It may have slipped some of your reading or viewing, but ESPN’s Outside the Lines did a piece on the USA Football Heads Up Program. The article and video were presented last Sunday morning – I cannot find a YouTube version of the OTL show but you can find that part HERE. The seven minute presentation is great for a quick overview of the issues ESPN has found.
For more in-depth coverage you should read the article by Steve Fainaru and Mark Fainaru-Wada, the same authors that penned League of Denial. There are some wonderful points brought to light by the Fainaru’s;
The program teaches concussion awareness and proper helmet fitting, but its central tenet is the soon-to-be trademarked Heads Up Tackling program. When executed properly, proponents say, Heads Up Tackling literally takes the head out of the game. Players are taught to keep their heads up and lead with their shoulders when tackling.
But critics view Heads Up as a cynical marketing ploy — a repackaging of old terminology to reassure parents at a time the sport is confronting a widening health crisis.
There is a reason I have been “relatively” quiet on this topic; it’s because they are doing some very good things in the way of education and helmet fitting. As you may know I am huge on the topic of awareness when it comes to concussions. I have stated many times that the injury itself is not the “ice burg we can see above the water” rather it’s the mismanagement of the concussion that is the massive ice chunk we cannot see from the surface.
That being said, with the actual tackling technique being taught I too feel this is a repackaging of an old mantra. Rules were even put in place as early as the 70’s to accomplish this task of taking the head out of the game. Face tackling, spearing and butt blocking all have been on the books as penalties to help avoid using the head as a weapon.
The problem being that those are not called very often, when they are called they are inconsistent at best, and what has it done for the game over nearly 40 years? I am not nearly as critical as others; Continue reading