New mats look to keep athletes safe

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CHAMPAIGN-URBANA, Ill. (WAND) - It was a back injury in 12th grade that made Mark Van den Avont want to make a change to the professional athletic world.

Mark was a gymnast for many years and his daily routine was no different from any other day. Some days he landed a perfect dismount and other days he had some minor scratches and bruises.

That all changed for Mark when he fell on his head and broke two vertebrae in his spine. He was able to recover fully but something wasn't sitting well for him.

He says the idea of having people fall, potentially hurt themselves was just not right. Now, as a U of I student, he created Hex Nest - safer mats for anyone from a gymnast to a wrestler.

"So current mats are made of specific material. The draw back of that material is very expensive, which means folks can't buy high quality material. So now they settle or things that aren't as safe as maybe they could be," he said.

The mats are expected to be for sale in the next couple of months at Co-Lab in Champaign.

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