Fred Mueller has a tough job for a compassionate man: He runs the National Center for Catastrophic Injury Research at the University of North Carolina.
In that role, Mueller collects information on sports injuries and accidents. Most recently, he was on the case of a high school linebacker in Kansas City who collapsed and the next day died of an apparent brain injury; and that of a player in Fresno, Calif., who sustained a bad hit, had major brain swelling and is now in a coma.
Mueller was profiled Monday in The New York Times sports section in a story headlined “Learning From the Sadness: Tracker of Worst Injuries Focuses on Prevention.”
At the injury center for the past 30 years, Mueller has analyzed more than 1,000 injuries, according to The Times.
A retired professor, Mueller takes an upbeat approach to his work. His research can lead to ways to prevent injuries. In an example cited by The Times, Mueller noticed that a high proportion of pole vaulters were either killed or paralyzed each year. They would miss the pit, or slide down their poles, and hit their heads, sustaining severe brain injury.
Those issues were addressed by making the pit larger and surrounding them with some padding, The Times reported.
Perhaps Mueller will find similar ways to cut down on head injuries in sports like football.