Valley neurologist named to NFL's concussion committee

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PHOENIX -- Dr. Javier Cardenas of St. Joseph's Barrow Neurological Institute has been named to the National Football League's independent Head, Neck and Spine Committee. Cardenas will continue to study the impact and cause of concussions in sports.

Cardenas will now join the group attempting to get accelerometer devices placed in every NFL helmet by 2015, a process that the committee hopes will help gather more information about hits to the head in the NFL.

An accelerometer measures the amount of force moving through something, in this case they will measure the amount of force generated from a tackle or other hit on the football field.

However, the accelerometer devices aren't able to simply say when someone has a concussion. Cardenas said levels of force that don't cause a concussion in one case can cause a concussion in another.

"What we're hoping is that, actually, it'll change attitudes," Cardenas said. "It'll change the way that players play. If they're hitting their heads constantly then we say 'maybe you need to change your technique.'"

While Cardenas will now be working to inform athletes at the professional level, much of his work in the Valley has been with kids. The Barrow institute launched an online concussion awareness training program for high school athletes, a telemedicine program to give high school athletic trainers access to neurologists and a video game to inform younger kids.

Cardenas said that he wants to encourage play and healthy activity among kids while focusing on making it sure sports are played as safely as possible.