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Governor Tom Corbett weighs in on safety in sports and Penn State sanctions

One of the hottest topics at today's Rothman Institute Impact of Sports conference was player safety—in all sports and at all levels. Speakers from Michael Ciccotti, M.D. to former Eagles Quarterback Ron Jaworski weighed in on this pressing matter.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett was the day's first speaker, and while Corbett spent most of his time addressing other sports issues that affect Pennsylvania, he did offer Sports Doc a few thoughts on the concussion crisis.

"We've recently passed a law in Pennsylvania that requires the schools to do much more [in the area of concussions]," said Governor Corbett. "I think the PIAA will support that."

The Governor is referring to the Safety in Youth Sports Act that requires an athlete suspected to have sustained a concussion to be cleared by a physician before returning to play.

"We're seeing too many head injuries these days, obviously," Gov. Corbett continued. "These kids have tremendous equipment, and I think it comes down to teaching proper technique—hitting, tackling, etc. You and I watch sports, and we see even the professionals leading with their heads."

Governor Corbett played college lacrosse, and recalled playing with a helmet made of pressed cardboard. "It had a facemask and everything," he laughed, "but we didn't go hitting anybody with our heads. And I really think that sometimes, kids put on these helmets and they think 'I can't get hurt.' It comes down to teaching."

Of course, football is the sport that receives most of the attention when it comes to player safety as it pertains to head injuries. Does Governor Corbett foresee a time when the sport could lose its popularity even in a state like Pennsylvania, due to the fear over debilitating head injuries?

"I can't see into the future, but I think the more we stress safety, the better chance we have of reaching people. Unfortunately, not everyone is going to listen, and sadly that's what leads to these incidents where we see people getting seriously hurt.

"Ron Jaworski and I were talking about these guys who stop playing football in their early-mid 30s. They can be affected for the rest of their lives. But the NFL is starting to adapt—everybody needs to understand that sports are great, but the health of your body and your brain are more important."

On the topic of football, Governor Corbett has made headlines recently with his involvement opposing the sanctions against Penn State University's program following the Jerry Sandusky scandal. He has filed an antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA for, in his opinion, not following the rules of how collegiate sports program are to be investigated when suspected of wrongdoing.

"The NCAA didn't follow the rules at all," he insisted. "They didn't use their infractions or their investigations committee. It was the President and a group of executives that didn't give the Board of Trustees a chance—they let the University's president make the sole decision. We contend that's an antitrust violation."

"We believe we have a legitimate lawsuit, we clearly have standing in my opinion."

Governor Corbett says the judge has promised an answer in a few weeks' time to the NCAA's motion to dismiss. "We should get by that, and then it gets really interesting," he said. "That's when we get to ask all kinds of questions of our own."

Read more Sports Doc for Sports Medicine and Fitness.