The American Academy of Pediatrics released a study looking at tackling in football. The authors of the study performed a literature review looking at the mechanisms of head, neck and catastrophic injury in football.
Not surprisingly, the act of performing a tackle, or being tackled, is a leading mechanism of injury in football for head and neck injuries, catastrophic injuries and other serious injuries. One of the leading causes of concussion in youth and high school sports is head to head contact. The main recommendation in this area is to continually stress proper tackling technique and educating players and coaches on the importance of keeping their heads up and making contact with their shoulder pads, thus reducing the mechanism of head to head contact.
The authors summarize their findings of tackling in football by exploring the idea of limiting contact in practice to reduce the overall occurrence of head contact throughout the season, but do point out that it is not fully known how much of an impact this will make. They also discuss increasing the age at which players initiate contact and the possibility of non-contact leagues. This would allow those that are interested in playing, but are concerned for head injuries, an outlet to enjoy the game with a decreased injury risk.
As athletic trainers, we play a key role in the recommendations made by the authors. The last two points that they recommend on tackling in youth football are to institute neck strengthening programs and have an athletic trainer on hand for contests. We have the ability to educate coaches, athletes and administrations on the risk of head injury in football (and sports in general) and the implementation of programs to reduce to the risk, including strengthening and skills based technical training. Having an athletic trainer available to athletes allows injuries to be detected and treated earlier.
While the risk of injury will not be eliminated in sports, we can hopefully continue to make progress with our educational material to keep all of our athletes healthy and active.
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*This site is for educational purposes only, it is not meant to diagnose, treat or replace medical advice. Before starting an exercise program always make sure that you are healthy and able to do so safely.*