What does the "Heads Up Football" program accomplish? In Sunday's "Brains Under Pressure" story at The News, Chris Nowinski of BU’s Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy said he believes the league is simply "doubling down" by giving USA Football a $45 million grant to expand "Heads Up."
Concussions are to football, he explains, what lung cancer is to smoking. He views this is a dose-response issue.
Which means a very clear fix to him: encourage flag football, not contact football at the youth level.
“We’re having so much trouble with NFL guys getting this disease," Nowinski said, "we also have to face the reality that we’re giving children this disease. Even the NFL players’ risk would probably be lower if they had not played until high school. So the clear prescription here is that we no longer hit children in the head 300 times every fall before their body and brain has any chance to mature. It’s a huge change to the business of football but it’s not really a change to the game at all. The game was never invented for children in the first place. It was invented for college, invented for pros. To me, that’s just clear as day. We’re going to have to face it.
"Until we face it as a culture, we’re recommending to parents, put your kids into 7 on 7, put your kids into flag and other sports that don’t involve repetitive brain trauma. But no child deserves 300 hits every fall. If you don’t hit your own child in the head, don’t let other people do it, too.”
Thus, he sees "Heads Up" as very counterproductive.
After our story in The News ran, one NFL spokesman noted a study conducted by the Datalys Center.
The full study can be read here. The league believes the USA Football's Heads Up Football program --- which is meant to teach young kids how to properly tackle and avoid injury with the right coaching --- is getting results, pointing out the following...
--- Compared to non-Heads Up Football leagues, leagues that adopted Heads Up Football had a 76 percent reduction in injuries.
--- Players in Heads Up Football leagues were 57 percent less likely to sustain a time-loss injury, which is an injury keeping an athlete from returning to play for at least 24 hours.
--- Compared to non-Heads Up Football leagues, leagues that adopted Heads Up Football had a 34 percent reduction in concussions in practices and a 29 percent reduction of concussions in games.
This is a debate that will not go away any time soon: Would you let your son play football?
Boobie Dixon said he would. Rob Johnson, even after multiple concussions and seeing white spots on his brain, absolutely would. Percy Harvin? He said his son won't even get a tryout, that he's taken enough punishment for his family.
What say you? Feel free to comment below. It's a question all parents will face as we continue to learn more about the dangers of concussions...