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Drew Brees Becomes Advocate for Youth-Athlete Concussion Testing

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While he's busy negotiating a new contract this summer, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees will be pushing youth-athletes to take baseline-concussion tests before participating in sports.

The Dick's Sporting Goods Foundation announced Brees as the 2012 spokesperson for its PACE (Protecting Athletes through Concussion Education) program on Monday. The PACE program, which launched last summer, aims to provide 1 million free baseline screenings to youth-athletes across the country through a partnership with ImPACT Applications, which offers the ImPACT baseline test.

"As an athlete who has taken the ImPACT baseline as well as the post-injury test following a concussion, I can say firsthand how valuable the results can be in helping to properly determine a safe return to play," said Brees in a statement.

"Through the Dick's Sporting Goods Foundation PACE Program, we can help educate kids, parents, and coaches on some simple, but impactful ways to identify and manage concussions—including getting a baseline test—so young athletes can be smarter and safer on the field, on the court, and on the ice," he continued.

Before Brees became involved with PACE, former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jerome "the Bus" Bettis had been the spokesman for the program.

The PACE program was started in hopes of providing baseline-concussion-test access to upwards of 3,300 schools that hadn't formerly been using them. ImPACT founder Dr. Mark Lovell hopes to soon see 4,000 high schools putting the test to use, according to the Associated Press.

"Having somebody the stature of Drew Brees is huge, because kids look up to athletes of that stature, and that is very important," said Lovell. "When he talks, people listen, particularly youngsters and particularly about something like concussions in an era when there is a lot of talk about that."

Brees may have accidentally let the cat out of the bag about his involvement with PACE a few weeks early. On June 4, he tweeted a photo of himself driving a taxi, along with the caption, "Never thought I would be driving a cab in NYC. Doing an ad campaign for Dicks Sporting Goods Foundation and PACE."

For more information about the PACE program or to see if your local school qualifies for the free baseline-test package, visit the PACE website.

Photo: New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees after the NFL divisional playoff football game against the San Francisco 49ers earlier this year in San Francisco. (Jeff Chiu/AP-File)

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