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NCAA hopes sports science center helps with safety

NCAA hopes sports science center helps with safety

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) The NCAA says it is committed to ensuring the safety of all college athletes and plans to open a national sports science institute to make playing sports safer.

The comments came in a statement emailed to The Associated Press on Monday night, the day after President Barack Obama acknowledged that if he had a son, he would have to think about letting him play football. The NCAA did not specifically address Obama's comments about football, choosing instead to address the broader issue.

``Student-athlete safety is one of our foundational principles,'' the statement read. ``Throughout its history, the association and its member institutions and conferences have specifically addressed the prevention of student-athlete injuries through a combination of playing rules, equipment requirements, medical best practices and policies.''

But now the governing body is taking a bold new step - starting the NCAA's Sports Science Institute, which will be run by Dr. Brian Hainline, a neurologist with extensive sports medicine expertise. He was hired as the NCAA's first chief medical officer in October so he could lead the center.

``In an effort to identify solutions and opportunities to ensure student-athlete health and safety, the NCAA will continue to lead extensive outreach and collaboration with the medical, scientific and athletics communities,'' the NCAA said. ``This Institute will function as a national resource to provide safety, health and medical expertise and research for coaches, medical staff, and athletics administrators, including a national task force for collegiate football safety.''

This isn't the first time college football has come under fire from an American president.

In 1905, with violence on the rise, President Theodore Roosevelt asked football coaches from Harvard, Princeton and Yale to visit the White House. There, he encouraged them to reform the game, and that winter, they created the organization that became the NCAA and legalized the forward pass.

The change worked.

Within two decades, the popularity of college football was so great it led to the formation of a pro league that would be renamed the National Football League in 1922.

Now, Obama is weighing in.

``I think that those of us who love the sport are going to have to wrestle with the fact that it will probably change gradually to try to reduce some of the violence,'' Obama told The New Republic.

``In some cases, that may make it a little bit less exciting, but it will be a whole lot better for the players, and those of us who are fans maybe won't have to examine our consciences quite as much.''

College football, however, drew some of Obama's greatest criticism.

``The NFL players have a union, they're grown men, they can make some of these decisions on their own, and most of them are well-compensated for the violence they do to their bodies,'' Obama said. ``You read some of these stories about college players who undergo some of these same problems with concussions and so forth and then have nothing to fall back on. That's something that I'd like to see the NCAA think about.''

The recent emphasis has been on concussion awareness.

Some schools, such as Indiana and Virginia Tech, have used sensors inside players' helmets to measure the impact of hits to a player's head. Both the NFL and the NCAA have instituted stricter policies about allowing players to return from concussions, and both the NFL and NCAA have been named in concussion-related lawsuits.

The movement has even trickled down to youth football.

USA Football, an organization backed by the NFL, has introduced the Heads Up program - an online educational program for parents, youth coaches and commissioners that teaches proper tackling techniques they hope will lead to fewer concussions. In March, USA Football, which is based in Indianapolis, plans to bring more than 20 current and former coaches to Indy to help train a group of ``master trainers'' that will help more than 100 youth leagues across the nation.

Some players at the Super Bowl said they had no problem letting their sons play football. Count former NFL offensive lineman Tony Boselli among that group. He responded to Obama's comments on Twitter, by writing: ``Interesting, I do have boys and I am thinking long & hard about them getting near politics. No problem them playing football.''

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: What happens in Vegas....

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: What happens in Vegas....

It's almost here.

After a lengthy break between the conference finals and the Stanley Cup Finals, the Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights are set to meet on Monday for Game 1.

Who will hoist Lord Stanley's Cup?

JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir give their keys to the series and their predictions for the Stanley Cup Final. Plus, JJ speaks with several member from the local media to get their insights and predictions.

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.

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Stanley Cup Final 2018: Players to watch

Stanley Cup Final 2018: Players to watch

It doesn't take an expert to tell you players like Alex Ovechkin or Marc-Andre Fleury will play a big role in the Stanley Cup Final.

Both the Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights will need their best players to be at their best to take home the Cup. But who will be the unexpected heroes? Who are the players no one is talking about who will have a big hand in their team's success or defeat in this series?

Here are five players you should be watching in the Stanley Cup:

1. Devante Smith-Pelly: Smith-Pelly had seven goals in 79 games in the regular season. Now he has four goals in just 19 playoff games.

Smith-Pelly has been one of those unlikely playoff heroes for the Caps this postseason with very timely performances such as scoring the series-clinching goal in Game 6 against the Columbus Blue and scoring the goal that put the game away in Game 6 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The physical play has really stood out as well for him, which fits well on the fourth line role he has settled back into now that the team is healthy again. Barry Trotz tried moving him to the top line in the absence of Tom Wilson and the results weren't great. He is best suited for the role he currently has and that will allow him to thrive.

2. James Neal: Neal came up just short of the Stanley Cup last season as a member of the Nashville Predators. He totaled nine points in 22 games during that run, a number he has already matched in just 15 games this postseason.

There are very few players on either team that boast the kind of postseason experience Neal has. He will be leaned upon this series for his leadership.

Vegas is a young team and their unprecedented success in the playoffs may make this feel like the first run of many for the Golden Knights, but not for Neal who is on the last year of his contract and came tantalizingly close to the Cup last season. He will play like there is no tomorrow because, for him, there may not be in Vegas.

3. Andre Burakovsky: Burakovsky was one of the heroes of Game 7 with two goals to put away the Tampa Bay Lightning. That marked just the latest peak in a career full of peaks and valleys for the young winger. Just two games before, Burakovsky was a healthy scratch and spoke to the media about his plans to speak with a sports psychologist in the offseason.

The talent is there and it certainly appears that the injury that kept him out earlier in the playoffs is largely behind him. Burakovsky’s issues have always been mainly between the ears. In a series against a fast team with strong depth, he can be an absolutely critical piece for the Caps. Hopefully, his Game 7 performance gave him the confidence he needs to continue to be effective.

4. Ryan Reaves: Vegas acquired both Reaves and Tomas Tatar around the trade deadline. If I were to tell you that through three rounds of the playoffs, both players were healthy, had played the same number of games (6) and had the same number of points (1), you’d think I was crazy. Yet, here we are.

Reaves was largely an afterthought in a complicated trade between Vegas, the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Ottawa Senators, but he has carved a nice role for himself on the Golden Knights’ fourth line and even scored the goal that sent Vegas to the Stanley Cup Final against the Winnipeg Jets.

Reaves is also an agitator on the ice, but what do the Caps do against a player like that when their normal fighter plays on the top line? We may see Reaves and Wilson come to blows this series, but it won't be very often because that is a bad tradeoff for the Caps.

5. Brooks Orpik: The elder statesman of the blue line, Orpik is the only player on the Caps with a Stanley Cup to his name and is the only one who has any idea what this experience is going to be like for the team.

Orpik is very diligent about keeping in shape which has allowed him to play in 81 games this season and all 19 playoff games despite being 37 years old, but you do have to wonder how much is left in the tank. Despite being the favorite whipping boy for the proponents of analytics, his physical play has been effective this postseason. The focus he placed on the skating in the offseason has paid dividends so far in matchups against the speedy Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning, but the Golden Knights will be the fastest team they have played yet. There is no denying Orpik is much more suited towards a physical style of game. Wil he continue to be effective or will Vegas exploit the Caps' third defensive pairing?

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