Former NFL players are teaming up with Baylor Scott & White Texas Spine & Joint Hospital to build better athletes and a safer game, and they’re doing it right here in East Texas.

Tyler football greats Earl Campbell and Gary Baxter brought high school coaches and athletics trainers from all over the region together to learn about their new Project Rose Research Institute for Sports Science.

Attendees heard from experts in injury prevention, sports medicine, traumatic brain injuries, nutrition and more while learning about the service the institute will offer the community.

One of the most important services they’ll offer is helping athletes establish a baseline for their performance, so that in the event of an injury their doctors, coaches and families can better understand the recovery process.

“If I could have done this or had this in high school, it could have helped me when I got into the pros,” Baxter said. “I would have had a benchmark (for recovery).”

After four seasons with the Baltimore Ravens and two with the Cleveland Browns, Baxter’s career in the NFL came to an end when he injured both knees. He said that had he been able to establish a benchmark, he might have been able to prevent or minimize the eventual injury.

“There’s more that we can do before we get hurt,” he said. “An ounce of prevention can save a pound of problems.”

Baxter said that while a very small percent of players will go pro, every player can benefit from a better approach to training and recovery.

“What we can do is (ensure) quality of life,” he said.

Baxter said that as kids train at higher levels than ever before, the game will keep pace.

“Kids are training at a higher level, and what are you seeing?” he asked. “Higher levels of injuries.“

Campbell spoke about the impact coaches can have on students, and the importance of them leading the way. Their goal with the Rose Institute is to reduce or prevent the long-term effects of playing.

“We were elite athletes, but now we’re just elite people, who have to deal with an elite athlete’s problems,” Baxter said. “We want to make sure our game is safe, but more importantly, our kids are safe.”

Longview ISD Athletic Trainer Dierdre Scotter said she appreciated the fact the clinic was aimed at high school athletes and the unique problems they face. She especially liked the panel on diet and nutrition, noting that athletes in school rarely have control over their diet.

Jodie King with Longview ISD said they’re eager to take advantage of the services. She said being able to identify potential medical issues early on means players are safer.

“It’s a relief knowing, instead of guessing, once you’ve had them checked,” King said.

The baseline also will help coaches and trainers demonstrate proper technique from a scientific viewpoint, and give families an opportunity to better understand how an injury is progressing.

“I think it’s just one more (tool),” Scotter said. “If you don’t take advantage of it, you’re playing without a helmet.”

TWITTER: @TMT_Cory

Cory is a multimedia journalist and member of the Education Writers Association, Criminal Justice Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. He has appeared on Crime Watch Daily and Grave Mysteries on Investigation Discovery.

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