In 2013, FCPS adopted USA Football’s Heads Up Football, an education-based approach to injury prevention. That has resulted in a significant decline in injuries, said Bill Curran, the school system’s director of student activities and athletic programs. FCPS was the first high school program in the U.S. to adopt Heads Up Football.
FCPS reports that concussions have dropped more than 43 percent since its adoption of Heads Up Football, and that injuries have fallen nearly 24 percent.
The Virginia High School League also endorses Heads Up Football.
Head injuries have become a national issue as many former NFL players have presented with Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a brain degenerative brain condition, from repeated tackling and blocking in their careers.
This year, the Pop Warner League — the country’s largest youth football program — settled its first and only concussion-related lawsuit that was brought by the mother of a former player who blamed the sport for her son’s suicide.
Meanwhile, Pop Warner enrollment has been declining in the last five years due to concerns over potential injuries, ESPN reported.
“The data clearly show that our student athletes are benefitting from this partnership with USA Football and that FCPS is seeing significant returns,” said Curran. “Players are spending more time on the field and in the classroom as we have seen the number of concussions and total injuries drop during this three-year period.”
Head Up football reinforces tackling fundamentals designed to reduce helmet contact. It also incorporates Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) concussion recognition and response protocols, proper helmet and shoulder pad fitting, as well as heat injury preparedness and sudden cardiac arrest protocols.
“We have always taken a cautious approach to injuries, defined as anything that would cause the student to miss a day of practice,” Curran said in a release. “Heads Up Football is part of a proactive approach to injury prevention, and it’s rewarding to see that our efforts are having a positive impact.”
The fundamentals of the Heads Up Football program have expanded to other sports, says Curran. It is being used in boys and girls lacrosse (where FCPS student concussion rates have fallen from 36 to 33 percent, and their student injuries drop 16 percent), as well as cheerleading. Curran says FCPS plans to expand the program to other sports.
Photo: SLHS football/fil photo; Graphic: FCPS football injuries since 2008/Credit: FCPS
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