- The Washington Times - Monday, September 29, 2014

Brandon Jacobs has never suffered a severe spinal-cord injury.

But when the NFL passed a rule last summer to penalize players for creating contact outside of the tackle box with the crown of their helmets, the former New York Giants running back and numerous others complained.

“Get your daughters ready because they’ll be playing football soon,” Jacobs tweeted.

Tell Eric LeGrand that this rule is feminine.

On Oct. 19, 2010, the Rutgers defensive tackle collided violently with Army ball carrier Malcolm Brown on a kickoff return. When LeGrand made the tackle, his head was down. After the whistle blew, he stayed on the ground.

LeGrand needed to be carted off the field. He had fractured his C3 and C4 cervical vertebrae. Paralyzed from the neck down, he initially couldn’t feel anything. But an intense burning, stinging nerve pain soon followed.

Unlike Jacobs and critics of the NFL, LeGrand has suffered a severe spinal-cord injury. And he approves of the league’s recent rule changes to protect players.

“[The NFL] is doing a great job with [player safety],” LeGrand said. “I believe they’ll keep on taking steps to try to make the game as safe as possible.”

LeGrand, whose goal is to walk again, became nerve-pain free through rehabilitation. He also regained movement in his shoulders.

LeGrand will share his story this week at National Rehab Hospital, Inova Fairfax Hospital and National Spine and Pain Centers. His foundation, Team LeGrand, aims to raise funding an awareness for people who have suffered spinal injuries. LeGrand also has partnered with Pfizer to highlight nerve pain patients with such injuries can experience.

“Our main goal is to find that cure for paralysis and fund the research for it,” LeGrand said, “but you got to help people who are going through this injury now.”

Just as important: helping to prevent others from suffering similar injuries.

When the NFL passed the crown-of-helmet rule in 2013, its goal was to limit concussions. But Dr. Arthur De Luigi, director of sports medicine at MedStar National Rehabilitation Hospital in Washington, said keeping players from bending their neck down will also decrease injuries like the one that LeGrand suffered.

“I think that the NFL, and subsequently the NCAA’s, regulations for player safety are paramount,” De Luigi said. “If we can avoid these type of injuries in athletes playing football, then we would not have to deal with the consequences of this chronic, neuropathic nerve pain in spinal-cord injured patients.”

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