Football season is almost here, and that means that the dangers of the sport are back in the national conversation. Head, neck and spinal cord injuries are prevalent among football players, so it’s vital that players use the proper technique when tackling and blocking.
Maintaining proper form is the most important element of every sport. Not only does it create stronger results, but it helps to prevent serious injury, as well. In the past, football players used their heads as a weapon on the field, leaving players vulnerable to debilitating or even deadly injuries.
Thankfully, rules eliminating the head, neck and face as primary contact areas have been instituted at the professional, college and high school level. Head and spinal injuries have dramatically decreased since then, but these injuries continue to be a major issue for players at all levels.
It’s crucial that coaches instruct their players from the very start that the head should stay out of football, period. A player’s helmeted head should not be used like a battering ram when tackling or blocking an opponent. The helmet is merely a line of defense, not an offensive tool.
When tackling, it’s imperative that players get their head across the other player’s body and wrap with their arms. Despite a player’s natural tendency to move their heads away from impact or tilt them down to absorb the hit, the head needs to stay up for two reasons: so the player can see what is going on, and so that the spine is in proper alignment upon impact.
Tackles should be focused on the core of an opponent’s body. Leading with the head or even aiming for an arm or a leg will not yield the best results. It is just as key for players to keep their heads up on the other side of the ball, whether they’re blocking or preparing for a hit.
Coaches and trainers would also be wise to keep their players in top shape, especially their neck muscles, which will help maintain good form. Like any sport, it’s easier to play football safely if the strength is there.
Correct tackling and blocking form, paired with regular conditioning, stretching and warm ups and cool downs, is essential for keeping players safe and in control on the field.