In 2002, the National Football League (NFL) and the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) decided to bring the head-safety and concussion conversations of professional athletics to the forefront of all tackle football communities. As the official Youth Development partner of all 32 NFL teams, USA Football (USAF) provides Detroit PAL with a ‘Heads Up’ Football player-safety initiative.
This football season’s clinic was held Sunday, May 20th, engaging with more than 30 Detroit PAL coaches and administrators. Hosting up to 80 annual training events, ‘Heads Up’ strives to raise the level of player safety through enhanced education of coaching practices. Undoubtedly, key components include equipment fitting and hydration, but the centralized goal of all clinic material lie derivative of the program title itself.
Substantial ‘Heads Up’ content is dedicated to concussion symptom recognition and plans of action in the event of a traumatic brain injury. Local Detroit PAL coaches were exposed to updated methods of acute implementation and understanding, including a series of five fundamental drills designed by football professionals to limit helmet-to-helmet contact while tackling.
Attendee, Coach James Parker (Motor City All-Stars) agrees on a growing presence of evolution within football, requiring new ways to better protect his teenage athletes. “The importance of tackling demonstrations, with such enormous strength and size present in today’s game, what better time to start teaching these kids the safest way to tackle?” said James. Ensuring the congruence of practice among coaches is essential in creating a more safe sport. Dr. Gerard A. Gioia, Neuropsychologist from the George Washington University School of Medicine says “this overall approach and the specific techniques within the program are exactly the next steps we need to take to improve head-safety in tackle football.
While on-field ‘Heads Up’ tactical terms such as ‘Break’, ‘Hit’ and ‘Rip’ don’t traditionally parallel one’s idea of safety, all actions refer the safest, most efficient forms of tackling. For more than 600,000 USAF youth athletes, thanks to ‘Heads Up’ the vision of a safe and level playing field has never been more clear.
It begins on the field with contact, the physical targeting of only those areas of the body deemed appropriate – the head of an opponent is never one of those areas.