BAY SHORE, NY -- Former NFL lineman and Long Island native Gary Brown, who won a Super Bowl with the Green Bay Packers, held a football camp at St. Joseph’s College (Patchogue) for Long Island children in grades 3-8. The goal? To teach what he’s learned to young athletes in a skill-based educational, non-contact camp.
Kids learned about all the important things a football player needs to excel in the game: punting, passing, kicking, catching and perhaps most importantly, safety.
For that last part, Mr. Brown’s camp partnered with Southside Hospital and two of its physicians: Dr. Rosanna Sabini, who spoke on concussion management and Dr. Daniel Brandenstein, who provided information on sport injury management to the campers. “Injuries are a part of sports,” Mr. Brown said, “so in addition to having kids refine their skills and understand the proper techniques and nuances of the game, we also wanted to arm them with the right information about how to protect themselves so that the game remains fun and safe!”
Dr. Brandenstein said greater awareness about the impact concussions and other sports injuries can have whether they are attained at from the pro and collegiate levels or in the pee-wee leagues has spurred improvements in equipment and has reinforced the need for greater education about safety.
As a former pro and collegiate player, Mr. Brown knows about the impact football injuries can have but it was an injury sustained after his playing career that led to Mr. Brown’s connection to Southside Hospital. “Injuries can happen in all walks of life,” Dr. Brandenstein said. “For kids especially, much of their day-do-day life involves playing sports. But it can happen anytime. Gary can tell you that.”
After his playing days ended, Mr. Brown worked in the construction industry and was a maintenance worker for the Arbors Assisted Living Center. While there a gas leak caused an emergency evacuation of the residents. Mr. Brown carried a woman down two flights of stairs to safety but injured himself in the process with a severely herniated disk. Eventually, he was confined to a wheelchair. Only after he met Dr. Brandenstein did he have the successful thoracic spine surgery and rehabilitation that enabled him to walk again. Now he’s teaching others about the game he loves and the safety that’s required.
“Football brought me a lot of joy,” Mr. Brown said. “It will bring kids a lot of joy as well – especially when it is done safely.”