Repost: Matt Chaney’s Take on Heads Up Football

The following was posted here on TCB 10/24/13, I feel with the traffic it has been garnering that it should be reposted at the top of the cue for the time being.  It is worth comment and questions…

The post below is from Matt Chaney’s Blog, re-posted (in part) here with his permission.  We are posting it here not as an endorsement, rather as an opposing view that is worth the read.  Our commentary on this article by Chaney will be below this post.  We encourage everyone to see the entire post on his blog.  You can view it by clicking on the hotlink, it is titled; ‘Heads Up Football’: Truth, Tales and Legal Consequences.  *Chaney has moved his blog and we are efforting the current link of his original article.  However, he does read the comments from time to time so if you have question leave it here and he may get to it.


By Matt Chaney

Posted Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Peter King posits bogus hitting technique as Safer Football in Sports Illustrated

—geezuz, the further we go in this latest football crisis, the worse many people become, willingly, on behalf of the sexy blood sport… and so Peter King of SI skips along, telling us bona fide prevention is possible for football’s irreversible head-ramming… a new post by the Hall of Fame football scribe portrays Heads Up ‘proper contact’ as legitimate; King purports this theoretical headless hitting can be instilled by coaches, enforced by referees, adopted by players… I’d like to see King demonstrate on a football field, suited-up himself for forward collisions governed by physics and bullet-head helmets; he’d ram, too, or get his ass kicked… look, folks, players cannot govern or stop ramming on a football field; rather, forces of the crazy game dictate human behavior… forget talk and trust your eyesight, especially naïve parents and kids, to understand Heads Up ‘technique’ is invalid, unreliable, a lienothing new: it’s mere rehash of musty old ‘head up’ form hitting, proven invalid since the 1960s… here’s King, introducing his discussion:

What’s been eye-opening to discover is the trickle-down effect from the NFL to youth football. As the pro league emphasizes safety more and more, so do high schools around America. … Coaches are concerned; 41 of 49 polled [by SI] said they have modified training techniques because of increased education about concussions and head trauma.

—sure, trickle-down effect will reform football danger, once again… solution for brain trauma in the collision game is just around the corner… like trickle-down ‘steroid awareness’ for football’s immense problem with anabolic substances…  King continues:

Several high school coaches emphasized the NFL teaching new tackling techniques, such as “Heads Up Football,” which teaches coaches to train kids to tackle with heads up—instead of using the helmet as a battering ram. Said Middlebury Union (Vt.) coach Dennis Smith: “In any drills we’re doing—whether it be fundamental drills at the beginning of practices, especially defensive practices—we’re always stressing head up. You have to be able to see what you’re tackling.” … Said Brandon (Miss.) coach Brad Peterson: “We always start the year, whether spring or fall, with walking through the proper techniques of tackling.” … The coach of E.O. Smith High in Storrs, Conn., Jody Minotti, said he knows he can’t prevent every concussion, but he trains his players to minimize the risks. “We do less contact throughout the week and we teach proper tackling,” said Minotti. “We preach in practice all of the time, ‘Bite the ball. Bite the ball.’ That means keep your head up and don’t ever lead with your helmet. We film tackling, we talk about tackling whenever we’re watching film.”

—huh, these coaches don’t address the facemask dilemma, the prime fault of football rules behind the charade of Heads Up, ‘proper contact,’ ‘head up technique,’ ‘anti-butting’ or whatever term… this toothless policy and language have been a football mandate since 1976, for high schools and the NCAA… the rules specifically ban not only the helmet shell or ‘crown’ for use at initial impact but likewise forbid the facemask… and that’s impossible for modern tackle football with shatterproof headgear… but these coaches surely know that, the vast majority having played themselves amid the goofball technique and rules, as did Peter King and NFL commissioner Dollar Roger Goodell… yet they all parrot and push this dangerous junk theory, Heads Up… fact is, any kid who trusts this method and runs straight up on a football field, head back, thrusting chest to meet traffic, only gets hammered by opponents’ strikes with helmets and facemasks… or parents trust the talk only to see their young players learn to ram, anyway, for negotiating brutal football reality… leading to lawsuits versus individuals and public institutions… so thank you now, Roxanne Jones, former ESPN executive, for rebuking the NFL on point in your commentary for

Stop endlessly denying the findings of medical science that say playing football can cause permanent brain damage. End the lies. Just admit we have a problem. That is the first step. Stop the slick marketing campaigns to keep telling our children all they need is to learn a “safe way to hit in football,” while denying each hit comes with a dire consequence.

This relationship is toxic. If my beloved NFL continues to lie and deny while men and boys are suffering and dying, then it’s time for this fan to say good-bye.


Said ‘head up’ contact causes brain bleeds and broken necks

—a provocative communication dynamic envelops tackle football in litigious America, 2013, and that’s the official talk, or doublespeak, surrounding critical casualties of collisions, those players lethally injured by football… every year between fifty and a hundred such cases emerge in my Google searches, mostly news reports, of life-threatening wounds and conditions for football damage to central nervous system, internal organs and extremities [i.e. the latter for blood clots, artery rupture]… thus far in 2013, at least five high-school football players have died of collision injuries nationwide, with a sixth case possible, pending an autopsy conclusion in California… the fatality numbers are typically single digits for collision deaths since the 1970s in American football, a marked reduction thanks primarily to trauma care’s widespread establishment in American society since the 1980s, with an assist from skull-preserving helmets, and thanks for nothing from alleged ‘proper tackling,’ that stupid myth masquerading as mortality prevention…  anyway, in most cases anymore of grave injury and death by impact, officials disclaim involvement of illicit hitting; instead, they say, the contact was ‘routine,’ ‘head up,’ ‘proper’ [or they blame the injured player]… last spring in Louisiana, for example, prep running back Jaleel Gipson died of a broken neck sustained during an ‘Oklahoma Drill,’ the notoriously head-on practice setup where initial contact by one player’s helmet or facemask, at least, is virtually guaranteed… yet the school principal says Gipson ran ‘head up’ into the onrushing tackler, who came ‘with his shoulder as textbook’ for legal contact… on and on goes the story, ‘clean hitting,’ same spin around intensive-care casualties of tackle football… meanwhile, video of the incidents is hardly ever available…

[…continued in full HERE…]


Chaney brings up great points and highlights the misnomers of changing technique.  You can hear it on the TV or radio if you choose to listen to NFL pundits – notably former players like Mark Schlereth.  The biggest of which is that the head is part of the game of football, it always has been and always will be when making tackles.  

Is there a safer way to tackle?  Certainly, when there is a “kill shot” available to the players, instead of lowering head like a battering ram and launching into the player; the “head across the bow and wrap” should in most cases suffice.  However, in that “safer” technique the head is still leading the player to the tackle.  It will always get in the way and it will always have risk associated with it.  As Chaney notes above, if a player does all he can to remove his head from the play when attempting a tackle, most likely they will be steamrolled by the ball carrier.  If not by their head, their shoulder.  A full on chest tackle by the defender will be met with – at best – a shoulder.  In this case the ball carrier is lower and will win that battle.  Sure the player may make the tackle but at the cost of yards, precious yards in situations.

I am all for eliminating the spearing and effectively using the helmet as a weapon, it’s a safety “thing” for both parties involved in a one-on-one tackle.  I also agree there is no need to target any player above the shoulders to which I think we are all in agreement.

I believe that by trying to change the narrative from what is truly the problem here with concussions we are doing the injury and those that have had the injury a massive disservice.  

The massive issue is not the injury of concussion, that is going to happen, folks.  The elephant in the room is how the injury is being managed from the identification all the way to return to play.

Maturity of the skeletal and muscular system, along with full understanding of the risks involved with collision sports need to be addressed (see above as Chaney tells us that there have been FIVE fatalities already this year).  It should be noted that the brain continues to develop until late teens and early 20′s in human beings.  Seeing that we only receive one brain and modern medicine has yet to find a way to repair a brain – where as we can fix broken bones and torn ligaments – we should listen to all sides in this evolving issue.

One thing I do not want to see happen is the removal of this sport all together.  I still hold out hope that football as we know it can continue for adolescents through adults.  However not grasping the issue at hand will only delay the conclusions of Matt Chaney.  Football can continue, but we must at least acknowledge the stylings and opinions of people like Chaney or we will all fail in seeing the other side.

2 thoughts on “Repost: Matt Chaney’s Take on Heads Up Football

  1. Allan Globensky February 22, 2014 / 16:07

    Making this game and Hockey safer is next to impossible on the list of things to do in this time and era. Our bodies ,and most certainly our heads were not designed to be put through this kind of insanity . there will ” never ” be a helmet built that can stop the brain from bouncing around and pin – balling off the inside of our ” P R O T E C T I V E ” cranium .
    When we come to an un – expected stop , car accident , slipping and hitting our heads on ground or worse ,
    even with the best helmet man – kind has designed , your brain keeps moving at the same rate of speed YOU were traveling at , and hits the inside ” BONE – STRUCTURE ” that is there too protect the brain and does at least some if not a lot of damage .
    Which on the most part you will not discover at all , or at a later time in your life .
    The culture of these games can be changed , but what then of the millions of people whom , as with the GLADIATORS of Roman times need that viewing of violence ( as long as they are not part of ” said ” acts ) to get them through their work week .

  2. Michael S. Reeder September 30, 2015 / 22:57

    Matt Chaney hit the nail on the head….football will never be safe, it is designed to be violent, aggressive, confrontational, on& on & on. Hence the quote “baseball is Americas pastime football is Americas passion”, human nature-from the time of the Roman Coliseum to now- many many many people like to see violence against other people, period, end of story. What is the best part of a hockey game you ask: the fights; what’s the best part of NASCAR you ask: the wreck’s.

    I am not saying people like to see others get HURT and certainly not perish, just the violent interaction. And with that in mind Matt is right on…football will NEVER be a safe sport. The couple who lost their 15 year old son, God Bless them, were talking to a whole different issue: what safety equipment is available. That’s not the question at hand. While I feel for their loss (I have 3 sons) football players are COVERED with safety equipment, another pad or plate or guard won’t make a bit of difference, kids will get hurt and kids will die.

    The Seahawks MD brought up the cardiovascular issues/deaths in youth football and he focused on response. If we respond quickly with the right medical equipment/procedure it will help…a lot. He is also correct but again that’s not the issue at hand.

    America loves it’s football and new rules on types of hitting can have a positive effect. The bottom line is this-what is the alternative? A return to the Coliseum….I think not.

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