In the world of football there are many words and phrases synonymous with the grueling gridiron sport. One of them that has long since been linked to the sport is concussion.
Football has long been noted as a hard hitting and dangerous sport that has had many parents questioning their children’s involvement in the sport itself. Concussions have been the primary topic concerning safety in the world of football over the past five to ten years.
While the topic of concussions have rightfully forced the football world to take a step back and reexamine how the game is played, over the last few years some people have held a slightly negative light on the sport as a whole. While the game can be violent at times and has been directly linked to various injuries such as concussions, many are perceiving the sport as we know it today, to be a much more violent version of the past.
While safety in football has been under intense scrutiny over the past years, many have overlooked just how much the phrase “safety in football” has made a comeback. Over the last five to ten years many health professionals, coaches, and just plain football enthusiasts have come together to make the sport, dare we say it, safer, starting in the high school ranks.
As a parent, it might be hard to allow a child to go out for high school football but as Dallas Center-Grimes head football coach Scott Heitland mentioned, the sport is at an all-time safety high.
“The sport of football right now is just about as safe as it has ever been,” began Heitland. “There have been a lot of studies out there and it’s because of those studies that the sport is now safer.”
Heitland, a former president of the Iowa High School Football Coaches Association from 2016-2018, has been a big advocate for safety in the sport of football. Coach Heitland has been aware of the injuries associated with football and has been very in touch with concussions and how to address them over the years.
“The level of education, updated equipment, and techniques are as good as they’ve ever been and that’s because of the strong look at head trauma and how to prevent such things from happening,” said Heitland.
The education factor has been quite significant and includes the requirement of all high school football coaches to be certified in the care and prevention of concussions.
Yet despite all the work put forth, the negative stigma still follows the gridiron sport, something coach Heitland wishes to change.
“I think some people have acquired the wrong view of football and the work high school coaches around the state put in,” began Heitland. “The sport is actually much safer than before.”
That line of thinking isn’t just shared across high school football coaches, but also across football players as well.
“I’ve always felt safe playing football,” said DC-G Mustang senior Rowan Collins. “Our coaches do a great job of teaching us about the sport when we’re young and continually make sure we’re using proper tackling techniques.”
Fellow senior Rudy Stallman shared those thoughts.
“Our coaches give us the right equipment so that we can just play the game and not worry,” stated Stallman.
Safety within the sport is not just a feeling anymore, it’s starting to become a reality. According to a recent National Federation of State High School Associations article, “the rate of concussions during practice dropped below 5.0 per 1,000 athletic exposures to 4.77 during the 2015-16 season”, Porter, Cody “Studies Show Decline in Rate of Concussions”.
The numbers suggest that concussion rates are starting to decrease and as coach Heitland explained, it all starts with the youth.
“Coaches around the sport have been really progressive about safety and a lot of it comes in the youth leagues,” said Heitland. “We are doing a good job along with Adel in terms of keeping kids in flag football longer and holding kids back from contact longer. Kids should learn how to play the game properly with the right techniques before they engage in full contact.”
Coach Heitland also talked about how many individuals both in and out of the sport are doing all they can to keep the narrative positive with the game of football.
“While we’re having our obstacles in terms of the challenges that are out there, high school coaches across the state have embraced this new threat to the game and they’re doing everything to promote the positives and that’s going a long way.”
So while some may still view the sport in a negative light with concussions, the sport of football is proving to be safer now than ever, and many are working tirelessly to prove that football has truly become a safer sport.