The NFL receives the highest television ratings of all pro sports, and football continues to have the highest rates of participation for high school boys in the country (compared to other sports), yet the dangers of playing the game have never been more visible. As a result, parents are hesitant to give their kids permission to play. The irony of this safety ‘enlightenment’ for the game of football is that coaches, community leaders and companies are stepping up to plate to deliver solutions that make the game safer than ever before.
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Motivated by personal tragedy and working for free, a neurologist in Northern California believes his new helmet concept could help save the game of football.
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Rickey Dixon barely dents the mattress. The only noise is the television softly playing gospel music and the humming of his ventilator. In a few hours, family and friends will surround Rickey to celebrate his life and athletic accomplishments at Wilmer-Hutchins High School. But first, I have an interview with the former All-American football player. Rickey’s Eyegaze — a tool that allows him to communicate through the direction of his eyes — is broken that day. So his son, RJ, and niece Micah, help Rickey answer my questions by holding a yellow sheet of paper in front of him with all 26 letters of the alphabet printed on it.
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Tall and imposing, indomitable even, 6-foot-8 with shoulders and a back broad enough to push a pickup truck. He was a star lineman on a state championship team in high school and for the University of Colorado Buffaloes, where he set a team record for starts and minutes played. He was an Associated Press third-team all-American and played three years in the N.F.L.
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