Every year over a million students in high school and youth participate in playing football. Of all the sports discussed in this blog, football has a highest potential for causing injuries. Therefore, it is of particular importance to know how to participate in a safe way and to heed the following recommendations.
Make sure that each player is within the safe weight & strength classification for the league. A person outside of those parameters could be easily hurt or hurt someone else.
A player should receive a physical exam before participating in organized school or recreational programs.
Each participant must know and follow all the rules of the game, especially safety rules such as:
1. No clipping (blocking a player by hitting the side or back of his knee).
2. No head on chest tackling.
Each participant must know and be able to perform proper playing techniques as a reflex. He does not have time to think about technique during the few seconds each play lasts. He must partake in practice which continually reviews the basics.
Each participant should do a complete stretching routine.
Grab the ball carrier with your hands and arms. Keep your neck to the side of the ball carrier’s body. Never hit the ball carrier’s body with top of your head - it could cause a head and/or neck injury
Use your arms for blocking, keep your head up, and never use your forehead or top of your head as a “spear”. Never “clip". This could cause a lifetime injury for the struck player.
Proper fitting equipment is extremely important for safety. The player should wear the best equipment available on his or the team’s budget. If the budget is so small that only unsafe equipment is available, football should not be played until better equipment can be obtained. This point is very important.
Helmet quality and safety elements must be established and approved by at least the state high school athletic association.
The helmet must fit properly. The crown of athlete’s head must comfortably touch the top part of the webbing or padding on the inside top of the helmet. It must not touch too tight, too light, or not at all.
It must be snug enough to take blows and yet not so tight that the head & neck will dangerously twist if the helmet is twisted during play. To determine this do two things.
1. Put an index finger between helmet and the player’s jaw, just in front of the ear. If you can’t, it’s too tight. If there is room for more fingers, it is too loose.
2. Have the athlete face forward and hold his neck ridged. Hold the helmet and twist it sideways left and right. If it’s the proper size, there will be a slight movement of the helmet more than movement of the player. If there is a lot of movement or no movement of the helmet, the helmet is too loose or too tight. Only allow the athlete to wear a helmet that fits properly.
It must have a face guard (mask) securely attached to it that prevents the foot of another player from hitting the face and yet allows the athlete enough field of vision to see what he is doing.
The back lower rim of the helmet must not pinch the back of the player’s neck when the head flexes back. If it does, it could cause a tragic accident if the head is flexed back hard due to a tackle or block.
The chin strap(s) need to fit the chin directly in the center. If it does not, adjust it. The snaps must be secure enough to hold up against blows to the head during the game, but not so tight that the player cannot unsnap it when necessary.
A mouth guard must be worn during every play. It needs to fit snugly, and allow the player to breathe normally. Mouth guards with a strap that attaches to the face mask allows the player to remove it from his mouth between plays and not lose it. Mouth guards can be purchased as a pre-made, one piece fits all type, or as a customized type that is molded specifically for one individual’s mouth. The best type of mouth guard is one that feels comfortable to the individual athlete that he will wear during every play in a game and in practice.
Pads must fit over the joint being protected at all times. If they slip off during use they need to be repaired or replaced. Check each pad to determine if it is able to protect the body or if it’s too flat and worn out to provide protection. If it is, replace it. Check the elastic that holds the pads on the body. If it needs replacing, replace it.
Shoes - high tops provide much better protection from twisted ankles and from kicks to the ankles then do low top shoes.
Cleats are an important part of the game for traction to run down the field and for preventing ankle and knee injury. If a player is tackled on the side of the knee (clipped) and his feet slide out off the ground, he has a much smaller chance of knee injury then if his cleats hold to the ground while his knee is being bent sideways by the tackler. The player needs to use the shortest cleat possible that will still give him adequate traction without allowing his foot to stick to the ground during a tackle.
At least one person should be at each practice and game who is trained in CPR and first aid and is equipped with an adequately supplied first aid kit.
Taping ankle joints is a good practice before games and practice. Two areas of caution need to be noted for taping are:
The person taping the athlete must know how to do it properly. Joints can be taped too tight or too loose, taping can cause blisters and cuts and allergic reactions to the tape which can keep the athlete out of the activity for a few days. To learn how to tape, visit the athletic trainer at your local high school, college or sports mediation clinic at a local hospital. If that does not work, phone the Cramer Co at 1.800.345.2231. They specialize in sports medicine supplies and sponsoring workshops for athletic trainers.
Taping must only be used to support a strong joint or to a support a weak joint which is healthy. Taping must never be used as the major support for an injured joint. When in doubt, talk with the athlete's physician for proper advice. Don’t use drugs to “mask” the pain. If the athlete is too injured to play safely, keep him out of the game and practice.
The Field - Before every game or practice, a designated person should walk the field to check for holes, rocks, glass, or other dangers to players and eliminate the hazard before activity begins. Check the goal posts to see that they are properly padded.
Weather can cause major problems for football players.
Heat - Football players are usually heavy people, especially those who play on the front line, guards, tackles, centers. Their weight, heavy, hot uniforms, a helmet, and strenuous practice, and a hot day all add up to potential problems of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. To prevent these problems, do the following:
Early in the season, acclimatize the players by going three days only in shorts or shorts and helmets. Add the additional equipment on a progressive basis until the players are use to the heat.
Use the buddy system to look for heat illness, the buddy should let the coach know immediately if his buddy is showing signs of heat illness or showing signs of any other problem.
Water breaks should be taken often during hot weather. Fluids should contain electrolytes such as found in sports drinks.
Beware of the heat index where the combination of temperature and humidity is too high to safely practice in. To see a detailed Heat Index Chart, Google Heat Index Chart.
Basically it shows a combination of Heat and Humidity. The higher each is the greater the chance of illness.
A trained person, such as a certified athletic trainer, knows how to take a “wet bulb” reading to determine the relative humidity.
Many factors determine the changes of heat illness, such as the length of exposure to heat, the humidity, the person’s age, general health, and amount of fluids and electrolytes the person is taking in, and amount of direct sun exposure and the amount, and type of clothing the person is wearing. It’s much better to be cautious when dealing with heat issues.
A quick look at temperatures:
Temperature: 80 to 90 degrees F = Caution: Fatigue is possible with prolong exposure and activity. Continuing activity could result in Heat Cramps
90 to 105 degrees F = Extreme Caution: Heat Cramp and Heat Exhaustion are possible. Continuing activity could result in Heat Stroke.
105-130 degrees F = Danger: Health Cramp and Heat Exhaustion is likely; Heat Stroke is probable with continued activity
Over 130 degrees F = Extreme Danger: Heat Stroke in imminent
Signs of Heat Illness include:
- Heavy sweating or no sweating.
- Nauseous - vomiting
- Change of personality
- Feeling faint - unconsciousness
- Severe headache
At high school football practice in Butonsville, Maryland, Toy Trice, a football player had a bolt of lightning tear a hole in his helmet, burn his jersey, and blow off his shoes. He stopped breathing, but was successfully resuscitated on the spot. Lightning is a real hazard on the practice and game field as there are 40 or so sweaty people on an open crested field, often with large poles with electric metal lights on top.
Any time lightning is seen and thunder is heard within five seconds after the flash - the football game should be postponed until the lighting is gone. Some authorities say until no lightning is seen for 30 minutes.
NEVER be on the field or in the grand stands when lightning is near.
I wish the best to all athletes to enjoy healthy competition.