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Cook takes on fight against concussions

Placer's Montoya on board with the Guardian
By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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Steve Cook figures there is no better place to start the fight against concussions in football than his hometown. Football head injuries ? and their lingering effects - have dominated headlines in recent months following the suicides of former pro players Junior Seau and Dave Duerson. Thousands of former NFL players are suing the league for negligence in the diagnosis and treatment of concussions and parents across the country are questioning the safety of the sport. Cook is starting at the grassroots level, selling a product called the Guardian that he said can reduce the risk of concussions. The device is worn on top of football helmets and studies have shown the Guardian may reduce the occurrence of concussions. The helmet cover is made from the same material Olympic swimmers wear - a multi-spandex and lycra that has thick padding throughout. The device is designed for football practice ? where 90 percent of concussions occur. Placer football coach Joey Montoya was intrigued by the Guardian after listening to Cook?s pitch of the product last week. He said he plans to order 20 and would like to purchase more if the team?s budget will allow it. ?The last thing you ever want to see is a kid get hurt and if we can limit those opportunities to get hurt, then why not?? Montoya said. The Hillmen were hit hard by concussions last season as several players were held out of games due to concussions, or for precautionary measures. ?Last year was an epidemic for concussions,? Montoya said. ?I think we had six last year and we?ve had maybe two a year, at most, before that. We weren?t doing anything different and the funny thing is, most of the players who got concussions had the new, high-tech helmets to were supposed to reduce those.? Placer spends between $6,000 and $8,000 each year to have its helmets checked and refurbished. Some players opt to buy their own helmets ? sometimes at a cost of more than $300. Cook said the Guardian could help keep helmets in better condition, along with the safety benefits. Erin Hanson, a football mom from Georgia, came up with the idea for the Guardian and they were first used last fall in her home state. The product received glowing reviews from coaches. Cook joined the company as a sales representative this spring and plans to invite all of the foothills? high school and youth programs to try it. ?We expect to run out of them,? said Cook, who coaches Placer?s girls soccer team. ?They?ve made 200,000 and there have been 53,000 orders already.? Studies at Penn State and Wayne State Universities showed a significant reduction in impact with helmets wearing the Guardian versus regular, hard-shell helmets. Cook saw the Guardian while browsing online one day and was immediately intrigued. He is now the sales rep for the northern Sacramento area. He is pitching the product to high school and youth coaches, but also to individual parents who are concerned about their children?s safety on the gridiron. ?The college and pro teams are not the targets right now,? Cook explained. ?We want to start with the youth, to have more protection from potential concussions. There are former football players saying they don?t want their kids to play, but I think something like this can help protect them.? The Guardian, which snaps on to the helmet and has a Velcro closure on the back, is designed to pop off if there is a major collision. ?That way the coaches know they need to stop and test for concussions,? Cook said. For more information on the Guardian, contact Cook at scook@guardiancaps.com.