The ongoing battle against head trauma in high school sports has taken another step forward in the Pacific Northwest, where all football coaches in Oregon will now be required to undergo complete Heads Up Football training to coach at the high school level.
The decision by the Oregon School Activities Association (OSAA) to require Heads Up Football training will rely on USA Football, which is leading the nationwide Heads Up effort. The national governing body for football, USA Football teaches tackling and blocking techniques designed to reduce helmet contact. It simultaneously trains coaches on other broad medical and support and equipment issues, including but not limited to CDC concussion recognition and response, sudden cardiac arrest protocols, hydration and heat preparedness and instruction to guide helmet and pad fitting.
The training session will have to be completed for the 2016 season but is only recommended for the impending 2015 campaign. That doesn’t mean that the message is going unheard, with many state coaches expected to take part in time to lead their teams in 2015. Additionally, all teams will have to identify a designated Player Safety Coach on their staffs who will be responsible and essentially be held accountable for implementing the Heads Up training program across the entire coaching staff. Those Player Safety Coaches will be actively trained by USA Football to ensure their expertise in all of the techniques and tactics to be used as part of the Heads Up program.
There’s little question that more needs to be done to minimize the risk of head trauma across the country. While Heads Up Football isn’t a panacea for those health ills, its still clearly a step in the right direction, and one which will finally have some teeth in Oregon, and perhaps elsewhere if other states follow its lead.
“The committee sees this as a natural next step as we continue to look at innovative ways to minimize the risk of all football injuries, but particularly concussions,” Dr. Michael Koester, chairperson of the OSAA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, said in a statement announcing the new program. “This is an opportunity for high school coaches to set a standard for the youth leagues in their communities across the state. Ideally, we’ll have youth coaches getting certified as well, allowing for continuity of tackling techniques and safety protocols through an athlete’s entire playing experience.
“As a team physician and the parent of a high school football player, I’m excited about Heads Up Football.”