As football season ramps up and the first games of the season near, it is important for coaches and players to remember that, as with any other sport and with contact sports in particular, football carries a risk for injury that cannot be taken lightly. Fortunately, in recent years, an emphasis on safety regulations and proper technique has begun to mediate that risk and make for a safer sport. While these regulations are useful and beneficial, it is as crucial as ever that health and safety be the first priority of anyone involved in youth sports programs so that as many young men and women as possible can experience the lasting and meaningful benefits that team sports offer while protecting a body that must last a lifetime. In that light, here are some safety tips that athletes, coaches and parents might consider as the season begins.
Get low, track the hip and lead with the shoulder. This is a point that Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll and former assistant head coach Rocky Seto have been preaching for years. These two have been adamant, also, that the head and helmet need not ever be a part of the tackle. Leading with the shoulder and emphasizing leverage rather than impact earned the Seahawks a serious defensive reputation and, more importantly, taught the football world how to be safer and more effective. Watch Carroll’s tackling technique video online for a more in-depth look on his safer and more effective techniques.
Adequate and Proper Stretching
According to the Mayo Clinic, stretching should not be considered a warm-up but, rather, a post warm-up aspect of preparation. While stretching is often the first exercise before practice or a game, the Mayo Clinic recommends running or jogging first to prevent potential injury stretching cold muscles. The Mayo Clinic also advises a dynamic stretch routine in place of, or in conjunction with, a static routine. Stretching, according to the Mayo Clinic, may reduce the risk of sports injury significantly, increase blood flow to the muscles, leading to increased athletic performance, increase joint range of motion and help muscles to work more efficiently.
The NCAA’s performance hydration fact sheet lists some of the consequences of dehydration as nausea, vomiting, headache, fatigue, increased heart rate and declining performance among many others. That list alone is enough to make anyone thirsty. The NCAA recommends at least 16 ounces of water, two or three hours before exercise of any kind, four ounces every fifteen minutes during exercise and 16-20 ounces per pound of weight lost after exercise (they recommend a pre-workout and post-workout weigh in to measure). This, combined with regular water consumption throughout the day, should stave of dehydration and its consequences, according to the NCAA. For an athlete exercising for more than 60 minutes at a time, the NCAA recommends that sports drinks be consumed as well as water to replenish essential electrolytes like sodium and potassium.
Proper Equipment Fitting
The USA Football organization states that proper helmet fitting is the first step to player protection and a key aspect in prevention of injury. Ensuring that the helmet is worn properly at all times is equally as important. A loose fitting chin strap or helmet reduces the effectiveness significantly of the players most important piece of equipment. According to USA Football, the helmet should rest roughly one inch above the eyebrows and should not twist side to side or slide down over the forehead when pressed. Adequate measurements of head, chest and shoulder size before fitting equipment goes a long way in prevention of injury. It is essential, according to USA football, that pads be regularly inspected for proper fit and proper wear and that the correct pads be distributed according to position.
While it is important to note that nothing can eliminate the risk for injury involved in sports, an emphasis on proper technique, hydration and equipment can and will make the game a safer and more enjoyable event for all involved.
Most Tri-W area middle schools will hold their first official day of football practice this coming Monday, July 22. Coaches are encouraging new and prospective players and parents to come out for a practice or parent meeting in the following weeks to see if football may be right for them. High schools will hold their first official practice on August 1. The first games of the season are set to kick off on Friday August 23. For more information on times and dates, to contact coaches or for more information on how to join your local football program, visit www.ucps.k12.nc.us or www.NCHSAA.org. We at the Tri-W look forward to covering the action and competition each week and would like to wish players, families and coaches a fun and safe football season.