A recent study of young football players ages five to 15 years old found that proper blocking and tackling techniques along with properly fitted equipment can reduce injuries by 76 percent. It can also reduce by 57 percent, those injuries that keep players out for at least 24 hours.

As parents, you are in charge of your child’s participation in sports. You also hold the key to ensure your child’s safe participation. So what simple steps can you take? First, let me make two important points:

  • Heads up football – This is a blocking and tackling method endorsed by the NFL and USA Football. The techniques in “Heads Up” help protect the cervical spine (neck) and crown of the head, reducing the chance of catastrophic head and neck injuries. The cervical spine is normally shaped in an “S” curve, which allows the neck to flex and absorb a lot of the energy of high risk hits to the head. When players put their heads down, the cervical spine straightens and eliminates the natural flex, forcing the transfer of energy from the muscles to the bony structures of the neck, and then to the brain. The result can be catastrophic head and neck injuries. “Heads Up” techniques change this dynamic. Coaches properly trained in the “Heads Up” program have seen significantly fewer player injuries than those not trained. Likewise, coaches trained in proper equipment fitting also saw fewer player injuries than coaches not trained.
  • Concussion education – In the state of Texas, legislation mandates concussion education in schools. But too often, this requirement plays out as nothing more than a signature on the bottom of a page that informs parents that concussions happen, they’re bad, and our children are at risk for all the terrible complications that can occur.

Given the above information, now it’s up to you. It’s time to ask the hard questions.

I’m going to make it easier for you to do that. To help parents ensure their young athlete is safer, I’ve composed the following simple questionnaires; one for your child’s coach, one for the athletic trainer and one for the athletic director. I strongly recommend you print them, take them to each of these individuals and ask that they be answered. It’s as simple as this:

Dear Coach,

In an effort to ensure my child’s safe participation in the football program, could you please answer the following?

  1. What concussion training have you completed
  2. Are you certified in training for the “Heads Up” program, and what specifically do you know about its effectiveness in reducing head and neck injuries? If the answer is no, could you please indicate why?

Dear Athletic Trainer,

In an effort to ensure my child’s safe participation in the football program, could you please answer the following?

  1. What type of concussion baseline metrics are you utilizing and obtaining on your athletes? 
  2. Are you familiar with baseline testing, and if you are not currently using it, what plans do you have for using it in the coming season?

Dear Athletic Director,

 In an effort to ensure my child’s safe participation in the football program, could you please answer the following?

  1. Can you share with me, the syllabus of the student concussion training program?
  2. Given the current statistics indicating fewer than one in seven student athletes ever report concussion symptoms to coaches, trainers or parents, how is this addressed with student athletes in your program?

As an emergency physician certified in concussion management, I have diagnosed, treated and managed concussions in student athletes of all ages. I also want to remind the community that at Impact Urgent Care, we provide baseline concussion testing at NO CHARGE to all local students.

We are always learning more about concussions and their effect on our children, and I am dedicated to helping parents and school athletic and health officials understand brain injuries. I continually give presentations to students, parents, trainers, coaches, and medical professionals throughout San Antonio, provide a regularly updated blog with the most current information, and serve as the medical director for Gridiron Heroes, to assist in the camps we offer that teach the “Heads Up” program techniques.

Should you or your sport’s organization wish to learn more, I promise to make myself available to speak, make presentations and post new information on my “Concussion Guy” blog. It’s time we get proactive and ensure we not only learn more about concussions, but also take an active role in the policies of our children’s athletic programs – this is the critical key to protect our young football players from concussions.

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