UBC Thunderbirds football team tackling concussion threat head-on
Practices without pads proving successful in reducing injury
Scoring touchdowns isn't the UBC Thunderbirds only priority heading into the 2016 football season. The team's head coach is also hoping to cut down on concussions.
"This is very high-end football played by very good athletes. We're one step away from the professional leagues," said Thunderbirds coach Blake Nill.
"There's a lot of concern around the concussion issue in football ... a lot of that concern is around just the amount of impact our athletes take over and over and over throughout the season."
Practices where the players don't wear any padding are part of the Thunderbirds regular practice routine. Concussion researchers at UBC have found a correlation between the amount of padding and the number of hits.
Padless practices reducing injury
"We know there is issues with head impacts," said Harrison Brown, one of the concussion researchers.
"Whether it's a small number, big number, small hit, big hit, we want to be able to contribute to limiting long-term outcome of that (concussions)."
To help with Brown's research, players will wear heart monitors and mouth guard monitors. For Nill, he already knows the benefits of having practices with less impact.
"They're fresher, more alert. They're able to practice at a high speed," he said.
He's hoping that by focussing on player health the team will be able to defend its Vanier Cup win.