I was glad to read that The Gazette is paying attention to the serious issue of concussions in high school football. [“Concussion awareness starts at the top,” Sports, Sept. 4]. However, this story reports that football coaches in Montgomery County Public Schools are teaching dangerous “helmet on the football” tackling.
Since the 1970s, initiating contact with the front or top of the head has been prohibited by the National Federation of High School Athletic Associations and NCAA. The technique is prohibited because it increases the risk the tackler will suffer a catastrophic and sometimes deadly cervical neck injuries.
But the story reports that, in Prince George’s County, “helmet on the ball is preached.” In Montgomery County, Walter Johnson High School football coach, John Kadi, was quoted as saying, “It should be helmet on the ball.”
Last month, I heard the football coach at Walt Whitman High School tell parents that he too taught “face mask on the football” tackling.
The widespread ignorance on this important issue among football coaches suggests that referees for MCPS and PGCPS football games are not calling face tackling penalties. In its annual survey of football injuries, NFHS underscores the danger of tackling with the front or top of the helmet “initial contact should never be made with the head/helmet or face mask.”
But NFHS notes, “at the present time, officials are not calling all helmet contacts.”
According to National Association of Athletic Trainers, the proper tackling technique is to initiate contact with the shoulders and chest. Coaches in Maryland, however, are not required or expected to know this long-standing technique that was adopted to reduce catastrophic cervical neck injuries.
But just across the Potomac, football coaches at every one of Fairfax County’s 24 high schools are taking the Heads Up course, which is aligned with the shoulder and chest tackling technique.
Unfortunately, the leadership for high school athletics in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, and at Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association, have not required football coaches to have training in current football fundamentals so that they teach safe tackling.
Instead, the leadership seems to think that high school football coaches should be allowed to coach whatever they remember, or think they remember, from when they played in college or high school.
The story says that Maryland high school football coaches are limited this year to two full contact practices per week (plus one game). If coaches in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties are coaching dangerous tackling techniques, this is two practices too many.
Tom Hearn, Bethesda