There aren’t many rooms CFL commissioner Jeffrey Orridge walks into where he is not one of the smartest people in it.

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This article was published 24/6/2016 (2163 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

There aren’t many rooms CFL commissioner Jeffrey Orridge walks into where he is not one of the smartest people in it.

He attended a private school while growing up in Queens in New York City, holds a bachelor’s degree from Amherst College and is a graduate of Harvard Law School.

When asked about the concussion problem in football, including the league he now oversees, Orridge wasn’t about to play dumb. He knows the risks players take whenever they take the field, and how injuries — any injuries — can affect how the game is viewed from professional leagues all the way down to youth football.

"I’m the father of two young boys that are very physically active and are athletes," Orridge told the Free Press Friday. "And concussions are certainly a consideration and sometimes a concern for me."

It was the kind of answer any father would give, particularly one as intelligent as Orridge, who as a lawyer is trained in the art of political correctness.

So, as a father, Orridge was asked, would he allow his two sons to play a sport that has seen a problematic number of head injuries at all levels, including last season in the NFL where the number of reported concussions increased by 58 per cent per cent in 2015 from the season before?

"Yeah, absolutely," said Orridge, now in his second season as commissioner. "As long as we take the necessary precautions in terms of teaching them how to play more safely."

He added: "If my son was fortunate enough to one day become a CFL athlete, I would really embrace it based on the things that we’re doing."

Those things, Orridge said, include changes at every level of the game. At the grassroots level, the CFL has teamed up with Football Canada to implement a safe-contact program, where coaches now need to be certified in proper tackling and blocking techniques.

The CFL has expanded its concussion protocol, adding the King-Devick Test — a line of testing associated with the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, a leader in the study of concussions. This season they’ve also amended the rule book, expanding the definition on peel-back blocks and push-back blocks to create a safer environment.

The biggest adjustment this year — and one that’s perhaps long overdue — is the CFL now has an injury spotter who sits in the control centre, with a view of the entire field. If the spotter sees a player who appears to be in distress, he has the ability to radio officials and the officials have the authority to remove the player from the game.

"Certainly we continue to evolve in terms of our knowledge and our experience when it comes to injury prevention," said Orridge.

As much as Orridge and the CFL have worked to make the game safer, it isn’t perfect — far from it. Thursday, in the CFL season-opener between the Toronto Argonauts and Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Jermaine Gabriel, a safety for the Argonauts, collided with a teammate, hitting his head.

He was motionless for 15 minutes before being stretchered off the field. In the Bombers’ first regular-season game Friday, receiver Weston Dressler took a shot to the head from Montreal’s Ethan Davis midway through the first quarter and did not return.

"If I had a magic wand I’d want everybody to stay healthy," said Orridge.

If only it were that easy.

jeff.hamilton@freepress.mb.catwitter: @jeffkhamilton

Jeff Hamilton

Jeff Hamilton
Multimedia producer

After a slew of injuries playing hockey that included breaks to the wrist, arm, and collar bone; a tear of the medial collateral ligament in both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff figured it was a good idea to take his interest in sports off the ice and in to the classroom.