Excerpts from recent Minnesota editorials

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Star Tribune, Sept. 10

Getting a handle on head injuries in Minnesota prep sports

For many baby boomers, a head-to-head collision in a high school football game or practice was cause for celebration. Coaches and teammates would cheer as a woozy athlete tried to shake off the effects of having his "bell rung." The so-called toughest players, of course, never left the field.

With apologies to Bruce Springsteen, the "Glory Days" of prep-sports pride were far from enlightened when it came to head injuries suffered in collision sports. Too often in only the most severe cases — for example, if a player lost consciousness — would alarms to go off on the sidelines, leading to appropriate medical attention.

Many boomers have no doubt recalled those experiences in recent years as a growing number of former NFL players have gone public with horror stories about the debilitating effects of concussions on their lives. Increasingly, boomers are questioning whether the benefits of their own children participating in contact sports outweigh the risks of head injuries that can lead to memory and reasoning problems as well as anxiety and depression.

Before last week, Minnesota parents had little data to make informed decisions. But the state Department of Health has helped inform the public discussion with the release of its first study of concussions suffered in high school sports.

Based on the 730 cases diagnosed by trainers at 36 participating Twin Cities-area schools, researchers projected that about 3,000 high school athletes suffered concussions statewide last year. That's about one concussion per 100 participating athletes, with no adjustment made based on playing time.

Football and boys and girls hockey had the highest rates but, as the accompanying text shows, athletes in a variety of sports suffer concussions. Girls have the highest rates in sports played by both genders, which is consistent with national studies.

The release of the valuable study comes three years after the Minnesota Legislature passed new regulations requiring coaches and officials to receive online training on concussions. The rules also require concussed athletes to receive an OK from a medical professional before returning to their sport.

The hope is that the new rules and better data will increase awareness among athletes, parents, teachers, coaches and health care professionals about the warning signs and dangers of head injuries. The greater focus hopefully will lead to better equipment and more discussion of safer playing techniques, such as heads-up tackling in football.

We need to learn more about head injuries among Minnesota high school athletes, but the Health Department study is a positive contribution to a public discussion that should have started decades ago.


St. Paul Pioneer Press, Sept. 9

St. Paul and CHS: Local history, local co-op, local ballpark

We know this east metro-based company by its brands, its CEO said this week, not by its corporate name.

That's about to change, as St. Paul's new Lowertown ballpark becomes CHS Field.

The naming-rights announcement Monday capped an impressive run of developments for CHS Inc., an Inver Grove Heights-based Fortune 100 global agriculture and energy company and the nation's leading farmer-owned cooperative.

In back-to-back announcements last week, CHS — known, for example, for its Cenex petroleum operations — announced it will invest more than $400 million in a Montana refinery and $3 billion to construct a fertilizer plant in North Dakota.

The developments "are signs we are growing for the future," spokeswoman Lani Jordan told us. The fertilizer plant, near Jamestown, North Dakota, is the single largest investment in company history and the single largest private investment project ever undertaken in North Dakota.

With the move, the company will capitalize on a location near the oil-rich Bakken region to become "an even more dependable supplier" of fertilizer, putting the facility "right where the product is used," Jordan said.

Its No. 1 goal, she said, is to help the company's farmer-owners succeed "as we look at what's happening in the global marketplace."

Consumers may know such products as Dean's dips and Marie's salad dressings, but might not be aware of the company's deep local roots, which go back more than 80 years to the Depression era.

The timeline includes the 1931 founding of Cenex, originally the Farmers Union Central Exchange, with its first offices in downtown St. Paul, according to the company website. CHS was created from the merger of Cenex and the Harvest States cooperative in 1998.

The opportunity with the Saints was a "great match for us because of our culture, their culture and our St. Paul roots," Jordan said. It also connects CHS "with something that is really going to be a centerpiece of downtown St. Paul." The $63 million, 7,000-seat facility is to open in the spring.

"The opportunity to team up with (the) Saints is a home run for both of us," CHS President and CEO Carl Casale said in a statement. It's also an opportunity "to connect to our deeply held values of supporting families with opportunities to have fun together, while we tell agriculture's story and help the Twin Cities get to know CHS better."

Although it does business around the world, CHS is "proud to be a company that's growing here in the Twin Cities area," Jordan said. Revenues reached a record $44.5 billion in 2013, and the company has 10,000 employees — 2,000 of them in Minnesota.

Terms of CHS's 13-year deal with the Saints were not disclosed. That eventually should change, for a facility largely funded with public dollars from city, state and regional sources, along with $11 million from the team.

Such provisions are said to be typical in naming-rights deals, and disclosure of details could put the Saints at a disadvantage in negotiating with other potential sponsors, a spokesperson told us.

"We fully anticipate we are going to be writing checks to the city," Saints principal owner Marv Goldklang told us, with opportunities under a general revenue-sharing provision or another that applies specifically to naming rights revenue, if attendance exceeds a certain level.

We've said it's easier to see the public purpose for a facility that would serve a broad spectrum of amateur ballplayers and other events, as this one will. The ballpark also will serve as the home field for Hamline University, in a 25-year partnership agreement announced last month.

Opening day in May promises to be a special one for St. Paul -- made even more so by an outstanding east metro company.

This is our "home base," Jordan said, and CHS is "proud to be part of it."


Minnesota Daily, Sept. 11

Medical marijuana law needs change

Minnesota's medical marijuana law — one of the most limited of its kind in the nation — is moving ahead as planned, as the state recently opened applications for potential manufacturers and distributors of the drug.

State officials will evaluate applicants based on their financial stability, how they plan to safely grow marijuana and how they would securely transport it. But before any company applies for the two coveted spots, they'll have to fork over a $20,000 fee.

By 2016, the two companies selected will be required by law to have four distribution centers each. This seems inadequate, given that only eight facilities are expected to provide a valuable form of medicine to any qualified resident out of Minnesota's 5.4 million people.

In addition, placing a hefty financial barrier to applying and capping the number of companies chosen at two creates great restrictions on what could be a highly profitable industry in Minnesota — if it was allowed to grow.

Some estimates predict legal marijuana sales will surpass $8 billion in 2018, with the possibility of significant tax revenues.

The rhetoric surrounding medical cannabis in Minnesota has been laid out clearly. Law enforcement in the state is too afraid of marijuana getting into the wrong hands, which has created a law that prevents a new industry from growing and makes a beneficial medicine difficult to access for many sick people.

While the current medical marijuana law is a step in the right direction, we believe it needs modification before it can truly benefit Minnesota's people and economy.

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