Accidents do happen, and while some injuries may be unavoidable, using the proper techniques and cautionary methods can decrease the likelihood of injury.
Here are some preventative measures football teams can take to decrease the likelihood of a spinal injury.
- WEAR THE RIGHT EQUIPMENT
The first step in preventing injuries is to make sure that you are wearing the right equipment. Make sure your helmet and protective gear fit properly and are well-maintained, and always buckle the chin strap on your helmet. While helmets are not 100% effective in preventing concussions, they can help to reduce the likelihood of a concussion. Some equipment manufacturers, like Riddell, are beginning to incorporate technology into helmets to help detect concussions. Special sensors placed in the helmet trigger an alert when a player sustains a hard blow. While this technology is still new, and there is not enough data to determine just how accurate these devices are, they can be a helpful tool in identifying concussions.
Football collars can be helpful in preventing burners or stingers. These U-shaped collars help to prevent over-extension of the neck to the back or side, the motions that cause burners and stingers. Some collars attach to the shoulder pads, while others are worn separately from the shoulder pads as a vest. While not all players wear football collars, they may be recommended as a preventative measure for players who have already suffered from a stinger or burner to prevent further injury or damage to the nerves.
- TACKLING: IT’S ALL IN THE TECHNIQUE
It’s important to learn the proper tackling techniques when playing football. Always use the “heads up” technique when tackling–when making a hit, you should never lower your head. The head should never be the main point of contact. Head-first tackling, commonly known as spear tackling, can not only result in a penalty, but can also increase your risk of getting a concussion. Instead, use the front of the shoulder as the main point of contact.
- COACHES AND TRAINERS: MAKE THE RIGHT CALLS
Coaches and trainers need to be aware of the proper tackling techniques and stay up-to-date on the current rules and regulations of football, no matter what level the team is playing on. Players need to be taught the proper tackling techniques to protect the safety of themselves and other players. Rules and regulations are put in place to keep the players safe and reduce the risk of injury, so it is important to make sure your team is following them.
Also, players should never be encouraged to “play through” an injury. Even if symptoms aren’t major, playing with a concussion or spine injury can cause long-term damage. If a player receives a blow to the head or neck, always make sure they undergo the proper evaluation before they are allowed back in the game. A player may tell you he feels fine after a blow to the head, but as coaches and trainers, it is your responsibility to notice the signs of an injury and make the right calls for the safety of your players.
Injuries cannot always be avoided, but taking these steps can help to increase the safety of the game for you and your team.