New data from the Fairfax County Public Schools athletic department suggests high school football is becoming safer thanks in large part to the “Heads Up” program.
News4 first reported on the program when it launched county-wide in 2013.
Fairfax County was the first in the nation to adopt it across all of its schools. The program emphasizes safer techniques in tackling, specifically protecting the head and neck.
It also requires pads to be properly fitted and more trainers to be on the field during practices.
Coaches must be certified annually.
“No matter what helmet you have it’s not concussion proof. No matter what shoulder pads you have they’re not injury proof,” Centreville High School head football coach Chris Haddock said. “This is maybe a departure from old school football where we’re just going to strap guys up and slam heads into each other. ... That’s not productive practice.”
New numbers released by FCPS show it’s having a positive impact.
“The health and safety of student-athletes is a priority across all FCPS athletic programs,” said Bill Curran, director of student activities and athletics programs, in a news release. “Coaches in several sports are taking the initiative to identify, evaluate and implement a variety of injury prevention programs in their sports. We are encouraging coaches to make thoughtful and informed decisions when developing practice plans and implementing drills and activities during practice. As a result, we have seen the number of injuries drop 16 percent and the number of concussions drop from 28 to 36 percent.”
The program is so successful it’s expanded to other sports.
Last year, both boys and girls high school lacrosse created their own version of “Heads Up."
In one year, the number of concussions among boys lacrosse players fell by almost half.
“And our hope is we continue that trend. We want to see this sustainable, we want to see continual reducing of overall injuries and to reduce concussions.”
There are plans to spread the program this school year to include wrestlers, track and field competitors, and cheerleaders.