Latest effort to curb football head injuries is welcome

A large school district in Virginia is adopting a program to reduce head trauma. It will be watched by the nation much like Washington’s Lystedt Act.

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The school year is wrapping up around the Valley and that means high school football teams are gearing up for the fall season. It won’t be long until Friday nights will be filled with the sounds of cheers and, well, thumps.

It’s those thumps, bumps and thuds that make all parents — even those who are football fanatics — hold their breath until their child gets up and appears to be fine.

As legendary Green Bay Packer Coach Vince Lombardi said, “Football isn’t a contact sport, it’s a collision sport. Dancing is a contact sport.” Football is played with reckless abandon and some players do get hurt.

Unfortunately, some of the injuries can be very serious and permanent — particularly head injuries. The horrific long-term problems with years of head trauma are becoming more and more apparent.

Washington state has been a national leader with its efforts to reduce the affects of concussions on all high school athletes by mandating in state law that injured players be kept out of games and off the field, court or mat until it is safe for them to play again.

Still more can — and should — be done to further reduce injuries.

Heads Up Football, a national youth program aimed at teaching beginner-level kids a safer way to tackle in efforts to limit concussions and ease parental concerns, is making its way to the high school level.

Fairfax County (Va.) Public Schools, a large district with 25 high school teams and 3,300 players, is the nation’s first to adopt the program.

Just as the Washington’s concussion-prevention law, the Lystedt Act, is being monitored, athletic directors around the country are interested to see if the program is worth adopting or emulating.

Heads Up Football receives financial and promotional support from the NFL and was launched through Indianapolis-based USA Football. It began last season with pilot programs in three out-of-school youth leagues in California, Indiana and in Fairfax County.

Apparently officials in Fairfax liked what they saw. The program will have one trained volunteer at each school overseeing the program. The volunteer will conduct linics for coaches, players and parents. They’ll teach the Heads Up tackling techniques that involve keeping the head to the side and away from contact. In addition, injury data will be collected by athletic trainers to be reviewed at the end of the season.

The efforts in Washington state and in Virginia are important. They are the foundation of reducing head injuries even further.

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