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Air Force athletic director discusses football safety

By Jaclyn Rostie, Reporter,
Published On: Jan 29 2013 06:48:13 PM CST

Mueh says training, coaching and medical care afterwards have a big impact on a player's recovery

In an interview with the New Republic this week, President Obama said if he had a son, he would have to think long and hard about letting him play football.

He said changes need to be made to protect players from injuries.  The president said he worries more about college players than those in the NFL.

"I don't have all the answers, but something has to be done because players keep getting faster, stronger and bigger ... the force at which they get hit keeps going up," said Air Force Academy Athletic Director Hans Mueh.

Mueh said all cadet athletes undergo rigorous strength and conditioning training and it's always changing, to prevent injuries.

Also, the sports teams have medical staff members who are always on hand to treat injuries.  The team physicians use computers to test brain functions.

"Doctors, on the sidelines, even can test those if they get dinged for a concussion," said Mueh.

But he said healing from a concussion usually takes time.  From attending NCAA seminars over the last year, he cited their studies that show the average player needs a full two weeks to recover.  If they play too soon, he said, they risk being off the playing field for up to a year.

Mueh said football injuries start early and some head injuries can be prevented.  He said even in youth football leagues there are a lot of young kids who are "taught to lead with their helmet."

Last fall, Mueh said his football players dealt with more leg and joint injuries than head injuries.

He believes referees should have more say in players being pulled off the field.  He added that the NFL should change and increase its penalties for direct helmet-to-helmet contact.

The Air Force Academy is home to a human performance laboratory where researchers hope to learn more about prevention and treatment of head injuries.