FRANKLIN — Taylor Twellman, the former Revolution All-Star and ESPN's lead soccer analyst, is teaming up with the MIAA and Inaria Apparel to produce the inaugural Massachusetts Concussion Awareness Week, centered on Twellman's concussion awareness organization THINKTaylor.
The weeklong campaign will be Sept. 21-25 and will incorporate all MIAA boys' and girls' soccer teams in the state. Teams will receive orange THINKTaylor game balls, wristbands, and bag tags to use during the week to support concussion awareness.
Twellman's foundation is also holding a contest on Twitter for participating high school student-athletes to post creative photos exhibiting "Orange Awareness" using #InariaTTChallenge. The winning school will receive free soccer uniforms from Inaria. More information about the Concussion Awareness Week can be found on http://thinktaylor.org.
Twellman was a five-time MLS All-Star forward and scored the most goals in Revolution history with 101. His career was cut short because of several brain injuries.
The 35-year-old retired from professional soccer in 2010 and began traveling the country with ESPN as a soccer analyst.
After watching how youth soccer coaches handled potential concussions, Twellman saw a major need for widespread education on brain injuries in sports.
"That's where I realized the education wasn't there and the awareness wasn't there. I heard many times kids saying 'My head hurts,' and I watched five minutes before that a head-to-head collision. That coach wasn't educated."
Twellman created the THINKTaylor foundation to boost awareness and offer proper education about the severity of concussions for all involved in sports.
"Concussions are never going to go away," said Twellman. "If we can change the awareness, the recognition, and the education, then we're going to make a difference."
Twellman hopes the initiative will leave a profound educational impact on the 700-plus boys' and girls' soccer programs across the state, from athletic directors to student-athletes.
He emphasized that everyone involved in sports needs to be more proactive at calling attention to potential brain injuries instead of letting athletes diagnose themselves — and continue to play.
"My money is on the parents, coaches, and athletic directors," said Twellman. "If they're more educated, if they're more aware, then they're going to start making better decisions."
Twellman chose to focus the awareness week on soccer because of his background in the sport, but he plans on expanding THINKTaylor to other sports, in addition to holding awareness weeks in other states.
"Other states want to get involved, but the state of Massachusetts will set the bar higher for all the states in this country to follow," said Twellman.
"Next year, we're probably going to be sitting here having a press conference regarding all sports."
Josh Gutchess can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.