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Tackling injuries


The NFL’s recent $765 million settlement with former football players grabbed lots of public attention about the dangers of head injuries incurred playing football. But it is incidents such as Sam Dailey’s recent injury that are more likely to increase support for a state senator’s latest effort to make youth sports safer in Indiana.

Last week, Dailey, a senior and star running back/linebacker for Columbia City High School’s football team, began therapy at a rehabilitation center after suffering a severe head injury in his team’s season opener on Aug. 23. Dailey was injured while trying to tackle an opposing player and ended up at the hospital in critical condition. He had surgery to relieve the pressure on his brain and spent days in the hospital. He faces a long recovery.

Also last week, Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, announced he will sponsor a bill in the next session requiring all youth football coaches in Indiana to complete certified training to prevent head injuries. Completion of the online course will be a requisite for coaches to use public fields.

“This is really more about training coaches on teaching football,” Holdman said. “A lot of coaches are not aware about teaching techniques on tackling that can prevent injuries. We just thought we needed more teeth in the training requirements for coaches before coaches get on the field with kids of any age to ensure the coach has good training on the techniques.”

Holdman was also the sponsor of a 2011 law that garnered praise from the National Coalition on Youth Sports Concussions. That law requires coaches to remove from play immediately any athlete they suspect of having suffered a concussion.

It also requires the athlete to be evaluated by a qualified professional before returning to the game.

He said his proposed bill is the next step in protecting Indiana’s young athletes.

Nobody wants those young athletes to imperil their futures because of a preventable brain injury. And it’s hard to argue against increasing education for coaches who perhaps play the most important role in protecting players. But legislating behavior is very difficult.

“It’s going to be a lot more than feel-good legislation because it’s going to come down to dollars and cents,” Holdman said. “Insurance companies will basically be the enforcers for ensuring coaches have the training or then not covering the liability insurance. So, it’s very important for coaches to get on board with this.”

The training would be “Heads Up Football,” an online program created by USA Football, the nation’s governing body for the sport, which is headquartered in Indianapolis.

According to Steve Alic, spokesman for the nonprofit USA Football, the program includes 15 chapters with quizzes after each chapter and takes about 90 minutes to two hours to complete. It covers proper tackling techniques, positive coaching skills and player safety, specifically how to spot concussion symptoms and how to properly fit safety equipment. It costs $5 for youth football coaches and $25 for high school coaches.

Alic said it is the first football coaching course that is nationally accredited. It’s used by about 2,800 youth football leagues nationally, which equates to a little more than 25 percent of the leagues.

“Heads Up Football has gone through a thorough review from not only football experts but an extensive review from medical experts as well,” he said.

If this education program is the most effective way to prevent a concussion in a young athlete, then state legislators should give the proposed legislation careful consideration when the General Assembly reconvenes in January.