By Suzanne Le Mignot

CHICAGO (CBS)–It may seem like an odd pairing: Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins and former Chicago Bear Hunter Hillenmeyer.  

But they and others are joining forces to provide Chicago area student athletes protection from concussions in sports.

CBS 2’s Suzanne Le Mignot reports on why the Chicago Concussion Coalition says treating concussions properly and training for prevention can mean the difference in whether student athletes will suffer later in life.

The goal of the coalition — primarily a team of medical experts and former professional athletes — is to train all CPS coaches starting next week about warning signs of concussions in student athletes.

Gwendolyn Brooks College Prep Football team was practicing Monday in anticipation of their first game of the season later in the week. Last season, cornerback Jerry Faust had a concussion during a game.

“Your head hurts, like a lot, and you’re real dizzy and you don’t know what’s going on.  You basically can’t function right,” Faust said.

Faust was immediately taken away by ambulance. 

“Number one is kid’s health.  You don’t want a kid being destroyed because of concussions or bad hits to the head,” said Gwendolyn Brooks head

The Chicago Concussion Coalition wants to make the way Faust’s concussion was handled by the staff at Gwendolyn Brooks College Prep standard procedure at all Chicago Public Schools. The organization is training coaches about concussion warning signs. 

“We certainly feel our student athletes in the Chicago Public Schools will be the beneficiaries of this great information that we’re giving to our coaches,” Calvin Davis, the director of sports administration for Chicago Public Schools, says.

“Almost 4,000 coaches, they’re going to get an hour and a half of training on concussions. That’s gonna completely change their perspective and they’ll know what to do to protect kids,” Sports Legacy Institute CEO Christopher Nowinski said.

Players at Gwendolyn Brooks are also learning techniques to prevent a concussion injury.

“I got a lot to lose.  I’ve got a 4.2 GPA.  I know I’m going to college to play football, so I wouldn’t want to risk getting more hurt out here and wouldn’t be the chance to play in college,” quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw said.

Meantime, Coalition Chairman Nowinski says the recent suicide of former Bear Dave Duerson really shed light on the trauma repeated concussions can have on an athlete.

Nowinski says shortly before his death, Duerson was diagnosed with a degenerative brain disease caused by trauma.  He asked in a suicide note, that his brain be donated to Nowinski’s institute for study.

Monday’s introductory event included former Bears linebacker Hillenmeyer and Corgan, the front man for the Smashing Pumpkins.

Corgan figures he suffered at least one concussion and it “might have been 20, it might have been 15, it might have been 40” playing youth baseball, basketball and football, although he never was diagnosed. He said he remembers getting knocked out by an inadvertent elbow to the face in a basketball game, but back then, blows to the head weren’t taken so seriously. Players just got their bell rung and were soon back in the game.

“There was no culture there to say, `Are you OK?”‘ said Corgan, who’s from the Chicago area and took up the guitar when he didn’t make those high school teams. “Getting your head hurt was like, that’s something you could overcome.”

Now, ironically, Corgan is running his own independent pro wrestling organization — Resistance Pro. He’s taking steps to minimize long-term damage by banning dangerous moves as “chairshots” to the head and making it clear wrestlers who use them won’t perform for him again.

“You can’t take all the risk out, but you can minimize the risk,” he said.

Contributing: Associated Press

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