Football is a contagious sport – the fandom that the sport has at the NFL and college level is out of this world! Pro football has been voted the most popular sport in America for 30 consecutive years! It’s no wonder that over 1 million youth play high school football each year.
Football try-outs and camps are gearing up soon, making it the perfect time to review important safety precautions for athletes. In 2007, over 920,000 athletes under the age of 18 were treated in emergency rooms, doctors’ offices, and clinics for football-related injuries. And over the last couple of years, there has been increased scrutiny on the game of football, and the NFL in particular, for injury prevention and concussion awareness. Whether you’re a veteran or new to the game, you should be confident in your level of safety while playing. Here are some tips to help you get ready for the season ahead!
Equipment: In organized football, athletes are required to wear a helmet, but it’s crucial to do so at all times – even during pick-up games with friends. Your helmet should be fitted properly, so be sure to take it to your local sports store at the start of each season to have it measured. Always gear up with the necessary protective equipment and padding, and remember to replace your gear if it begins to wear out.
Tackling: Tackling is a significant part of the game, which is why it’s crucial to know how to tackle properly. One of the most important things to remember is to tackle with your head up, and NEVER lead with your helmet. Football Canada has a great video on this topic for coaches to teach and promote safe tackling, which can certainly help athletes and parents too!
Rules: Rules are put in place for a reason, and for everyone’s benefit, it’s important to follow them! There are proper ways to hit and tackle, so make sure to stick to the guidelines. And most of us know to stop when the referee blows his or her whistle, but sometimes in the heat of the match, players may continue on. No matter what, stop what you’re doing when the play is blown down – it’s not uncommon for a player to get injured when another kept charging after the whistle.
Overuse Injuries: Enrollment in just one sport is common for youth so that they can hone in on specific skills. Yet, it’s worth it to encourage your child to play multiple sports throughout the year to avoid overuse injuries. Football players rely a lot on their core, and because of it, can develop back pain (especially lower-back pain). Knee and leg injuries are another common problem that football players develop over the season. Over-training can sometimes cause parts of the body to simply be stretched beyond repair, which makes it difficult to recover properly, and thereby, leads to long-term discomfort or pain. By participating in several sports, your child is sure to work different body parts to help prevent these types of injuries.
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Concussions and Head Injuries: This has become a hot-button issue in many sports, especially hockey and football. Even though both hockey and football players wear helmets, the force of hits, tackles, and falls can be too much to take. It’s important to keep an eye out for the signs of a concussion – and be aware that not all concussions result in loss of consciousness. Signs to look for include: dizziness, nausea, headaches, difficulty concentrating, blurry vision, memory loss, sensitivity to light and noise, and disorientation. If a concussion is even slightly suspected, the player should be pulled from the field for additional testing. Remember – no game is as important as an individual’s health and safety.
CTE: Remaining on the topic of head injuries, CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) has become a more recognized term in recent years. In 2002, Pittsburgh Steelers center, Mike Webster passed away from a heart attack at just 50 years of age. It was discovered that Webster had a protein in his brain, known as tau. Tau is commonly found in those with Alzheimer’s disease, or those who have developed CTE.
Individuals who have experienced repetitive head trauma have increased likelihood of developing CTE.
Some of the signs to watch out for include: depression, anger and aggression, confusion, memory loss, impaired judgment, and progressive dementia. CTE has even been appearing in younger people, so it is certainly something to keep an eye on.
Knowledge is power: The NFL and USA Football have teamed up to support Moms Clinics. In these clinics, football moms (and potential football moms) are able to learn first-hand about the safety aspects of the game. It is designed to reassure parents and help them feel more secure about the sport their son or daughter is playing. The clinics go through various drills and presentations that focus on tackling, hydration, training, equipment care, and more. To learn more about Moms Clinics, click here.
You win some, and you lose some, but playing safely ensures everyone walks out a winner. Thanks for reading, and have a safe season! Got any great training tips to share? Tweet them to us @ePACTnetwork!
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