions expert urges age limit on head blows

Concussions expert urges age limit on head blows

ZURICH (AP) A leading neurosurgeon called for better protection for young athletes from head injuries on Friday, as a research project involving 100 retired NFL players seeks a diagnosis for a brain disease linked to multiple concussions.

At a FIFA-hosted international conference on concussions in sports, Robert Cantu urged the outlawing of tackling in football, heading in soccer and body-checking in ice hockey in youth matches.

``It's best not to have blows on the head under the age of 14,'' Cantu, from Boston University's medical school, told The Associated Press on the sidelines of the seminar. ``The bottom line is that we need to make sports safer for our children.''

Cantu addressed 150 medical experts, including advisers to the NFL and NHL, at the conference, which is backed by the International Olympic Committee and held once every four years.

Delegates were shown case studies from autopsies performed on American athletes who committed suicide after suffering symptoms including depression, memory loss and aggressive behavior.

Now, 100 former NFL players are taking part in research led by Boston University to find a diagnosis for the degenerative brain disease, chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

``I am concerned about what we know about repetitive head trauma,'' Cantu told delegates, describing children under 14 as vulnerable to a ``bobble-head doll effect'' at an age when the head is disproportionately large for the relative strength of the neck.

``I am not anti-football - I just want them to play flag football until the age of 14. I think, over time, it will happen,'' he told the AP.

Still, Cantu praised the Pop Warner League - which organizes football up to age 16 - for ``marvelous'' progress in acting this year to restrict full contact playing time in practices.

``It's American tackle football - you can't take the tackling out,'' said Stanley Herring, a medical adviser to the youth league and the NFL. He helped promote legislation now adopted in 40 states requiring young athletes concussed in action to be cleared by a health care professional before returning to play.

Herring, a University of Washington professor in neurosurgery, advocated a ``more prudent approach'' than age limits, including education for coaches, parents and players.

In Australian Rules football and ice hockey, a greater emphasis on teaching technical skills at an early age helped protect athletes from head blows, the seminar heard.

FIFA medical director Jiri Dvorak told the AP that sports should adapt their rules to reduce injuries, as football did cracking down on use of the elbow.

``We have to offer all the arguments so that the executives can make the proper decisions,'' Dvorak said.

The NFL, which is facing a lawsuit on concussions involving thousands of former players, was praised by one delegate for changing its view on the dangers from ``denial to a $30 million donation'' to medical research.

Current research by Boston, Harvard and Pennsylvania universities will use former NFL players, aged 40-69 who were exposed to a high risk of concussions, and a further 50 athletes with no recognized head trauma injuries, to identify biomarkers of CTE. Researchers will examine samples of spinal fluid and electrical activity around a patient's brain.

``It is huge because I hope, out of it, we can make a diagnosis of CTE in living individuals,'' Cantu told the AP, pointing to a similar breakthrough achieved in understanding Alzheimer's disease.

Research papers could be delivered in around one year, and ``definitive theories and treatments'' within four years.

``We don't know the true incidence and prevalence (of CTE) today,'' Cantu said. ``So much more work is going to be necessary to understand it.''

In other discussions during the two-day conference, a suggestion of mandatory retirements after professional athletes sustained a certain number of concussions was dismissed.

``I guarantee you if it's three (concussions) and you're out, they won't tell you about the third one,'' Herring cautioned.

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The 2018 salaries of five Redskins become fully guaranteed today

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The 2018 salaries of five Redskins become fully guaranteed today

It may be the 18th of March but today could be like Christmas for five Redskins players.

The Redskins decided to use today, four days after the start of the league year, for some contract triggers. In this case, the triggers are all 2018 salary guarantees (some teams will pay out roster bonuses on trigger dates, but the Redskins rarely use that type of structure).

Here are the players whose have guarantees that kick in today 4 p.m. All data is via Over the Cap.


CB Josh Norman, base salary of $13.5 million becomes fully guaranteed—This was a window for the Redskins to move on from Norman if they were not happy with his performance after two seasons. He is 31 and he had no interceptions last season, leaving some to wonder if the Redskins might think about releasing him. But it never was a consideration.

TE Jordan Reed, $8 million of his $8.25 million salary becomes fully guaranteed—No, I’m not sure why they are leaving that $250,000 out there non-guaranteed. Fans thought that the Redskins might move on from Reed due to his injury issues. But, as with Norman, it never was a consideration.

S D.J. Swearinger, $3 million base salary becomes fully guaranteed—This is a mere technicality, Swearinger wasn’t going anywhere after helping to solidify the safety position.


RB Chris Thompson, $1.996 million base salary becomes fully guaranteed—His rehab is going well and after last year Thompson’s two-year, $7 million contract extension signed last September looks like a good deal for the team.

DE Terrell McClain, $3.25 million base salary becomes fully guaranteed—If the Redskins sign a top free agent D-lineman or draft on early in the draft they could be in a numbers crunch. That new acquisition would be guaranteed a roster spot along with Jonathan Allen, Matt Ioannidis, Stacy McGee, and Anthony Lanier. That makes five and the Redskins kept six last year. Ziggy Hood is a favorite of the coaching staff but he has no guaranteed money left on his contract. That could tip the sixth spot in favor of McClain if he is on the roster at the close of business today. If they release McClain after today, they would take a cap charge of over $2 million. It seems unlikely that anything will happen but it’s something to keep an eye on.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.


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It's hard to tell after three games how the Wizards and Pacers would match up in the playoffs

It's hard to tell after three games how the Wizards and Pacers would match up in the playoffs

The Wizards crossed off an important goal on Saturday night by beating the Indiana Pacers and therefore securing the season series. If the teams tie with the same regular season record, the Wizards will get the higher playoff seed. As of today, that would mean home court advantage in the first round.

Though the Wizards have beaten the Pacers in two of their three matchups this season, we only know so much about how they would match up in the playoffs. The first game between them didn't feature Pacers All-Star Victor Oladipo and John Wall didn't play in any of the three games. The Pacers were without both Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis on Saturday night.

Given the Pacers underwent so much change over the summer, there is no real data to go off of from before this season. They are a completely different team with Oladipo leading the way and Paul George now in Oklahoma City.


There are reasons to believe, however, that the Wizards would fare well against the Pacers over the course of a seven-game series. For one, they figured out how to slow Oladipo and his teammate Bojan Bogdanovic on Saturday night. Both had killed the Wizards in previous matchups.

Oladipo was held to 18 points, over five points below his season average of 23.5. He had four turnovers, shot 7-for-16 (43.7%) and finished a -18 in a game the Pacers lost by seven.

The Wizards had some success with Tomas Satoransky guarding Oladipo. Satoransky is 6-foot-7 with long arms. He was able to recover on several occasions to alter Oladipo's shots.

Satoransky and Bradley Beal also did a good job keeping pace with Oladipo on the fastbreak. The Pacers had only four fastbreak points in the game. Oladipo is especially dangerous in the open court.

“We just made sure that we were aggressive with him and made sure he saw a lot of bodies in the paint," Beal said. "The last game, he got a lot of easy ones in transition. We just made sure that we got back on the shot, loaded to the ball and forced the other guys to attack.”

For Bogdanovic, it was about limiting open shots from the perimeter. Bogdanovic had 11 points, three below his season average and had four turnovers. Beal and Otto Porter stripped Bogdanovic for steals and Marcin Gortat took a charge on one play in the third quarter.


But it was all about taking away the outside shot. Bogdanovic only hit one shot in the first half and it was a three. The only reason he got it off is because Kelly Oubre, Jr. lost his balance backing up. That gave Bogdanovic the window he needed. Otherwise, Oubre helped frustrate the former Wizards small forward. So did Gortat and Ian Mahinmi, who did a good job covering their teammates off screens.

The Pacers are an average offensive team, ranking 16th in points per game and 14th in offensive rating. They are better defensively, ranking ninth-best in opponents points per game and 12th in defensive efficiency.

If the Wizards can limit Oladipo and Bogdanovic, the Pacers' two leading scorers, they should have a good shot at beating the Pacers in the playoffs. Beyond them, the Pacers are thin in the scoring department. Turner only averages 13.6 points and no one else beyond him can consistently make an opposing defense pay for mistakes. Conversely, several Wizards players have given the Pacers major trouble through three games this season.

Gortat, who had 18 points and eight rebounds on Saturday, has averaged 13 points and eight rebounds on 57.7 percent shooting against Indiana. Kelly Oubre, Jr., who had 16 points in 18 minutes, has averaged 15.5 points and is shooting 50 percent from the field.


In addition to those guys, Markieff Morris, Porter, Mike Scott, Mahinmi and Satoransky are all shooting over 50 percent against the Pacers. Satoransky is shooting 71.4 percent through three games.

The Wizards have the pieces to counter what the Pacers do best. Indiana is seventh in three-point percentage, but the Wizards are the best team in basketball in opponents three-point percentage. The Pacers are built around an All-Star guard, but the Wizards have two All-Star guards. The Pacers have a collection of talented wing players, but so do the Wizards.

"Hypothetically, I do like Indiana," Beal said. "I like how we match up with Indiana and I feel like there is a lot of stuff that we can take advantage of. In a lot of categories, I think we can win them."

Add it all up and the Wizards have every reason to feel confident if they see the Pacers in the posteason. Keep that in mind because they very well could meet up in the spring.

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