Tracy grad watches for NFL head injuries

The Tracy graduate checks out the replay monitor at a Dallas Cowboys’ game.
Dave Surprenant’s illustrious career began as Tracy Scrapper athletic trainer

By Scott Thoma

After a player is involved in a vicious helmet-to-helmet tackle during a Dallas Cowboys game, Dave Surprenant quickly grabs his binoculars to take a closer look at the post-tackle reaction of the players involved.
Surprenant, 1976 graduate of Tracy High School, is a certified athletic trainer hired by the National Football League five years ago as an independent contractor serving as an Athletic Trainer Certified (ATC) Spotter to identify head and neck injuries.
“The NFL has been hiring ATC Spotters for five years now,” said Surprenant. “But the public awareness is much greater now because of the medical timeouts during a game and the NFL wanting to explain what those timeouts are all about.”
Surprenant was recently featured in an NFL-sponsored television commercial broadcast during NFL games this season. The message the league was trying to convey to viewers is that the NFL is taking every precaution to ensure that a player suffering a head or neck injury in a game is not subjecting himself to further damage by returning to the field before being checked by medical staff.

The commercial involving Surprenant was aired during halftimes of several games since the spot was shot in late November.
“I saw his 15 seconds of fame,” joked Lynn Hannig, Dave’s sister, when asked if she had viewed her brother’s commercial.
“Twenty-eight seconds,” corrected Surprenant, with a laugh. “That ad is 28 seconds long.”
Surprenant had a generous amount of television exposure when he was the head hockey trainer for the Minnesota North Stars, and later the Dallas Stars, over a 20-year period. You could often spot him on broadcasts of games scurrying out on the ice to reach an injured player.
The Tracy native admits he was too small to play most sports in high school, but he loved all sports and wanted to be involved in some capacity.
“My older brother, Steve (TAHS ’72)) was a student athletic trainer in high school,” Surprenant said. “After he graduated, a few coaches asked me if that was something I would be interested in doing. It was my way of staying involved in sports.”

For more on this article, see this week’s Headlight-Herald.