Stampeders among teams using CFL concussion program funded by NFL

WATCH ABOVE: A screening test will now be used if a Calgary Stampeders player suffers a head injury. As Lisa MacGregor reports, it will help medical staff diagnose a concussion in about two minutes.

CALGARY – It’s a game of rewards that can come at a price, but for most of the Calgary Stampeders, the risk of a head injury is worth it to play the game they love.

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“We know going in concussions, breaks, strains, bruises, that just comes with the game. I guess football players are pretty stupid if you ask me,” joked Drew Tate, a backup quarterback for the Stampeders.

The debate about concussions is ongoing, but the ways to diagnose them on the field is more on the ball than ever.

READ MORE: Brain scan may detect brain disease in NFL players

The NFL is funding a new concussion program for the CFL to help with player safety and prevent further injuries. The CFL said four teams provided a good sample size of participants that allowed the league to effectively implement the research program for this season.

“The idea to use the King-Devick test was discussed during off-season meetings, and implementing it this season was in line with our objective to advance research related to player health and safety,” said Paulo Senra, with the Canadian Football League.

On the sidelines, players the “King-Devick test”, reading numbers on an iPad to help the trainer diagnose whether the player is concussed.

READ MORE: Former BC Lions player suing over alleged negligence relating to concussions

Stampeders head trainer Michael Gudmundson said it’s really beneficial because you can’t really cheat it.

“You have this based on score. You either beat it or you don’t beat it,” Gudmundson said.

“We just know there’s so much to concussion now; it’s not just a headache. There are all these different symptoms that we have to lookout for and this is just another way to find these symptoms. We don’t just ask the guy, ‘how does your head feel?’”

The team hopes other, younger football leagues will take a page out of its playbook and start using the application to assess concussions.

READ MORE: NFL player, 24, retires after one year over concussion concerns

“This is something that could be used in amateur sport because it’s pretty easy. You literally read numbers and there’s a timer,” Gudmundson said.

The symptoms can be different for everyone who suffers a head injury.

“Whenever I got dinged, I was very coherent. I was looking at you in the eyes, I’m talking to you normal, but I wasn’t right inside. It’s tough,” Tate said.

Stamps veteran Randy Chevrier has been playing pro football for 15 years, and said things are getting better when it comes to addressing injuries.

“Maybe not safer in the execution of the game because the game is still violent, but in the protocols and how we take care of players after they’re diagnosed,” said Chevrier.

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Players are also more aware of what to look for if they’re concussed.

“I think that right now, they understand that if they do see stars, it’s probably a concussion, and they should be looked at. And the doctor will determine whether they can keep playing or not,” said John Hufnagel, head coach for the Stampeders.

“Anything we could do to improve diagnosis process to treatment process, the information process, to knowledge process. So now, I think it is a good thing and hopefully it will help the overall situation when a player receives a concussion.”

The average length of a CFL career is three-and-a-half years, but players like Tate are more focused on playing in the moment.

“Who’s to say we’re going to make it to 40 years old or 31 years old? You just have to take what it gives you,” Tate said.

As for what the league gives you if you suffer a career-ending injury, it depends on many factors.

“Players who suffer a football-related injury fall under the terms of our collective bargaining agreement, and there are different provisions that apply depending on the nature of the injury,” Senra said.

Many Stampeders are happy with the increase in support for their safety but at the end of the day, their main focus is doing their job on the field and playing the sport they love for as long as possible.

“You don’t go into a game thinking you’re going to get hurt, otherwise you wouldn’t play,” Chevrier said.

“Do I think it’s going to help? No, I have to be honest. Like I said, there’s nothing you can really do,” Tate said.

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