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College student spreads brain injuries awareness

Phil Hopper was a Fighting Saint for the St. Charles East High School football team, where he earned a sports scholarship to attend Elmhurst College. It was while playing for the Bluejays that he had a life-changing experience that inspired him to start his brand No Brain No Gain, or NBNG.

Hopper explained that athletes, in general, have often been encouraged to continue playing through injuries.

“So, No Brain No Gain came from the saying, ‘no pain no gain,’” he said. “It’s outdated because science and research shows that playing through injuries is detrimental. You’re not functioning right, and you’re not yourself.”

That’s what he’s trying to change with his brand.

Hopper’s NBNG brand is in its infancy, but he has big dreams for it. He had enough money to make 100 T-shirts with his logo, launch a website – – on Nov. 1 and start a business.

“I want to spread awareness to as many people as possible,” he said. “I want to collaborate with teams and athletes so that they wear No Brain No Gain apparel. The biggest thing is that they’re aware of traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorders. Even though people look fine, they have changed inside. People can’t see it, but that’s what’s happening. It’s happened to me.”

It’s that part that really motivated Hopper to launch a brand, while earning a bachelor’s degree.

Hopper was in his second year as a Bluejay when the trajectory of his college career took a turn.

“I had to stop playing because I got a concussion,” he said. “I already had one from high school. I talked to my family and decided it was better for my health because of all of the research being done. There’s a lot of risk to continue playing.”

That was a pretty big decision for a college sophomore, but he took it in stride and used his experience to lay the foundation for NBNG.

Hopper knows what it’s like to not be himself. He had memory problems, which is really problematic for a student but also for anyone.

“I parked my car and I went to class, and I couldn’t remember where I parked it,” he said. “I was completely clueless.”

That was only the start of his problems.

Before the concussion, Hopper described himself as a pretty happy-go-lucky sort of guy.

“I dealt with a lot of anxiety after my concussion, and that’s never something I’d ever gone through ... ,” he said. “It’s like you’re drowning in water, and it didn’t make sense to me why it was happening. It was a daily occurrence, but I tried and I tried and I finally got that under control.”

That experience gave Hopper the first-hand experience of what only two concussions can have on an individual. He has a lot of empathy for other people who look normal on the outside but who are suffering from a brain injury.

NBNG spreads awareness of traumatic brain injuries (such as concussions) and post-traumatic stress disorder. Portions of the money raised by the NBNG brand go to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and also to the PTSD Foundation of America.

“I believe that awareness for both of these disorders is very necessary but not mentioned often enough,” Hopper said.

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