Media Relations

NFL Selects UNH's Swartz to Advise on Head, Neck, Spine Injuries
February 28, 2012
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DURHAM, N.H. – The University of New Hampshire’s Erik Swartz, an associate professor of athletic training in the department of kinesiology and an expert on cervical spine injuries in contact sports like football, has been selected to join the NFL’s Head, Neck and Spine Committee, one of several health and safety committees that advise NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Swartz’s appointment, which is to the subcommittee on safety equipment, puts him at the flashpoint of player safety: concussions and head injuries. “It’s what everyone’s chasing right now: Can helmets be improved to decrease concussions?” says Swartz.

Swartz spent two days at the NFL headquarters in New York City earlier this month working with a team of neurologists, athletic trainers, engineers and others. The charge of his subcommittee, says Swartz, is to review new and developing equipment for football players, including helmets, shoulder pads, collars, and mouth guards. “We want to determine not only if the equipment is doing what it’s supposed to, but also if it’s safe,” he says.

Swartz brings to the NFL a decade of research into the prevention and management of cervical spine injuries in athletes. He has published several studies that explore the safe removal of protective equipment like helmets and shoulder pads from athletes who sustain cervical spine or head injuries during play. During the meetings at the NFL, he presented on current research he is conducting on a new design of shoulder pads that quick-release for easy removal from an injured player.

“That research is really valuable to them, so they can inform teams about new equipment designs,” he says.

Swartz calls his appointment to this NFL committee humbling. “It validates the importance of the research I’ve been doing here at UNH, and it confirms that I’ve been doing it well,” he says, adding, “The NFL has definitely been taking the issue of head and neck injuries very seriously.”

Watch a video of Swartz’s research in action here: http://vimeo.com/32989518.

The University of New Hampshire, founded in 1866, is a world-class public research university with the feel of a New England liberal arts college. A land, sea, and space-grant university, UNH is the state's flagship public institution, enrolling 12,200 undergraduate and 2,300 graduate students.

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Photograph available to download: http://www.unh.edu/news/cj_nr/2012/feb/bp23swartz.jpg
Caption: Erik Swartz, associate professor of kinesiology at the University of New Hampshire, was recently appointed to the NFL’s Head, Neck and Spine Committee.
Credit: Earl Studios Photography.

Reporters and editors: Erik Swartz is available at eswartz@unh.edu or 603-862-0018.

Media Contact: Beth Potier | 603-862-1566 | UNH Media Relations | @unhnews