concussion-preventing helmets

Agoura’s first family of football puts safety first

Team Matthews conscious of head injuries

By Stephanie Bertholdo
[email protected]

The rain falling last week didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of fourth- and fifth-grade flag football players when National Football League star Clay Matthews III sloshed onto the field at Chumash Park in Agoura Hills to deliver concussion-preventing helmets to the young Packers team.

Matthews, a member of the NFL’s Green Bay Packers, is the older brother of Brian Matthews, the coach for the Triunfo YMCA flag football team and head of sales for Gamebreaker Helmets, a protective headgear that has been shown to reduce concussions in young players.

The danger of brain-related injuries sustained by players who are violently and repeatedly hit during football games garnered national attention following the suicide of linebacker Junior Seau in May 2012, the most recent NFL player death linked to head injuries.

Clay Matthews, a 26-year-old Agoura Hills resident, donated the eight protective helmets to his brother’s flag football team to emphasize the importance of safety, especially for children.

Matthews was a fixture in the youth football leagues while growing up in the community.

Revisiting the turf of his childhood, he asked the boys to introduce themselves by the nicknames his brother gave them. “Silver Bullet” said he earned the name because he had a “strong arm,” while “Hollywood” earned his name because he goes for the “big plays.”

The donated helmets were emblazoned with the No. 52, Matthews’ number on the Green Bay Packers.

Brian said his brother Clay may be known professionally as the “poster boy of intimidation,” but in reality he is a soft-spoken, considerate man who “leads by action.”

Clay Matthews Jr.—the father of Clay and Brian and a former star NFL linebacker who brought his family to Agoura Hills in 1986— told parents after the helmets were distributed that “no one is allowed to get hurt now.”

Brian, a Thousand Oaks resident, said the protective headgear also is being used in high school football practices when regular helmets aren’t required.

The younger Clay Matthews said he sustained his share of concussions over the years, but that he always viewed the injury as less serious than, say, a broken bone. Today he said he knows better and believes that concussions can have long-term consequences.

Brian said concussions in football have reached epidemic proportions. He said Junior Seau demonstrated symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder similar to those of soldiers in combat and that the hard-hitting player sometimes appeared “punch drunk” like a boxer.

The elder Matthews, who helps Brian coach the Packers flag football team, said when he was playing professionally coaches would use a rather unscientific method to see whether a player sustained a concussion.

They would “hold up a finger,” Matthew said, and “you had two guesses” to get the number right. Most players could pass the test even if they had a more serious underlying injury.

He agrees that the way football injuries are handled needs to be “cleaned up a little bit.”

The Matthews brothers have a younger brother, Casey, who plays for the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles, and an uncle, Bruce Matthews, who was an offensive lineman for the Houston Oilers and is a member of the NFL Hall of Fame.