HEADSTRONG

How one traumatic concussion led Shawn Springs to invest in safety protection

How one traumatic concussion led Shawn Springs to invest in safety protection

This article is a part of HeadStrong: Mental Health and Sports, NBC Sports multi-platform initiative on mental health and men's health. NBC Sports Washington will be releasing a series of original short-form features that are all available at nbcsportswashington.com/headstrong

Former Redskins cornerback Shawn Springs had a lengthy and largely successful NFL career. He played for three different teams over 13 years, earning Pro Bowl and second-team All-Pro honors while hauling in 33 interceptions over his NFL tenure.

But for Springs, there's one play that completely changed his life, and it wasn't an interception or a sack.

"2004, Dec. 12, I don't remember anything about a hit," Springs recalls. "All I remember, the last thing I remember, was being in the middle of the field looking at Donovan McNabb."

In a December clash between the Redskins and Eagles, Springs suffered a brutal blow to the head, one that knocked him out.

"I didn't really see it, I was totally blindsided. I know when I woke up, I wasn't breathing," Springs said. "I heard [Terrell Owens] and Fred Smoot were in the background crying about it. Then my breath came back and I was able to breathe. Once I was able to breathe I was trying to get up, and I couldn't move."

Springs was carted off the field and taken directly back to the locker room. 

"I don't remember getting on the cart. I remember being under the tunnel, in the medical room, and my mom was coming down," he said. "I remember getting in the ambulance. I look back on it, realize I wasn't breathing and that I could have died on the field."

Over the past 15 years, a lot more information has come out about the seriousness and long-term effects of a concussion. But back in 2004, when Springs suffered that brutal blow to the head, things were different.

"What they call concussions today, my season would have been over," he said. "What we know today about the brain and the seriousness of concussions has changed mainly in the last five years. When I came in the league, guys would get knocked out, take some smelling salts, and 'boom,' they were right back in.

"I would hate for that to happen to my kids," Springs continued. "I honestly felt like I could have died that day."

In 2011, Springs founded Windpact, a technology and science company that comes up with superior impact solutions to protect the body and the mind.

"'How do I make the game of football safer?' was my initial thought," he said. "I realized it's not just football [players] that suffer from traumatic brain injury and concussions, but hockey, all other sports. Then that expanded into the military."

Springs' company is not only focused on making protective headgear, however. They have designed certain chest protectors and other types of equipment to help ensure safety in all different sports.

"Safety is something that should be afforded to everyone," Springs said. "I wanted to make sure that through Windpact, we can make our everyday lives better."

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How to watch NBC Sports' 'HeadStrong' documentary

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NBC Sports Network

How to watch NBC Sports' 'HeadStrong' documentary

This article and the documentary described is a part of HeadStrong: Mental Health and Sports, NBC Sports' multi-platform initiative on mental health and men's health. NBC Sports Washington will be releasing a series of original short-form features that are all available at nbcsportswashington.com/headstrong.

As a part of its campaign to address mental health and men's health in the world of athletics, NBC Sports has been running stories and airing videos shining a light on sports figures who have dealt with various mental health issues, both on and off the field.

This initiative has been leading to a documentary, HeadStrong, which is airing Wednesday, November 27 at 10:30 p.m. after Wednesday Night Hockey. The documentary features stories from Justice Winslow of the Miami Heat, Hayden Hurst of the Baltimore Ravens, Nathan Braaten, formerly of Oregon State soccer, and Clint Malarchuk, a former NHL goalie.

This effort has spanned a variety of both sports and players, including a Wizards' doctor, an all-time great Redskin, a local player gone on to the NBA and a former top-five NFL draft pick. Each story has served to shed light on some of the issues athletes at all levels have to face, and the individuals involved have done their best to help fellow athletes cope with their own mental health struggles.

HOW TO WATCH HeadStrong DOCUMENTARY

What: HeadStrong documentary

When: Wednesday, November 27 at 10:30 p.m. (after Wednesday Night Hockey)

Where: NBC Sports Network (channel finder)

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Headstrong: Bradley Beal opens up about 'Couvade Syndrome'

Headstrong: Bradley Beal opens up about 'Couvade Syndrome'

Carrying the burden of being a franchise cornerstone is extremely difficult. Doing so while welcoming two children in two years is another layer of tough.

Washington Wizards shooting guard, Bradley Beal, was the 11th player in NBA history to average 25 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists last season - the only player in franchise history. While the on-court success featured scoring in bunches and all-around production, what fans didn’t see was the internal struggles Beal had during the offseason. 

“For the last two seasons I’ve suffered from Couvade Syndrome,” Beal told NBC Sports Washington as part of the Headstrong series. “Also called sympathetic pregnancy. A proposed condition in which a partner experiences the same symptoms and behavior as the expectant mother.:

Beal said he dealt with many of the same symptoms that his partner, Kamiah Adams, had during her pregnancy. 

“The biggest one I noticed was my weight. I gained about 12-15 pounds,” Beal said. “Coach [Scott] Brooks used to make fun of me and say my uniform was fitting a little tighter, and not in a good way.”

“I was up at 3, 4 o clock in the morning eating ice cream when I shouldn’t have been eating ice cream,” Beal continued. “That’s all because momma was pregnant and I had the exact same symptoms. I was craving stuff that I never had the desire to eat before.”

Six weeks after the birth of Bradley Beal II, Brad and Adams were pregnant with their second child, Braylon Beal. Although the symptoms oftentimes left Beal mentally, physically and emotionally drained, he wouldn’t trade the blessing of two sons for anything in this world.

“I love my kids to death. I honestly never thought you could love anything as much as your kids,” Beal said.

“I love my boys, I love my wife, I love my life.”