2012-07-12 / Sports

New Heads Up approach may lessen football injuries

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Heads Up! football teaches tackling using the shoulder rather than head first. 
Photo by Lisa Paine Heads Up! football teaches tackling using the shoulder rather than head first. Photo by Lisa Paine AREAWIDE— It is no secret that football can be a violent and dangerous sport, and with the recent emphasis on concussions, it leaves many to wonder what can be done to reverse such trends. Over the years, rules have been tweaked and equipment has been modified in an attempt to try to make the game a bit safer.

In a sport where collisions are inevitable, it makes it difficult to reduce injuries. However, recent studies show that those injuries, especially when it comes to head trauma, can be minimized with one simple adjustment: make tackles with your head up. The new Heads Up approach is quickly being administered to the teachings of youth football players across the country.

According to some coaches, however, the technique isn’t new by any means. “Actually, it’s not that new. I’ve been teaching (Heads Up) for the last 15 years,” said Lapeer Steelers youth football coach Doug Harris. “I’ve always taught my kids to keep their heads up.”

From the time football was invented, it has been quite common for coaches to teach their defenders to put their head down and drive with the shoulder. While that is a useful technique, it can also be dangerous on both ends. For the player making the tackle, they could easily injure their head or neck on any given play. It can also be hazardous for the ball carrier, as the hard shell of a helmet is often used as a weapon of sorts, causing many serious knee injuries, amongst other things.

“At the youth level, I have never seen (a concussion) in my kids that I coach,” continued Harris. “There has been a kid or two that I was not coaching at the time. I knew that they had concussions because I knew the parents.”

While the Heads Up approach may reduce the number of concussed players, there are other factors to be considered, including staying hydrated, as well as being properly fitted with a protective mouth guard. For those who would like a little extra protection, there are many helmets on the market that are specifically designed to reduce the likelihood of a concussion, with many of them being referred to as the “revolution” helmets.

“That’s a big part of it at the youth level,” added Harris. “Seven, eight and nine-year-olds, that’s what I teach. I’ve talked to a lot of doctors, and as long as their heads are up, you know you’ll have your minor injuries with ankles and some stuff, but it’s really hard for kids to injure their neck if they have their heads up, and that’s what a lot of doctors have told me.”

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