April 23, 2014

Florida Trend's Floridian of the Year

Fla. Newsmakers of 2009

People who made an impact in business, economy, science, environment, government, education, sports, philanthropy, media and our fallen soldiers.

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» Gay Culverhouse

Gay Culverhouse
Gay Culverhouse [Photo: AP]

Football helmet technology has come a long way from the days when players strapped on leather headgear, but head injuries have remained a byproduct of the game. In 2009, Gay Culverhouse, a former president of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, led a drive toward making the game aware of the damage it can do to those who play it.

Culverhouse, 62 and suffering from cancer, no longer works for the Bucs, the team her father, Hugh Culverhouse, founded in 1974 and sold to Malcolm Glazer in 1995. But she's still in touch with many of her former players, including some suffering from the effects of injuries sustained while they were Bucs. Then, as now, players often played through pain and nausea after head injuries. Today, many are experiencing ailments ranging from recurring headaches to advanced dementia.

In October, Culverhouse spoke before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, testifying that professional football's emphasis on "a positive financial bottom line" threatens the health of its players. Too often, she says, a win-at-any-cost mentality means team doctors allow players to return to the field even when they shouldn't. She believes there should be an independent neurologist on every sideline and mandatory guidelines for how long a player should sit out after a concussion.

"My cause is the health and well-being of all football players, whether they are 8-year-olds or 22-year-olds," she told the committee. "Safety must come first. Business must come second." — Art Levy

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