Over the past decade football has become “America’s Game.” It is by far the most popular sport in the minds of people in the United States. Yet more and more parents are forbidding their children from partaking in America’s favorite game. In recent years we have seen many professional football players diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome (PCS), and doctors have discovered PCS can lead to nausea, chronic headaches, and in some cases even depression. Unfortunately it took the tragic loss of Junior Seau, an NFL legend who made great impacts on and off the field, to toss these issues into the public eye. To the NFL’s, NCAA’s, and youth footballs credit, new rules, football coaching methods, and equipment have been implemented to make our game safer. When partaking in football training a player is always susceptible to injury, but the same can be said for any other sport. When the game of football is played correctly with the proper equipment and tackling form, it is a very safe game and a great sport for a child to experience.
Proper coaching and understanding of the game: When I played high school football our coaches taught us to play with reckless abandon and to try to destroy the opposition. One of my football coaches used to say, “football is not a contact sport, it is a collision sport. If you want to play a contact sport, take up ball room dancing.” He’s right, football is a collision sport, but it is how these collisions take place that is changing in this new and improved brand of football.
Again, when I was taught how to tackle a ball carrier I was told to wrap up below or around the waist, drive with my legs, and collide my facemask/helmet with the ball to try to cause a fumble. In today’s football, coaches are teaching better tackling form techniques. Youth players are told that you cannot use your helmet as a weapon and that you should always “see what you tackle,” meaning that your eyes should not be looking at the ground when you tackle. Even though helmets are worn in all facets of football training, an athlete should play the game as if they were not wearing a helmet - a player would never lead with their head if they were not wearing a helmet. So in a sense, the helmet actually enables a player to use their head when hitting an opposing player.
Having the proper helmet: Even though it may give a football player a false sense of security, helmets are ultimately the most important piece of equipment a player will wear. When it comes to having the proper helmet that fits and feels right we turn to Schutt, who makes some of the best performance helmets used by football players of all ages.
Probably the second most important piece of equipment an athlete can wear while football training is a mouthpiece. Wearing a mouthpiece when playing a collision sport like football can help lessen the blow when taking a hit to the head. Although there is no scientific evidence to solidify the claim that mouth-guards can prevent concussions, companies like Shock Doctor believe that the impact of molars smashing together can increase the risk of head trauma. When it comes down to it, wearing a proper mouthpiece at the very least will help prevent dental and other facial injuries. Here is a good review from a hockey coach comparing the Shock Doctor Power Gel Ultra and Power Gel DNA:
There is no doubt about it, football is a violent game. However, with the new measures taken by the authorities in various levels of football, it is becoming a much safer game for athletes of all ages. The football equipment that is available to players these days can revolutionize the game, and will only further the safety for our young players. And if coaches continue to teach their athletes to play with their heads instead of using them to tackle, then football will continue to make strides to becoming a safer sport.
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