This article is a part of HeadStrong: Mental Health and Sports, NBC Sports multi-platform initiative on mental health and men's health. NBC Sports Washington will be releasing a series of original short-form features that are all available at nbcsportswashington.com/headstrong.
Former Redskins cornerback Shawn Springs had a lengthy and largely successful NFL career. He played for three different teams over 13 years, earning Pro Bowl and second-team All-Pro honors while hauling in 33 interceptions over his NFL tenure.
But for Springs, there's one play that completely changed his life, and it wasn't an interception or a sack.
"2004, Dec. 12, I don't remember anything about a hit," Springs recalls. "All I remember, the last thing I remember, was being in the middle of the field looking at Donovan McNabb."
In a December clash between the Redskins and Eagles, Springs suffered a brutal blow to the head, one that knocked him out.
"I didn't really see it, I was totally blindsided. I know when I woke up, I wasn't breathing," Springs said. "I heard [Terrell Owens] and Fred Smoot were in the background crying about it. Then my breath came back and I was able to breathe. Once I was able to breathe I was trying to get up, and I couldn't move."
Springs was carted off the field and taken directly back to the locker room.
"I don't remember getting on the cart. I remember being under the tunnel, in the medical room, and my mom was coming down," he said. "I remember getting in the ambulance. I look back on it, realize I wasn't breathing and that I could have died on the field."
Over the past 15 years, a lot more information has come out about the seriousness and long-term effects of a concussion. But back in 2004, when Springs suffered that brutal blow to the head, things were different.
"What they call concussions today, my season would have been over," he said. "What we know today about the brain and the seriousness of concussions has changed mainly in the last five years. When I came in the league, guys would get knocked out, take some smelling salts, and 'boom,' they were right back in.
"I would hate for that to happen to my kids," Springs continued. "I honestly felt like I could have died that day."
In 2011, Springs founded Windpact, a technology and science company that comes up with superior impact solutions to protect the body and the mind.
"'How do I make the game of football safer?' was my initial thought," he said. "I realized it's not just football [players] that suffer from traumatic brain injury and concussions, but hockey, all other sports. Then that expanded into the military."
Springs' company is not only focused on making protective headgear, however. They have designed certain chest protectors and other types of equipment to help ensure safety in all different sports.
"Safety is something that should be afforded to everyone," Springs said. "I wanted to make sure that through Windpact, we can make our everyday lives better."
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