Football players, on occasion, are going to get hurt. But with education, players and coaches can learn how to minimize injuries.
That was the message master trainers delivered to a class of area youth coaches on Saturday at the University of Kansas Hospital Center for Sports Medicine clinic at Arrowhead Stadium. The youth safety football clinic was hosted by USA Football, the official youth football development partner of the National Football League.
The clinic, hosted in cities throughout the nation, is part of the Heads Up Football program and is designed to teach coaches the importance of player safety to help develop a “better and safer game of football.”
Coaches, called player safety coaches or PSCs, were instructed on the importance of understanding the symptoms of concussions, heat and hydration, helmet and shoulder pad fitting and safer tackling — referred to as Heads Up tackling.
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Doctor Randall Goldstein, director of youth sports medicine at the University of Kansas Hospital, led the discussion about concussions.
“The important thing is that (coaches) are able to pick up some of the subtle symptoms of concussions,” Goldstein said. “Everybody knows that if you get knocked out you should be removed from play, but a concussion 90 percent of the time happens when you’re not knocked out, when there’s no loss of consciousness and those subtle symptoms need to be picked up so those kids don’t stay on the field.”
Master trainers John Roderique, Gary Swenson and Brett Froendt, all high school football coaches, talked about the importance of speaking with parents. Froendt said that parents are the coaches’ most important allies when it comes to proper hydration. Makings sure their athlete is properly hydrated before games and practices will help prevent heat illnesses.
Coaches were also instructed on the proper helmet and pad fitting techniques, working hands-on to learn how to properly fit players with equipment.
Most of the questions from coaches at the clinic were about concussions. Both Swenson and Roderique said that while concussions happen in every sport, they understand why the concerns surrounding football are heightened.
“There’s been a lot of press about former NFL players and people have questions now and they need answers,” Swenson said. “We want our game to continue to flourish and we have to do a better job of how we teach it.”
The hope is that the programs will develop consistency among coaches and players at all levels. The PSCs are responsible for relaying the information learned at the clinic to their coaching staffs and the athletes’ parents.
With many youth and high school teams depending on volunteers and parents with varying degrees of knowledge and backgrounds to coach the student athletes, Swenson said it’s important for everyone to be on the same page. Although everybody does things a little bit differently, Swenson said the terminology needs to be the same, so players aren’t confused about what is being asked of them.
“We’re not trying to take the aggressiveness out of the game — we just want it to be taught correctly,” he said.
Sean Kelley, a youth football coach in Monett, Mo., said he felt the clinic was useful and an important part of helping parents feel a little more at ease about football injuries, knowing that the coaches have gone through the clinic.
“It kind of gives them that confidence that, ‘hey these coaches know what they’re doing,’” Kelley said.