The Big Ten Conference on Monday announced a new partnership with USA Football, the National Football League’s official youth-football-development partner, to promote player safety among young student-athletes.
Each of the conference’s head football coaches will be taping public service announcements about the importance of participation in USA Football’s “Heads Up Football” initiative, which was launched in the summer of 2012. The program places a strong emphasis on proper tackling instruction, equipment fitting, and concussion recognition.
The PSAs filmed by coaches will be shown on the Big Ten Network, stadium video boards, the websites of the conference and member schools, and USAFootball.com.
“We are pleased to support USA Football and its Heads Up Football program,” Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said in a statement. “It is extremely important to promote the proper instruction of tackling at all levels to ensure the well-being of young athletes as well as our student-athletes—nothing is more important than their health.”
Heads Up Football, as you might guess from its name, puts a premium on youth-football players keeping their head up while attempting to make a tackle. Some researchers believe that minor, routine blows to the head could contribute to long-term brain injuries in student-athletes. Thus, the “dip and rip” method of tackling aims to reduce head contact as much as possible.
“Football is rooted in proper fundamentals and techniques—this has been the case since its earliest days,” said Northwestern University’s head coach Pat Fitzgerald in a statement. “The techniques that USA Football teaches not only make our kids better players, but safer players as well.”
Earlier this year, the Heads Up Football Advisory Committee convened for the first time at the headquarters of the NFL’s headquarters in New York City. The committee, which includes a mix of former gridiron heroes (Brett Favre, Deion Sanders, and Bill Cowher), medical professionals (Dr. Elizabeth Pieroth), football moms (Liz Raeburn), and educators (Otha Thornton, the president of the National Parent Teacher Association), aims to further the goal of promoting safe playing techniques across youth-football leagues nationwide.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.