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“Heads Up” Program Lowers Rate of Concussion in High School Football

With football season right around the corner, thoughts are returning to the ever-present challenge of player safety. A study presented at this year’s Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons in San Diego gave encouraging results for limiting concussion risk in high school football. A new curriculum from USA Football known as “Heads Up” sets guidelines and a framework for high school athletic programs to improve football safety. The program includes certification of coaches, instruction in safer blocking and tackling techniques, as well as training on concussion recognition and response protocols.

Last season, 2500 high school players in South Carolina were studied for the effects of the program. The players were divided into two groups: one group were from schools that had instituted the “Heads Up” program, and the other group of players came from schools that did not. The study authors found an astonishing 33% reduction in the number of concussions over the course of the season for teams involved in the Heads Up program. What’s more, Heads Up players who did sustain a concussion were safely returned to play 27 percent faster than non-Heads Up players – likely due to earlier recognition and implementation of appropriate treatment.

This study was one of the first of its kind to demonstrate how a program to teach better and safer technique can successfully limit the number of concussions in high school football. Organizers plan wider implementation and a larger study that will no doubt continue to improve the effectiveness of the program. Click here for more information.

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