After holding six conferences with Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon from 1995 to 2008 I have called athletic concussions a ticking time bomb and undiagnosed health epidemic. I had a crisis of conscience in representing hundreds of NFL players who repeatedly were hit in the head in games and practice.

I now believe that each time an offensive lineman hits a defensive lineman at the inception of every play it produces a low level sub-concussive hit. A lineman who plays in high school, college and the pros may retire with 10,0000 sub-concussive hits, none of which were diagnosed, none of which he is aware of. The aggregate of these hits produce brain damage much more severe than being knocked out three times.

Prominent neurologists and researchers like Robert Cantu, Julian Bailes, Kevin Guskiewicz, Kristen Willeumier and David Hovda report that three or more concussions may lead to exponentially higher rates of Alzheimer’s, ALS, dementia, chronic traumatic encephalopathy and depression. This is different from other injuries. Brain function provides memory, judgment, and personality -- what it means to be a sentient human being. That is why we are forming a new foundation, "Athletes Speak," with players advocating awareness and prevention.

The adolescent brain is at much higher risk than that of older players. The brain is still in the formative stages throughout the teenage years. It takes an estimated three times longer for consequences from concussions to clear in this group. Actual brain development can be retarded. These young people are students who are still in the midst of their education. Equipment at this level can be less than stellar. This is a group that needs special protection.

A movement is growing across the country to protect youthful football players. Football is not the only contact sport and other athletes need protection too. Visionary California State Assemblyman, Ken Cooley, just proposed a law which passed both houses limiting high school and middle school football practices. No full contact drills are permitted in the off-season and are limited during the season. Nineteen states have passed similar legislation and more are pending.

SMU head football coach June Jones has a variety of teaching techniques that limit practice contact without impairing team success. He has not permitted tackling during pre-season for more than years, starting with the Atlanta Falcons. The Sports Legacy Institute estimates that in high school football, 60 percent to 75 percent of head trauma occurs in practice, not in games. This contrasts with a low rate in the NFL.

Former New Orleans Saints front office executive Terry O'Neil has founded a new movement, “Practice Like the Pros,” designed to limit contact on high school practice fields. He has assembled a prestigious board with co-chairs, Ronnie Lott and John Madden, and has the support of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to actively push the initiative. There is even a Linkedin Group, Mothers Against Concussions, raising awareness.

Meanwhile the search for more protective helmetry continues. Jenny Morgan, CEO of Tate Technology, has a promising coil and compression helmet design to attenuate the energy force. A new head cap designed by Noggin Sports can be worn under helmets to provide more protection. A variety of sideline devices have been produced that can detect a sub-concussive hit in real time so an impacted player doesn’t return to play.

Doctors and researchers across the country are racing for nutraceutical and pharmaceutical solutions to

1) prophylactically help the brain be less at-risk for concussion,
2) stop the swelling at time of impact, and
3) actually heal a brain which has been impaired.

Dr. Jacob Vanlandingham has created one novel solution. Dr. Daniel Amen and his associate Dr. Kristen Willeumier have had promising results for many retired players with the use of a hyperbaric chamber. Dr. Robert Stern, Ann McKee, and pioneering former football player Chris Nowinski have a promising study at Boston University. There are many heroes in this movement.

I love football and think it teaches life lessons and values. Self-discipline, teamwork, real time application of complex plays, courage under pressure, resilience, and incredible camaraderie are all benefits. But if 50 percent of the mothers in this country realize the danger and forbid their teenage sons from playing, it poses an existential threat to football. The game won't die, but the socio-economics of the players will change. The same athletes who use a sport like boxing to escape economic circumstances, even knowing the risk, will compose the majority of players.

Football will never be injury free, but we can act now to make it safer. Parenting is our most critical role on this earth -- we need to protect the most vulnerable youth.

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We're hoping that you have already caught the first two installments of Draft Dreams with Colorado's Spencer Dinwiddie and Indiana's Noah Vonleh.

Next up is Syracuse guard Tyler Ennis. Here's a preview:

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At 6-foot-9, Noah Vonleh has strong ball-handling ability for someone of his size. Celtics president Danny Ainge is the among the NBA executives to notice this skill.

"He played center this year in Indiana, but he played on the perimeter in high school," Ainge told the Boston Globe. "He can actually dribble pretty well."

Vonleh says he focused on developing his handle with daily sessions of drills in the basement. He credits his mom for his inspiring his work ethic because he saw her juggling two jobs to provide for the family. That dedication is about to pay off as Vonleh is projected in many mock NBA drafts to be among the first six players selected. Here is more of his story, in his own words:

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Colorado guard Spencer Dinwiddie tore the ACL in his left knee during a game against Washington on Jan. 12. Six months later, rather than gearing up for his senior season with the Buffaloes, Dinwiddie is expecting to be selected in the NBA draft. Depending on which mock draft you read, Dinwiddie could be a first-round pick.

"Whoever drafts me is going to have to have faith in me not just as a basketball player but as a person," Dinwiddie says. "For them to do that, coming off the injury, that's going to be a very big deal to me, and it's going to make me want to give my heart and soul to that team."

Here is the rest of Dinwiddie's story in his own words:

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Draft Dreams will be a video series telling the stories of basketball prospects as they gear up for the night they expect to be selected by an NBA team. Their preparation includes training sessions, photo shoots, fittings with stylists and more, and Draft Dreams will focus on these behind-the-scenes activities.

Stars featured in the series will include Tyler Ennis of Syracuse, Melvin Ejim of Iowa State and Indiana power forward Noah Vonleh. Here is a preview:

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The women’s Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series kicked off in Fort Worth, Texas, at Possum Kingdom Lake last weekend with some fantastic performances.

If you haven’t heard of the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series, it’s basically like your regular Olympic high dive -- with a twist. Each diver treks through harsh conditions to get to the diving platform, and instead of walking up to it, divers repel down the cliff to take their jump.

This is the first women’s Red Bull Diving event. The competition had been for men since 2009.

The competition consisted of four women from the United States, one woman from Mexico, one from Germany and another from Brazil.

Texan Rachelle Simpson took first place in the competition with a score of 222.30, but she wasn’t the only Texan that found the podium. Cesilie Carlton took third in the event with a score of 215.55, narrowly trailing second place finisher Anna Bader of Germany, who finished with a score of 218.70.

The second diving competition will take place in Kragero, Norway, on July 12. Other scheduled stops include Spain, Ireland, Portugal and Brazil.

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A functional air conditioning unit wasn't the only thing LeBron James had going for him during Sunday's Game 2 against the San Antonio Spurs.

The Miami Heat superstar was also the beneficiary of a cleansed mind and body, the result of a few relaxing trips he made after his team's Game 1 loss.

On Saturday night, roughly 48 hours after he had to sit out the closing minutes of the series opener with leg cramps, James showed up alone to a movie theater in the San Antonio area. James, who normally travels with an entourage, was without friends or security when he saw a 5:40 p.m. showing of "Maleficent."



The next morning James and his massage therapist showed up unannounced at an 8 a.m. yoga class at the team's resort.

“Me, and three other people and also a little kid but he didn’t want no parts of it," James said of the class. "So that’s probably the only thing that I did differently today.”

James began practicing yoga during his Cleveland years, and in Miami he's joined Dwyane Wade in private classes.

"Yoga isn't just about the body, it's also about the mind and it's a technique that has really helped me," James told the Cleveland Plain-Dealer in 2009. "You do have to focus because there's some positions that can really hurt you at times if you aren't focused and breathing right."

James did something right in his preparation for Sunday's game, as he exploded for 35 points and 10 rebounds in the Heat's 98-96 victory.

If you're wondering what it looks like when the 6-foot-8, 250 pound James stands on his head, check out this video from his time in Cleveland:

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Softball was dropped from the Olympics after 2008. That exclusion has made Jennie Finch's work as an ambassador of the game even more important at the college level.

"It was devastating, seeing opportunity grow and have it taken away," Finch said of the International Olympic Committee's decision to eliminate the sport.

But Finch said that "in college the game continues to grow and it's a good sign."

Finch, who retired at the top of her game after winning the Women's Softball World Championship in 2010, continues to leave her mark on the sport she loves. She works the NCAA Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City for ESPN.

Even before they reached the championship round, Florida and Alabama were the teams that Finch identified as being special. Having won the national title with the University of Arizona in 2001, Finch knows the components of a championship team.

Alabama, the 2012 national champion, did not make it back to last year's tournament to defend its title. But Alabama's mix of veteran players, such as Jaclyn Traina, and young competitors poises them for another deep title run this year.

As expansion of the WCWS's fan base continues Finch reminds college athletes of the importance of their education through her advocacy of the Capital One Cup.

Finch serves as an Advisory Board member for the Capital One Cup, an NCAA award given to the top men and women's Division I athletics programs.

The award is based on points earned by schools' top ten finishes in the NCAA championships during the fall, winter and spring. The winning programs will receive the Capital One Cup trophy and a combined $400,000 in student-athlete scholarships at the end of the spring athletic season, according to the Capital One Cup website.

The Capital One Cup is especially great for female athletes because it recognizes the women's program, Finch said.

Reiterating the importance of the $400,000 scholarship and collegiate athlete's education, Finch said, "College education is first and foremost, anything after that is icing on the cake."

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Simona Halep's impressive, straight-sets victory over Sloane Stephens at the French Open was just the latest big win in the 22-year-old Romanian's meteoric rise the past year.

Halep was named the WTA's Most Improved Player for 2013 when she won the first six singles titles of her career. The 5-foot-6 Halep's calling card is her athleticism and scrappiness, two traits that she has been able to exploit thanks in part to surgery she had five years ago to reduce the size of her breasts.

Feeling uncomfortable with her breasts and also experiencing back pain, Halep had undergone a procedure that took her from a 34DD to a 34C bra size. The difference, she says, has been instrumental in helping her climb more than 450 places in the world rankings to No. 4.

"My ability to react quickly was worse and my breasts made me uncomfortable," Halep told reporters at the time of her operation. "It's the weight that troubles me. My ability to react quickly, my breasts make me uncomfortable when I play."


Halep's quarterfinal berth in Paris is the furthest she has advanced at the French Open, and it ties her best career performance at a Grand Slam. Earlier this year she advanced to the quarterfinals at the Australian Open.

Some experts believe Halep's surgery, and her openness about it, sparked a trend among young female athletes. According to Cosmetic Surgery National Data Bank statistics, more than 100,000 women had breast reduction surgeries in 2012, with some of the procedures aimed at alleviating pain during sports.

"I think she really caused a breakthrough, where all of a sudden this was not a taboo topic," Megan Greenwell, senior editor at ESPN magazine, told ABC News of Halep's surgery. "When you see people at the highest levels talking openly about these things, that opens the floodgates for other people to discuss it as a real issue."

For Halep, the decision was a relatively easy one. She says she would have done the same thing had she not been a tennis standout.

"I didn't like them in my everyday life, either," she said. "I would have gone for surgery even if I hadn't been a sportswoman.”

Halep faces 2009 French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova in the quarterfinals.

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With both Venus and Serena Williams making early exits from the French Open, Americans looking for a rooting interest may want to turn to 18-year-old phenom Taylor Townsend.

After a three-set victory over 20th seeded Alize Cornet of France on Wednesday, Townsend became the youngest American to advance to the third round since 2003 when Ashley Harkleroad did it as an 18-year-old.

On paper, this appears to be just another step in Townsend's rapid upward trajectory. She won the 2012 Australian Open junior tournament and was a finalist at the 2013 Wimbledon junior tournament. In 2012 she was rated the top-ranked junior girl in the world.

But Townsend has also overcome an issue that most highly rated tennis players never have to confront -- her weight. In fact, United States Tennis Association officials became so concerned with her fitness that they refused to enter her in the 2012 junior U.S. Open. At the time Townsend was 5-foot-6 and weighed 170 pounds.

"... [the organization's] concern is her long-term health, number one, and her long-term development as a player," Patrick McEnroe, the general manager of the USTA's development program, said at the time.

Townsend paid for her own entry fee into the tournament and reached the quarterfinals. Shortly after the tournament, Townsend stopped working with her USTA coaches and hired Zina Garrison, a former Wimbledon finalist.

According to Garrison, Townsend's adversity has made her a stronger player.

“I think she couldn’t have asked for a better script,” Garrison told the New York Times of the weight controversy. “It’s made her tougher. She’s very good now at taking that negative and turning it into a positive. You can’t help but grow up in that situation.”

Townsend's unconventional serve-and-volley game has proved challenging for opponents to decipher, and her gritty style have earned her lots of fans.



For some teenagers, such a public ordeal over their weight would break them. But for Townsend, it did just the opposite.

“The biggest thing was just getting her to understand that she’s fine,” Garrison said. “Everybody doesn’t have the same shape of our bodies. She’s very clear on that now. I challenge over half of these girls out here to do some of the stuff that she does."

Townsend will face Carla Suarez Navarro in the third round.

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