By JEREMY IZZIO
OBSERVER Sports Reporter
What started as a kind gesture by a Canadian-based sports apparel company has blossomed into a partnership between two groups sharing a common goal - to raise awareness regarding the possible reduction and prevention of concussions and sports-related head injuries.
The company, Noggin Sport, originally reached out to Damon Janes' family and the Westfield-Brocton football team after his tragic death following an apparent helmet-to-helmet injury. Noggin Sport became familiar with the situation through various media reports.
"The way it started off was we just decided to send over some Noggins with Damon's initials and number on them as a kind gesture to the family and the school," Noggin Sport CEO Alex Abramov said. "After that the Pastor, Pastor Scott, said that the family would like to speak to us and it just kind of started rolling from there."
The Noggin is a skull cap made from breathable material like any other skull cap that is currently worn by football players and athletes from many other sports. The big difference is that the Noggin has small gel capsules made from impact gel that disperses the impact rather than absorbing it like foam.
OBSERVER Photo by Craig Harvey
An Olean student is pictured wearing a special cap designed to protect football players in head-on collisions.
The Noggin has gone through extensive independent testing by the Canadian Standards Association as well as testing done by Intertek labs in the United States. What they have found is that, as opposed to wearing a football helmet alone, the Noggin is capable of reducing impact while worn under a football helmet by up to 22 percent. Hockey helmet impact was reduced by up to 35 percent and impact while wearing a baseball helmet was reduced by up to an astounding 85 percent.
Sharing a common goal, the Janes' family and Noggin Sport decided to create a partnership between Noggin Sport and the Damon Janes Foundation. On Friday, Damon's father Dean, along with a family friend, visited some of the local high school football games to hand out Noggins that had been purchased with money donated to the Damon Janes Foundation.
"The partnership comes from the fact that we are really on the same page when it comes to spreading the awareness of this," Abramov said. "The ultimate goal here is for players, parents and teams to really know that there is a product out there that can reduce impact and also to spread awareness of the effects of CTE and traumatic brain injuries in sports."
Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) is caused by repeated concussions and sub-concussions. CTE shares symptoms with dementia and these symptoms typically manifest years, or even decades, after the trauma has occurred.
Currently, Noggin Sport is using their website to raise money for a joint effort to spread awareness as well as the Damon Janes Foundation.
Their website reads, "No donation is too small or too large. The plan is to make sure that for every $40 generated Noggin will donate $5 directly to the Damon Janes Foundation and will either send you one Noggin skull cap or donate it to a minor sports team of your choice. Most importantly we will be creating awareness for CTE and concussions."
Abramov feels that part of the reason this is necessary is because of the inferior helmets being produced as a result of standards that fall short of what should be expected for protection against head impact.
"The overall standard that is set by whoever sets the standards (for football helmet safety) are not on par and are set too low in our opinion," Abramov said. "I think the helmet manufacturers can do a lot better to improve helmets and their effectiveness."
Abramov realizes that neither Noggin Sports nor the Damon Janes Foundation will ever be able to eliminate concussions from sports, but that is not their goal. The goal is to spread awareness and spread the word that there is a product out there that can indeed reduce impact to the head.
"We feel that if there is anything that can be done to help reduce some of the impact (it should be done)," Abramov said. "I know we are never going to be able to eliminate concussions or traumatic brain injuries, but what we can do is reduce the impact that causes some of those."
Noggins can be purchased through Noggin Sport at www.nogginsport.com.
If you are interested in donating to Noggin Sport and the Damon Janes Foundation's joint effort to raise awareness visit www.indiegogo.com/projects/damon-janes-noggin-sport-doing-our-part-in-protecting-your-brain.
Damon Janes' family declined to comment during this period of grieving.