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Mohawk helmet initiative under way

Concussions are currently one of the hottest athletic topics.

The problem is most prevalent in football, leaving many parents worried about their children’s safety if permitted to participate. Mohawk Trail Regional High School is attempting to do make the sport safer in Buckland.

A booster group is working to raise $10,000 to purchase 40 new, state-of-the-art helmets for the upcoming season.

The group is headed by Lynette Von Haugg and the Mohawk Athletic Association. It comes in response to the recent panic surrounding concussions and will help ensure the safety of the players, following two serious head injuries suffered this season.

“New helmets are not going to completely prevent head injuries, but newer styles will help out,” Von Haugg said.

The group has already raised $3,600 and has met with representatives from many equipment companies to choose the safest helmets for the players. The new helmets will cost $250 apiece, and the boosters have planned a number of things to help raise money to meet their goal.

The group will sell food at the Berkshire Highlands Pentathlon on March 23rd at Berkshire East in Charlemont, with all proceeds going toward the new helmets, which cost $250 apiece. Von Haugg also said she is working with Mike Ryan, a Shelburne native who is currently head trainer with the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars, and he is helping them put together autographed memorabilia that is scheduled to be auctioned off during a Spaghetti Supper tentatively scheduled for May 31.

The boosters will go around to local businesses and are looking for any individuals interested in sponsoring a player. The cost is $250 per player (one helmet). Anyone interested additional information can contact Von Haugg at 834-3007. Checks can be made out to the Mohawk Athletic Association, P.O. Box 111, Shelburne Falls, and put the word “Helmet” in the memo.

Jim Smith, who retired as Mohawk football coach last week after coaching football in the area since 1960, said that getting new helmets will go a long way toward promoting safety. He also said that the NFL is behind an initiative that teaches young players the proper way to make a tackle and hit, adding that with better medical attention, including earlier head-injury diagnosis, the game is getting safer.

“We’ve always taught that you tackle with your butt down and your head up,” Smith said. “You read the clouds. That way your head isn’t down. But in the heat of battle, you may still have a knee hit a helmet, or something else you can’t prevent. To reassure people about safety, the NFL is coming out with videos instructing players on how to hit, so eventually maybe we’ll get more kids tackling correctly.”

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