MPSSAA endorses USA Football's Heads Up program to improve on-field safety

BALTIMORE - Keeping our children safe playing football is the goal of a new campaign coming to Maryland's high schools.

Tom Hearn knows the lasting effects of head injuries when student athletes going at top speed collide on the football field, he wants to make sure you know as well after his son got a concussion playing football three years ago.

"Clearly part of the NFL’s message to get out that football is safer and as a parent I would just advise other parents to do their research about whether it's really safe enough to allow their son to play,” Hearn said.

With these concerns in mind, the MPSSAA – the state’s governing body of high schools in Maryland –becomes the first high school athletic association to endorse USA Football's heads up program. The program will establish standards, procedures and education statewide and will give Maryland a uniform system in governing and maintaining safer sports programs.

The main focus starts with three points, MPSSAA Executive Director Ned Sparks said.

"First of all is the appointing of a player safety coach on every school staff,” Sparks said. “They also talked about the proper fitting of equipment and probably maybe most importantly is a change of the techniques in tackling.”

The teaching of proper tackling is expected to greatly reduce head and neck injuries and the player safety coach will only focus on players not x and o's

"The technique definitely emphasizes taking the head out of the game,” said USA Football master trainer Len Carr.

Dr. Gerald Gioia of  Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. added: “We're able to recognize the injury hopefully sooner than we have in the past and pull kids off the field.”

The program also includes the teaching of field officials

"When they're on the field they’re the only really adult on the field right?” said Scott Hallenbeck with USA Football. “So to be there just like they do on every other level of football and make sure they're helping not only from the concussion standpoint which is first and foremost, making sure players are tackling properly as well and doing other things just reminding them" 

Added Hearn: "This is a very important period of your child’s life and the kind of life they have after high school might be related to some extent whether or not they sustain those 650 to 1,000 hits to the head for four years."

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