Tackling A Safety Issue
By Ryan Lazo
Sep 18, 2013, 08:03
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
HOPEWELL — It’s a parent’s a worst nightmare — sitting in the stands during their son’s high school football game only to watch a collision send their child sprawling on the field.
Unfortunately, the nightmare became a reality for a Western New York parent just last week when their son, Damon Jones, suffered a helmet-to-helmet hit which caused him to lose consciousness. Jones was immediately transported
to a local hospital where he died three days later.
The tragedy re-opens the dialogue between football and the safety concerns surrounding the game.
Local teams constantly work on tackling drills during practice, warning of lowering their head when they go to make a tackle, but sometimes it’s difficult to do. Hopewell’s Tabyus Taylor said the game is inherently dangerous, leaving players exposed even with all the necessary safety measures.
“You really don’t go on the field thinking about (helmet-to-helmet hits),” the two-way player said. “It’s really hard to stop head-to-head collisions in the trenches, but in the air it is easier.”
It’s an aspect that has not just plagued the high school level, but even the National Football League.
Players are accustomed to playing one particular way and adding in illegal hits has not gone over well. Players are being flagged frequently for violent hits such as hitting a defenseless receiver or any helmet-to-helmet contact.
Tampa Buccaneers’ safety Dashon Goldson is suspended for this week’s game due to repeat violations of the NFL safety rules. In week one, Goldson knocked out both Jeff Cumberland and Jeremy Kerley with what has been determined as concussions after penalty-inducing hits.
And while players are being reprimanded for these hits, it is hard to avoid.
However, Thomas Dale head coach Kevin Tucker makes sure he highlights certain times during the week to go over proper tackling to avoid these types of tragic circumstances.
“We spend 15 minutes, once a week, teaching tackling circuits,” Tucker said.
“They have five stations set up where the players will spend two minutes at a time learning and then participating in proper tackling.”
Tucker is not alone with the preparation.
Hopewell head coach Ricky Irby also tries to properly instruct his team utilizing techniques from USA Football. USA Football has their own campaign titled, “Heads up,” to help reinforce the notion of not leading for a tackle with a head down.
USA Football has educational instruction on how to properly teach the right way way to tackle, broken up into five different stages, ranging from breakdown to the rip.
“I think our coaches and medical staff does everything to take proper precautions as far as how we teach tackling and running with the football,” Irby said. “We want to get the head out of football as much as possible. It’s not just a emphasis in High School football, but in college and NFL as well.”
And with the more emphasis on eliminating violent collisions from the game, they are sure to decrease, but taking them out altogether might never happen. It all comes down to instruction and hoping the advice is followed when on the field.
“It is impossible to stop all the bad hits,” Tucker said. “With the flow of the game and danger surrounding the hits, we just have to hope and pray that our kids remember the fundamentals.”
The big hits and violent collisions raise safety concerns, but they are also the type of plays that draw children to the game, putting coaches and parents on the edge when it comes to avoiding injuries.