Keeping players safe on the gridiron

KENT COUNTY, Mich.,–Football teams across West Michigan are busy preparing for those big Friday night games under the lights, the energy and excitement around the season pumping up. But the importance of player safety still of utmost importance especially when it comes to concussions and head injuries.

From the NFL to youth football, discussions about them and research surrounding concussions more prevalent in recent years and local teams are taking steps to keep players safe.

Northview High School varsity head football coach Max Kerry says during practices they limit the amount of hitting and teach the fundamentals of tackling, stressing to players not to use the helmet as a weapon.

“We go over a practice plan everyday, the top of the practice plan says “heads up” technique, all blocks and tackle, keep kids healthy” he said.

They also have ‘guardian caps’ for players to wear on their helemts who have had concussions before, giving them even more protection during practice. In Michigan a law went into effect last year requiring immediate removal of an athlete who is suspected of having a concession. The training staff at Northview says over the years they have created a good relationship with local physicians and have come with a six-step return to play plan.

In recent years, the staff has also started useing basline concussion testing. “It’s a computerized test so that if some point in the season, someone gets hit hard and they’re not feeling right our trainer can take them, put them through another test and if there’s a difference in score then we know there’s a possible head injury. It takes the guessing out of whether someone is really hurt, is it severe, mild, it makes it easier for our trainer and athletic department to really diagnose,” Kerry said.

All steps to keep players safer as they look forward to the games ahead.

“I think it’s just pushing the education of it, teaching kids that they have to take care of themselves. I think some of it creates some fear so they start to have anxiety so we teach them about this is a concussion, you don’t have to be scared about it but you have to be aware and you have to learn how to protect yourself.”

Kerry also says nutrition and hydration are something they work with players on, not just on the field but off. An important aspect in keeping players healthy that Kerry says often gets overlooked.

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