Athletes head injuries; Athletic training method shown to reduce head injuries in high school football will be rolled out in Hawaii next week through an $800,000 grant to the UMass Lowell researcher who designed the system. High school football players who practiced tackling and blocking drills without helmets experience a 26 to 33% decline in head impacts during games when using a training technique creat by UMass Lowell Prof. Erik Swartz.
“By conducting training without helmets, players can learn to avoid hitting with their heads as the first point of contact and some may even improve their tackling abilities. While a helmet is require for full-contact practices and games, repeat training in tackling and blocking without wearing a helmet reinforces techniques that leave the head out of contact,” said Swartz, chairman of the Department of Physical Therapy and Kinesiology in UMass Lowell’s Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences.
Athletes head injuries
Next week, Swartz will begin the next phase of his research; so working with 200 high school football players in Hawaii and partners at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and its Hawaii Concussion Awareness and Management Program (HCAMP). The research is fully fund through a grant from the GOG Foundation; so name in honor of Gary Galiher, a well-known attorney in Hawaii who practiced for nearly 40 years.
Public concern about sports relate concussions has been mounting; so in the wake of increase reports of former athletes developing cognitive impairments such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), dementia and depression. A national UMass Lowell-Washington Post poll found that 77% of pro football fans said that head injuries that cause long-term health issues for players are a major problem. In a separate national UMass Lowell poll; so more than three quarters survey said; so it is not appropriate for children to participate in tackle football before age 14.
The researchers led by Swartz then analyzed the frequency of blows; so to the head among all players, comparing those who received the helmetless training and those who did not. Results show that drills perform without a helmet; so during training reduced the frequency of head impacts; hence during play in the mid-point of both seasons, especially during games. Hits to the head averaged 206 per player per season; so lower than players who did not receive Swartz’s training, he said.
Impacts of the training
“Our study was the first to use a randomize control trial design; which means we used a control group that helps to ensure that other factors did not influence the results,” Swartz said. “Other tackling and blocking trainings exist but they’ve never been studied scientifically to see if players reduced their head impacts as a result of the training.”
Starting next week, Swartz and his team will observe how football players; who behave without the training. To measure head impacts during games, sensors will be attached inside players’ helmets. “Our overall goal is to see if this learned behavior of tackling and blocking without leading with the head; so will continue when athletes go back to wearing helmets during full-contact practice and games,” Swartz said.
The study will include identifying how often drills; so should be completed each week and the other resources that need to be in place. This will allow the researchers to better understand how student football programs across the country at all levels can begin training players using Swartz’s system. “They have more work to do, but the signs are very encouraging that we can change player behavior,” he said.