Football team adopts new concussion prevention methods

Of all high school concussions, football is responsible for 47 percent, leading to the adoption of better tackling techniques. [Amanda Oppegard]

According to the Brain Injury Research Institute, nearly 3.8 million high school athletes suffer from concussions every year, and approximately 60 percent are experienced by football players.

Since the football team has been affected by concussions, the team has adopted a new form of tackling from the Seattle Seahawks called “Hawk Tackling” that has decreased the chances of sustaining a concussion.

“Hawk Tackling” is based on a Rugby-style tackling technique which involves full body tackling. By watching videos and practicing this new technique on bags and stationary people, football players have learned to tackle someone without relying on their helmet to make contact with the opponent− their method before “Hawk Tackling.”

The general public has had concerns about football and its injuries. People, however, did not know how to change the game of football to make it safer without compromising the rules, equipment and most importantly, the integrity of the game.

“I like Hawk Tackling, because it still allows for aggressive play and good tackling technique while keeping players safer,” Varsity Football Coach Cory Boyd said. “It allows us as coaches to establish clear vocabulary and language for teaching the sport and gives our players concrete tools they can rely on in less- controlled situations like live practice drills and games.”

Athletic Trainer Brendan Graber pulls at least two to five players out per football game to get checked for a concussion. When a player comes out of the game, Graber checks for any immediate signs of a concussion by checking the player’s memory recall, checking their balance, making sure their pupils are reactive to light and performing eye tracking assessments as well. If Graber suspects that a player has a concussion, the player cannot return into the game until they are checked by a doctor. So far this season, only one football player out of the 95 on Freshman, JV and Varsity teams has been diagnosed with a concussion. Graber does his best to try to educate as many people about concussions as he can.

“I think it’s important to have a good rapport with student athletes so that they feel comfortable coming to me if they feel like they might have a potential head injury,” Graber said.

People with a history of repetitive brain trauma may have a degenerative brain illness called Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. CTE occurs when a protein called Tau kills brain cells by forming clumps that then spread throughout the brain.

“CTE is a problem that old NFL players are having, because they didn’t have the technology we have today, and they were taught to hit with their head down,” Varsity quarterback and junior Matthew Sargent said. “I think that once we progress with technology and informing people about concussions and how to tackle safer, CTE will be less prevalent.”

“Overall, Hawk Tackling is being taught well and the game is becoming safer and safer everyday with new technology and better coaching,” Sargent said.