SAN DIEGO — Research presented at the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine’s Specialty Day indicates an educational program that focuses on preventative blocking and tackling methods reduced concussion rates among high school football players.
“This is the first study to examine the Heads Up Football Program vs. non-Heads Up Football Program training in a high school football cohort, and Heads Up tackling reduced concussions by up to 40% in the upstate of South Carolina,” John M. Tokish, MD, study co-author from Steadman Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas, said in his presentation. “In addition, they were less severe, with a 27% faster return to full play [with] clearance by a standardized protocol.”
The study monitored 2,514 high school football players from 24 schools in Greenville Country, South Carolina during the 2015 competitive football season. At least one coach from each of 14 of the schools, who oversaw 1,818 athletes in total, received training in USA Football’s Heads Up Program. Coaches at the remaining 10 schools, who oversaw 696 athletes in total, performed standard training and football practice. Athletic trainers at each school from the same athletic training group collected and reported injury information at all practices and games throughout the season. They also conducted random monitoring for coach and player compliance with the Heads Up protocol at three time points during the season.
In total, 117 concussion injuries were observed. Of these, 75 occurred in Heads Up athletes and 42 occurred in non-Heads Up athletes. The concussion rate for athletes with Heads Up training was 4.1% compared with 6% for athletes without Heads Up training. In addition, athletes with Heads Up training returned to full participation 27% faster than athletes without Heads Up training.
In summarizing the message of the results, Tokish said, “Football remains a dangerous game, but proper education may help it to become more safe.” – by Abbey Bigler
Tokish JM, et al. Paper #23. Presented at: American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine Specialty Day at the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons Annual Meeting; March 18, 2017; San Diego.