It’s football season again! Time for tailgating, tackles, and … traumatic brain injuries? As the season ramps up, and with the release of new CTE research studies, player safety has become an extremely hot topic among the sports community. While fears tend to out-weigh benefits, it’s important to give credit where credit is due. Among the many skills learned, football teaches us leadership, discipline, teamwork, and how to respect others.
While no products in the sports industry can identify or diagnose concussions, there are new findings which may help reduce the risk. Below are 5 ways to help decrease the risk of head injuries and concussions:
If you enjoy this article please subscribe to our Athlete Intelligence blog and get sports related articles delivered directly to your inbox. Never miss an opportunity to learn something new, sign up today!
Across the country, growing attention on concussions has led to numerous efforts aimed at protecting athletes. Research continues to highlight one of the main and growing areas of concern are athletes who don’t report concussion symptoms. A survey of almost 170 high school athletes in six sports found that young athletes who were more knowledgeable about concussions were more likely to report. Adequate knowledge can help athletes better recognize the signs or symptoms of a concussion and understand the consequences of not reporting head injuries.
Every team should have a concussion management plan that details when a player should be removed from practice or competition, give team physicians guidelines for evaluation before returning to play, and ultimately specify if an athlete shows signs of a concussion they should not be allowed to return to play without a physician’s permission.
2. proper takling techniques
League officials should ensure that all coaches are committed to teaching proper tackling techniques and coaches across the country are adopting tackling methods that are meant to keep players' heads away from the impact. There are currently two popular techniques teaching football players to keep their heads out of the game:
Three years ago, USA Football, an organization started by the NFL, offers training to youth coaches on a system of tackling meant to make the sport safer. Dubbed "Heads-Up Football," it includes a series of drills that encourage players to make contact by rising into the ball carrier with their chests and shoulders, keeping their heads back.
It is now used by more than 7,000 youth and high school programs, and in many cases required by school districts. The organization offers coaches, athletes and parents resources to help develop guidelines behind operating a successful and safe football program.
Rugby Style Tackling
Rugby style tackling, also dubbed the “Hawks Tackle” has gained popularity in the last couple years. It calls for the tackler to keep his head to the side while driving his shoulder into the thigh or chest of the opponent. The technique emulates tackles made by rugby players, and ex- Seahawks assistant head coach Rocky Seto says it is safer and more effective than traditional methods while still packing a wallop.
ATAVUS is one company in particular making a big difference in how we tackle. Learn more about Atavus tackling techniques in our post How Ruby-Style Tackling is Benefiting Football.
3. proper fitting helmet
Team equipment managers should make sure when selecting a football helmet, players are inspecting and evaluating the helmet for proper fit. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommended that the helmet should fit comfortably around the head without slanting back over the top of the head or drawn too low over the forehead and that the chin straps securely holds the helmet in place when a player runs or during impact.
Football players wearing poorly-fitted helmets, especially those with under-inflated air bladder liners are at an increased risk of head injuries. Making sure the football helmet has a proper fit with the air bladder linings inflated are two of the simplest and most effective ways to minimize the risk of concussions and traumatic brain injury.
The CPSC has provided a helpful guideline on proper fit, safer play, case and maintenance, reconditioning, and replacement of helmets in their online PDF 4 Quarters of Football Helmet Safety.
4. new technology
Ultimately, to make the game of football safer for players, coaches and team management should consider implementing new product advancements allowing staff to be more informed when large hits occur and when specific athletes are putting themselves at more risk. Sensors are beginning to make a rapid entrance into sports with technologies being able to track hydration, heart rate, muscle contusion, and most importantly, what’s happening to an individual’s head.
In many ways, sensors and new technology allows coaches and athletes to reveal the data you can’t see with your eyes. The more we understand what’s going on in an athlete’s body, the more we can focus on changing behavior and eliminating activity leading to the risk of injury.
5. neck strength
Recently, a growing number of research studies have shown another important way to reduce the risk of sport-related concussions is by strengthening the neck. The theory behind it suggests stronger neck muscles will help cushion against and lessen the linear and rotational forces that can lead to a concussion.
Concussion experts Dr. Meehan and Dr. Cronin, who are featured in the in MomsTEAM's PBS documentary, “The Smartest Team; Making High School Football Safer,” believe that the difference in small neck strength puts players at an increased risk of concussions.
Neck strengthening programs and systems such as CerviFit may be an effective tool in efforts towards reducing the risk of concussions.
reduce the risk of injury with athlete intelligence
At Athlete Intelligence, we provide coaches, parents and athletes access to data surrounding every player and every play. We use sensor technology to collect head impact data then translate that information with our Athlete Intelligence platform to provide actionable insights that lead to safer techniques and smarter monitoring.
- Use the information to reveal improper player technique that could be increasing a player’s injury risk
- Develop a baseline for your team and identify those performing outside the norm
- Get notified in real-time when a hit has exceeded a customized threshold and review the athlete for possible concussion symptoms.