A group of 55 former NFL players were back on the field of Lucas Oil Stadium on Wednesday in order to learn techniques designed to help young football players avoid head injuries.
“It’s a different thought process,” said former Patriot and Indianapolis-native Rosevelt Colvin. “It’s an application of a lot of similar things that you’ve learned but in a different way and format.”
Colvin is among the players chosen to be ambassadors for the Heads Up Football program. It’s a joint effort between USA Football and the NFL and aims to teach proper tackling techniques to kids in hopes of reducing helmet contact on the field.
The program comes at a critical time. Concern regarding concussions has helped contribute to a drop in youth football participation. There were three million children involved in the sport in 2011, but that number fell to 2.8 million last year.
“The unrecognized concussion is really what puts kids most at risk,” said Dr. Gerry Gioia, a concussion specialist with Children’s National Medical Center.
Gioia was on hand to show the former players how the Heads Up program also educates coaches and parents about concussion signs and symptoms. Heads Up Football also teachers how to properly fit equipment.
“What we expect long-term is to actually change the culture of the sport,” said Scott Hallenbeck, executive director of USA Football. “Parents are coming to us already who have experienced head up football and they’re saying, ‘Thank you. You’re making me feel more comfortable.’”
The player ambassadors will help instruct more than 1,250 youth football leagues that have already agreed to coach Heads Up Football across the country.
“When you have an ex-NFL football player come in, as opposed to some guy who’s just learning it and going to teach it to guys, they’re going to listen a little bit more,” said former NFL quarterback Jake Plummer.
It’s a message that will be spread locally by former Colt Mike Prior.
“These kids are going to have fun doing it,” Prior said. “And learning the proper techniques is going to be lot safer if the kids learn it the correct way.”
“It’s a great tool that every coach, from Pop Warner all the way to the collegiate level and the pros, should be able to understand and learn,” Colvin said. “It does allow you to teach fundamentals correctly and make the game a little bit safer.”
For more information on Head Up Football go to http://videos.usafootball.com/pages/headsupfootball/