The dangers of concussion are a hot topic in the news. It is an injury suffered by athletes in all sports, so it is imperative that coaches, players and parents recognize the signs and symptoms.
USA Football, the sport's national governing body in the United States, recognizes this and leads the way in educating young athletes, their parents and coaches about concussion and how to play football in a better, safer way to help avoid injury in the first place.
Approximately 3 million American children age 6-14 play organized tackle football, placing it among the most popular youth sports, while more than 400,000 adults volunteer their time to teach and coach the game.
Since 2007, USA Football has worked with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to educate the youth sports community on concussion awareness. USA Football distributes CDC-approved material through usafootball.com, its more than 80 events and its membership offerings serving coaches, players, commissioners and game officials.
USA Football's 15-chapter online coaching course includes chapters on concussion awareness, athlete hydration and equipment fitting. USA Football's CDC-approved concussion awareness plan helps coaches recognize concussion signs and symptoms and shares what to do if a concussion is even suspected.
"Youth football participation today is higher than it has ever been, and USA Football's coaching courses make the sport better and safer," said Dr. Stanley Herring, the team physician for the Seattle Seahawks and a member of both the NFL Head, Neck and Spine Committee and USA Football’s Football and Wellness Committee. "Player health – particularly on matters of concussion – is rightfully commanding attention in every youth sport. With USA Football's leadership, football coaches are well prepared to monitor their players and know what to do when a young athlete's well-being is in question."
Through better instruction and equipment fitting, youth leagues are advancing player safety. By better recognizing the signs and symptoms, players who sustain concussions are getting the treatment they need.
"We lead the sport's development and serve the youth football community," USA Football Executive Director Scott Hallenbeck said. "A critical part of that leadership is the health and safety information we provide, including our work with the CDC on concussion awareness.”
In 2011, USA Football introduced its Tackle Progression Model that provides a step-by-step approach for coaches to properly teach one of football’s most important skills. A series of 12 instructional videos divides tackling into five fundamentals, providing drills to teach each step. Beginning in a non-contact environment and progressing to player-to-player contact, the instruction is designed to improve tackling skills, increase safety and limit helmet-to-helmet contact, lessening the chance for injury, including concussion.
Members of the USA Football Tackle Advisory Committee include coaching experts from the youth, high school, college and pro levels as well as Penn State University sport psychologist Dr. David Yukelson.
“USA Football has produced a compelling and comprehensive way to help coaches teach youth players how to tackle through drill work,” said Jim Mora, UCLA head coach and Tackle Advisory Committee member.
The Tackle Progression Model is part of USA Football’s Player Progression Development Model (PPDM), which ensures that players get the best and most appropriate training for their age. The system guides coaches, players and parents with age-based courses, 3D animated drills and videos all designed to make a better, safer game.
PPDM focuses not only on the physical skills players can master but the mental, emotional and social skills appropriate for that age.
“A structured player development model is good – and needed – for football, particularly youth football,” said Cleveland St. Ignatius High School head football Chuck Kyle, a member of USA Football’s Football and Wellness Committee and the 2009 U.S. Under-19 National Team head coach. “This is a game of innovation, rooted in fundamentals. USA Football’s Player Progression Development Model is an extraordinary example of how these two dynamics work together and form the foundation of an exceptional team sport of the mind, body and spirit.”
Football is rooted in the character-building traits of teamwork, responsibility and discipline. It also is important to keep the people who play America’s favorite sport safe.
"The NFL understands its obligation to educate and inform parents, teachers, coaches and especially young athletes about the risks of concussions," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said at the time. "This poster is one element of the NFL's program to assist in the development and broad dissemination of reliable medical information on concussions, which will give players, parents, coaches and others the information they need."
As the NFL’s only youth development partner in the league’s 92-year history, USA Football names an annual All-Fundamentals Team, recognizing an NFL player at each offensive and defensive position as well as four special-teams positions who employs proper technique to foster better on-field performance and inherent safety values.
A player who learns the right way to block and tackle has a better chance to avoid injury and have an enjoyable football experience.
USA Football has delivered this message to more than 75,000 coaches through its online coaching certification and its events. Hallenbeck has spoken in front of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, and USA Football has publicly supported successful state legislation providing direction on how to recognize and proceed when a concussion is suspected.
"All youth sports need to recognize the seriousness of concussions and the need for further education among our coaches, league administrators, game officials, athletes and parents," Hallenbeck said. “We encourage more sports to join us and make a similar commitment to our young athletes.”