Isaiah Kacyvenski Says Football is Getting Safer
A former Harvard football player and Seattle Seahawks linebacker said the tide is already turning in the effort to make football a safer sport for kids as Bay State schools see a drop in participation spurred by the fear of head injuries.
“Overall, there is a tide turning,” said Isaiah Kacyvenski on Boston Herald Radio’s “Morning Meeting” show. “It started with the NFL…around this awareness piece that then leads to education that then leads to understanding that a head trauma or a hit to the head or a concussion is not like any other injury.”
The Herald reported today a 25 percent increase in the number of sports-related head injuries in the 2013-2014 academic year when compared with the previous year – more than 14,000 injuries in total. High school football programs around the state say they have seen their numbers drop, leading to forfeits or plugging in players from the junior varsity programs that may not be ready for the faster varsity game.
Kacyvenski, who played in Super Bowl XL, said the key is not keeping kids away from football, but making it a safer game. He advocates limiting contact in practice – something the NFL implemented under the latest collective bargaining agreement – as well as making sure coaches are educated about proper tackling techniques.
“Eighty-five percent of my contact…if I had to make an educated guess, was in practice,” Kacyvenski said. “That’s crazy to have that much exposure during practice. I don’t have to practice hitting my head against the wall to be good at hitting my head.
“A lot of the education process has to start with the coaches,” he added. “Coaches have to be educated on how to practice as well as different tackling techniques that parents can take upon themselves to learn.”
Rule changes are also helping with the problem, Kacyvenski said. He specifically called out a play in a college game this weekend when Notre Dame safety Elijah Shumate was ejected from the Fighting Irish’s game against Temple when officials called him for targeting the head of an opposing player.
“In the past that never would have happened, that’s a hard line,” Kacyvenski said.
Kacyvenski was a fourth round draft pick of the Seahawks in 2000. He played six seasons in Seattle before brief stints with the Rams and Raiders. He now runs the sports segment of a company called MC10, which focuses on creating wearable devices that capture impact data during play through built-in sensors.
“Electronics are rigid and boxy. We’ve created a way to allow them to stretch, flex and bend,” he said.
MC10 invented a wearable skullcap called Checklight that can capture head impact data during play through sensors built into the cap. Kacyvenski’s former Seahawks teammate Matt Hasselbeck is also part of the sports advisory board at MC10.
Kacyvenski also coaches his sixth grade son’s football team, but said he doesn’t blame parents who choose to keep their kids off the gridiron.
“I have always believed in the powerful nature of football as a teacher of young children,” he said. “The concern is warranted. From what has come out over the last 10 years, it all makes sense. Every parent has a right to make an informed decision for his or her child; but I know this game can be played in a much safer way.”
MC10 and Reebok teamed to launch the product last year and provide information to players, coaches and health-care professionals about head injuries—something Kacyvenski knows a thing or two about.
“I’ve had 11 surgeries from football,” he said.
Kacyvenski’s latest project, called Biostamp, is designed to measure physical data on players’ health. The device is slated to launch in 2016.