FOOTBALL TOUGHNESS AND NEW SAFETY RULES

Thank you Josh Moore for this insightful, timely, well presented article concerning football safety in the Lexington Herald Leader, July 31, 2015.

Congratulations to the KHSAA, the National Federation of High School Athletic Associations and the Kentucky Medical Association for their prompt, recommendations for the safety, health and welfare of our athletes, who participate in school sports. Hopefully, all non-school sports will likewise be regulated, as many are lacking.

I had the privilege, after being asked by Representative Joni Jenkins, Louisville, to testify in favor of HB 383, concerning Kentucky High School Sports Safety, before the Kentucky House of Representatives Education Committee. House Bill 383 became Kentucky Law: 2009 Ky. Acts ch. 90, sec. 2, effective March 24, 2009.

The main objective for the prevention of concussion, traumatic brain and cervical (neck) injuries is to “take the head out of the game” in all sports. Head first baseball base slides, diving head first for loose basketballs, hockey fisticuffs etc., none of which contribute to the “toughness” of youth athletes, can cause disabling head and neck injuries.

Initiating contact with the crown of the football helmet and face-up with the face mask, “face tackling” are extremely dangerous. The face guard is considered part of the helmet. Spearing with the crown or mask, “putting a hat on him” “ear hole him” “put your head on the numbers” “face mask on the football and bite the football” “see what you hit”, none of which contribute to the “toughness” of youth athletes, are dangerous instructions.

Blocking and tackling face-up with the front of shoulder are correct. Initiating contact with the front of the shoulder, while keeping the head up and to the side, is the safest way to play football. The core for tackling technique is Heads Up. Tacklers can still “unload” a big hit and ball carriers can still break tackles using this technique. However, it is a technique that must be practiced extensively. The game can be played just as aggressively and with as much toughness with these techniques with much less risk of serious head and neck injury.

Coaches are doing a good job teaching players to approach contact with the head up with the new rules in play. However, this is only half of the battle. Drills focused on shoulder contact with the head up, for all positional players, should begin in youth school, non-school leagues and all feeder programs.

Toughness is completely achievable within the framework of the new football rules and regulations, because toughness is a mindset developed from an athlete’s love, enjoyment of aggressive play, self-denying physicality and perfected finesse of the game, somewhat innate, but always fostered by a trustworthy, mentor coach, who has respect and responsibility for their athletes’ safety and welfare, develops a positive relationship with the athlete on an off the field and recognizes and acknowledges the accomplishment of their goals and their “jobs well done”. A pat on the back goes a log way. Athletes will “run through a brick wall for a trustwothy, mentor coach.” That’s toughness.

Great athletes, when properly coached and mentored by a trustworthy coach are determined, have insurmountable willpower, overwhelming grit, self-discipline and self-control. They are obedient to themselves, the coach and team and have plenty toughness.

When the going gets tough, the mentally tough get going and new rules and regulations will be no hindrance.

All concussioned, neck and other injured players should stay off the playing field or court until the doctor or certified trainer gives the OK.

Unless you’ve been around somebody that’s had a serious head or neck injury, you just don’t know how devastating the injury can be. The entire family can be shattered for a lifetime.

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