When you hear of football, some things that might come to mind are physical, brutal, tough, speed. But for some they might also think of concussions and head injuries. And, on September 30th, tragedy struck on the gridiron as a Georgia High School football player passed away. According to Pike County Coroner Terrell A. Moody,”Dylan’s official cause of death is cardiac arrest, due to, or as a consequence of traumatic brain injury.”
With the news about Thomas’s death, it has shaken the sport of football around the country, and left many shocked when they heard about the news.
“I have always felt that the risks involved in football are out measured considerably by the benefits, the teachings, and the life lessons that are learned from football,” said St. Cloud Tech High School Coach Jon Benson. “But every time you hear something like this, it certainly makes you remember that it is a game after all. The big game is the big game of life, and football seems pretty insignificant when you hear of tragedies such as this.”
News about concussions and head injuries has implemented changes with how coaches teach their athletes to tackle. Here in the state of Minnesota changes have been made with the Minnesota State High School League, MSHSL, with new implemented rules and restrictions that have limited the amount of full contact that teams can have during the week for practice.
“The days of old-fashioned line up and do the bull in the ring and Omaha drills, with heavy mashing contact drills, are gone today,” said Benson. Benson, along with other coaches, have learned to adjust their coaching schemes with the new rules and regulations. Benson talks about how he has practiced tackling with his team and uses the heads up mentality as well as using techniques to help remove using your head completely when tackling.
“We have used non-tackling contact drills, along with teaching our athletes the idea of lowering our target that you see in the National Football league (NFL) get the tackle low, and roll tackle,” said Benson. Benson also stats that brutality isn’t the objective, and that teams are going after the ball. New techniques have helped players tackle proper and correctly, which has helped make the game safer to play.
Another great aspect that has helped the game has been the advancement of technology, which has helped improve the equipment that athletes use.
“Today’s technology that we have now as far as helmets, is light-years ahead of anything that I put on my head when I was playing,” said Benson. “It’s incredible how far technology has come especially to see all the new improvements and additions to helmets these days. It’s helped prevent impact and blows to the player’s head.”
Part of the new changes with the equipment at St. Cloud Tech include new helmets called the Schutt F7 Football helmet. The new advancements for the helmet include new protective head wear. It is the first helmet that includes padding on the outside of the shell which is part of the Schutt’s Three Dimensional Movement System (3DM) which has Tektonic Plates on top of the padding, helping to condense impact made from tackling, as well as absorb the impact. Another factor to the helmet includes a larger twist release bumper in the back and the front of the helmet that better protects the athlete’s jaw. The inside of the helmet has better padded cushion inside the helmet that also helps with lessening blows to the head.
With the new helmets at St. Cloud Tech, players are excited about the new upgrades. “It is really incredible how far technology has come with making new designs of helmets,” said Senior Linebacker Drew Kiffneyer. “The equipment has changed quite a bit from when I was a freshman in high school, to now in senior year, it’s incredible to see the changes, and I feel that with the new helmets it has helped make the game of football safer.”
With the new changes to tackling and equipment, there have also been improved changes with the way they evaluate their players for concussions.
“They have definitely taken more steps in the process,” said Kiffneyer. “I know now if we get a concussion there is a longer process. It is at least a week, and you have to take it one day at a time. It starts off with just practicing with your helmet, than one day with pads, and just keep adding on to help get you back into the swing of things before you participate in a full practice and enter in the game.”
With the changes being made to the sport of football, both Kiffneyer and Benson say that there is a bright future ahead for football.
“I am really excited to see what the future has in store for football,” said Kiffneyer. “I know concussions are going to be hard to be avoided completely, and hard to prevent, but i do think that concussions are going to be dropped. It’s going to be exciting to see other changes being made for football.”
“I feel strongly that football is going to work its way through this and we are going to see that it is going to find a happy medium,” said Benson.
Benson also says with these new changes being made to the game, he can tell parents that your children should play this game. “I can look parents right in their eyes, and tell them that football has done a lot to make it safer. Football is going to be good for your child. The game is going into the right direction.” Benson likes to tell parents that the reward far outweighs the risks involved with football.
Football is a game which is physical and tough, but over the years it has made changes to help improve the game with the advancement of technology, new equipment, and teaching athletes better tackling technique. This changes are helping move the game in the right direction.