‘Head injuries’ about to become household words in Princeton

The Minnesota Vikings descend upon Mankato in about two weeks for the opening the 2013 version of their training camp.
I bleed purple and gold with the best of them and can hardly wait to get another season with Adrian Peterson, Greg Jennings and Christian Ponder underway.
The arrival of the NFL season is also a sign that the Princeton High School football team will soon be putting on the pads to defend its Section 7 AAAA title and the younger players in the Princeton youth football association will be hitting the field for another season of football.
This year in Princeton, you’re likely to hear a lot about the prevention of head injuries and concussions in contact sports.
That’s because Craig A. Hrkal, owner of Highway Safety Zone, LLC in Zimmerman, has formed a local foundation, The Princeton Youth Sports Foundation (www.Princetonysf.org) to help combat the injuries. Hrkal is the president, Andrew Nielsen is the vice president and Hrkal’s wife is the secretary.
The reason the Hrkals started the foundation is one that hits home to many parents of young football and hockey players.
The Hrkals’ son suffered a concussion last season as a seventh-grade football player.
The concussion resulted in the teen missing the entire football season. But that wasn’t the most difficult thing the Hrkals dealt with.
There were daily headaches, missed school days and a family debate on whether or not the teen should be allowed to continue to play football.
“During that time, I heard of several other head injuries from football, hockey and other sports. In one case a teenager can no longer play hockey,” Hrkal said.
Out of the concussion experience grew the foundation. If you’re a parent of a youth football player who is a ball carrier or a defensive back, you will become acquainted with the foundation on a more personal level.
The Princeton Youth Sports Foundation has a goal of providing a new, innovative football helmet called the “Guardian Cap” for up to 100 youth football players in Princeton’s second- through sixth-grade programs. Caps will also be offered to players at other positions at a discounted price. You can learn more about the Guardian Caps at www.GuardianCaps.com.
Hrkal said he will also share the Guardian Caps with members of the high school football booster club in August.
“Our goal is to create awareness of the problems associated with head injuries and a solution to help prevent them. Next year, we will continue to work with the football program and start working with our hockey program.” Hrkal said.
According to the Sports Concussion Institute, 5 to 10 percent of athletes will experience a concussion in any given sport season. Football is the most common sport for concussion risk for males with a 75 percent chance for concussions.
Let’s support the The Princeton Youth Sports Foundation in trying to reduce those numbers here in Princeton.

Jeff Hage is the editor of the Princeton Union-Eagle, Mille Lacs County Times, Town & Country and My Generation. He is also a member of the ECM Publishers Inc. Editorial Board. Reach him by email at [email protected] or by phone at 763-389-1222.