Minnesota Company Aims to Preserve Football, Limit Head Injuries
ST. CLOUD -- Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, better known as CTE, is becoming a more and more common injury in football, and a Minnesota family has come up with an idea they think will help.
CTE is a progressive brain disease associated with repetitive head trauma, a common thing in football today.
TackleBar is the invention of Minnesota parents Brigid and Jeremy Ling. The Ling's were concerned about the safety concerns -- mainly head injuries -- surrounding the game of football, as their own kids went from flag to contact.
Tim Healy is TackleBar's President and CEO and played the game of football at both the college and NFL level. He says TackleBar aims to combine safety, along with the fundamentals of the game.
"What we've done is taken the big hit out of the game. Each kid is equipped with a harness that they wear around their waist, and in order to down the ball carrier, you have to wrap your arms around them and remove one of the bars on the harness."
A recent study of dead, former football players found CTE in 87% of brains that were donated. The NFL itself recently admitted to a connection between CTE and football. Several high-profile football players have been diagnosed with CTE after their deaths.
CTE comes with a host of negative effects, including memory loss, reduction of motor skills and even language skill loss in some severe cases.
Healy adds, these stories and research are scaring parents and kids away from football, and TackleBar is trying to stop that trend.
"The research is showing that kids under 12, their brains aren't fully formed, and probably shouldn't be involved in a high contact sport. And the bottom line is kids aren't going out for football [like they used to]. So we've gotta come up with a game that's more appealing to the kids, and most importantly, to mom."
Healy says if you'd like to get your kids involved, it's best to contact a local youth league. These can be private, through the school, or a community-based venture.
He says they had 2,000 kids use it last year, and hope for 20,000 this year. They had groups from several states including New Hampshire, California and a very heavy presence in the mid-west.
Healy says TackleBar sees itself as a bridge between youth flag football, and the full contact sport you watch in High School, College, and the NFL. Both the Vikings and Minnesota Football Coaches Association have endorsed TackleBar.