NEYSA held a Parent Symposium and Player Clinic at Starpoint to help promote concussion awareness.
Concussions have been one of the most popular topics when it comes to football in the past three years, especially when the ex-NFL players received a $765 million payout from the league in the infamous lawsuit settlement.
As a result, USA Football developed its “Heads Up” protocol three years ago.
Now the newly formed Niagara Erie Youth Sports Association has followed suit in implementing USA Football’s protocols by holding their first ever Parent Symposium and Player Clinic at Starpoint High School.
“That’s part of what ‘Heads Up’ football protocols are,” NEYSA President Ray Turpin said of concussion awareness. “It’s to get the head out of the game and to teach them to make a proper tackle and not endanger themselves. What we are trying to do is educate, not just the kids, but the parents.”
NEYSA also used two guest speakers in Section VI Football Chairman and USA Football master trainer Ken Stoldt and former Buffalo Bills safety and current color commentator Mark Kelso as advocates for the symposium.
Stoldt, the former Alden High School football coach, educated the kids and parents on the ‘Heads Up’ key components which include education and certification, equipment fitting, concussion recognition and awareness, heat and hydration, and heads up tackling.
“We have some of the foremost football minds in the world working on this,” Stoldt said of USA Football protocols. “This isn’t just a fly-by-night thing. They have their top people working on these aspects and what we are doing is trying to get the point out there that the best equipment in the world isn’t going to keep you from injuries. We need to put our heart and soul into education, teaching coaches to have kids in proper position when they are making tackles.”
While football is undoubtedly one of the more physical and violent sports in the world it is not the leader in concussion and head-related injuries among youths.
According to a study done from the 2008 to 2012 school years by the Pediatric Injury Prevention, Education and Research Program (PIPER) at the Colorado School of Health, football was actually found to be third in the sports with the highest concussion rates, behind ice hockey and boy’s lacrosse.
However with an increase in awareness on concussions and how to diagnose symptoms, Stoldt believes that you may see an increase in concussion rates before you see a decrease due to the new systems that are being put in place.
“It wouldn’t be surprising to see a rise in the amount of concussions,” said Stoldt. “People are going to be more familiar with the signs and symptoms. There is going to be more reporting of concussions than there were in the past. So it actually wouldn’t be a surprising for the first couple of years to see a rise in the number of concussions. Not there are more, but there are more being reported because they know more about it.”
Kelso, who became infamous for his ProCap helmet during the latter part of his career, due to several concussions in the late 1980s.
In what is most a truly a sign of the times, Kelso didn’t miss a game in 1988 or 1989 and intercepted 19 passes from 1987 to 1989.
Now just a few days shy of his 51st birthday, Kelso is an ambassador for USA Football and concussion awareness.
“I think the message that certainly I want to send, and USA Football and even the NFL wants to send is that you can play the game successfully, you can play the game for entertainment and you play the game safely at the same time,” Kelso said. “The whole idea is that, I want kids to play. I want my own kids to play. I just want them to play it in the safest possible manner. There is no better way to develop character traits that are going to be a foundation for life after football or off the football field. You want kids to be able to enjoy those benefits without the potential long-term effects of health depreciation.”
The former NFL standout-turned fifth grade teacher also believes that it is critical to teach players proper techniques at an early age in order to get it engrained in their memories so that they can carry it throughout their football careers, rather than attempting to teach it later in life when they are already used to doing things a certain way.
“It’s a muscle memory thing,” Kelso said of proper techniques. “The concussion thing is a huge problem and proper form [tackling] is one big piece of the puzzle. Manufacturing and proper head protection is another big piece of the puzzle, strength and conditioning as well. When you teach these young athletes proper form, particularly at a young age, it becomes part of their muscle memory and they don’t have to think about it. As they grow they begin to engage that technique and play the game in a safe manner.”
NEYSA has also taken a huge step in football safety by making it mandatory for all of their coaches to become USA Football certified, something that is not required nationwide for all youth football coaches.
For more information on NEYSA or the USA Football “Heads Up” protocols, go to www.niagaraerieyouthsports.wordpress.com.