A Head of the Game

Neinas Concussion Initiative opens the door to leading-edge research at UW-Stevens Point

“My wife says I’ve played games all my life,” says Chuck Neinas,” so why stop now?”

That is what the octogenarian president of Neinas Sports Services replies when asked if he has ever considered retiring. More than a nice line by his spouse, Patricia Pacey—who, by the way, also defies retirement—the remark is a spot-on descriptor of the man himself.

For nearly 50 years, Chuck Neinas has poured his heart and soul into college football, first as an administrator and, more recently, as a consultant. As executive director of the now defunct College Football Association, Neinas was at the forefront of efforts to popularize the sport, including a landmark 1984 Supreme Court decision that wrested the right to televise college football games from the NCAA. He also spearheaded initiatives aimed at improving academic standards for student-athletes, helping to ensure that players worked toward and obtained a degree. The results of that effort have been especially gratifying to Neinas. “Graduation rates have gone up every year,” he says, “which is good to see.”

Currently, Neinas has shown his support of the sport, as well as every student-athlete who takes the field, by helping UWSP educators tackle a thorny issue that has been in the spotlight of late. The university’s recently established Neinas Concussion Initiative addresses the need to assist athletic medical personnel in identifying and treating athletes who have experienced severe head trauma. The initiative is designed to complement the university’s Master of Science in Athletic Training program, as well as other health-related programs. The emphasis will be on classroom learning and research.

“What we’re trying to accomplish at Point is developing a program that will provide a pathway for those who are working on the field to have a better understanding and education on how to identify and treat concussions,” says Neinas.

Neinas said he found the proposal “attractive” because the effects of the concussion initiative are far reaching. “It’s football-related because of the publicity associated with the sport and the concussion studies,” he noted, “but it affects all sports.” 

Included in the proposal is a call to conduct regional education and research “to address the stigma of head injuries in contact sports within area youth organizations.” The safety of young athletes is something Neinas takes very seriously. He has long been a vocal advocate of flag, or noncontact, football for students age 12 and under. But he also wants to make sure that student-athletes are not dissuaded from playing tackle football in high school and college because of a heightened fear of concussive injuries. That is another reason he has chosen to back the UWSP initiative.

“I owe a great deal to the sport of football,” he says. “It’s basically been a major part of my adult life. And I am a great advocate of the game at all levels. My interest, obviously, is in the goodwill, of the need to continue to have the sport be as popular as it is.”

But, of course, it is the bigger picture related to the concussion initiative that intrigues Neinas the most.

“I think the most important part is having meaningful knowledge to first identify and then treat concussions,” he says. “This is what I hope would happen. Everyone benefits, but most importantly, the athletes.”


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