January 9, 2023
There may be no one more qualified to talk about football and health than Rolle — the Harvard/MGH neurosurgeon is a former NFL safety, who uniquely knows the risks from both the medical and athletic perspectives.
He thinks a reckoning is coming.
“Cardiac health will be under the microscope going forward, even youth leagues,” Rolle said. Improving safety starts by talking about it, he added.
“I think the next step in education and further awareness is talking to youth leagues and youth sports, whether it be lacrosse, softball, baseball, and talk about the risk of cardiac arrest, sudden death on the field.”
Another key part of the equation is innovating safety equipment. Kyle Cunningham co-founded Unequal Technologies out of Philadelphia more than a decade ago. The company makes patented protective apparel and accessories for athletic and tactical purposes.
Among some of the best-selling equipment: shirts with cardiac pads woven in. They are specifically designed to protect against commotio cordis — that’s when a blow to the chest interrupts the heartbeat. It’s what many doctors believe happened to Damar Hamlin.
“We were the first to create a pad that was statistically significant,” Cunningham said.