NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Titans on Saturday teamed up with USA Football to host a free Heads Up Football® clinic for 60 coaches from across the region, including northern Alabama, at Saint Thomas Sports Park.
The clinic focused on addressing the complex challenges of player health and safety in youth and high school football.
"With the platform we have here in professional sports, especially in the NFL, it is our duty to protect this game," said Titans Executive Vice President and General Manager Ruston Webster, who was on-hand to welcome coaches to the facility. "It's so important that our youth coaches teach the right things – teach proper fundamentals and techniques – so our youth players bring the right kind of game to the collegiate and professional levels. By giving these coaches a place to go to learn ways to make our game better and safer, we're really going to be able to affect positive changes down the line."
The Titans and USA Football team up to host a free Heads Up Football clinic for 60 coaches across the region at Saint Thomas Sports Park. (Photos: Susanna Nickell)
Through presentations and panel discussions with experts in the field, as well as on-field demonstrations, Saturday's curriculum covered the following player health and safety topics: concussion awareness, sudden cardiac arrest, heat and hydration preparedness, proper equipment fitting and proper Heads Up tackling and blocking techniques.
Webster kicked off the presentation portion of the clinic, emphasizing the role of youth and high school football coaches in the proper development of their players, both on and off the field.
Dr. Andrew Zurick, Medical Director of Advanced Cardiovascular Imaging and Staff Cardiologist at Saint Thomas Heart, presented on sudden cardiac arrest, the leading cause of death in young athletes.
"Sudden cardiac arrest doesn't have a bias," Zurick said. "It can affect people of any age, gender or race, even those in apparent 'good' health."
Preparation is key in case trouble strikes, Zurick said.
"Prevention is very difficult," he said. "The best thing we can do – as coaches and as parents – is make sure we have a good emergency response plan in our communities."
Zurick stressed that time is of the essence when dealing with these types of emergencies. If patients in sudden cardiac arrest are properly treated with an automated external defibrillator within a minute, the chances of recovery are greater than 90 percent.
Next, USA Football Master Trainer Ricky Upton led the discussion on concussion awareness and prevention, encouraging coaches to create a strong support system around their players. "Not only do you teach your coaches this [how to recognize the signs and symptoms of a concussion], you teach your players and parents this," he said. "When in doubt, sit them out."
In order to help their players avoid heat exhaustion and dehydration, Upton suggested coaches check with his or her league for specific heat acclimatization guidelines. Upton also spoke to the protocol that should be in place in case of heat exhaustion or severe dehydration, such as cold tub immersion. In addition, he provided coaches with information on equipment fitting – how to properly measure for helmets and shoulder pads, the important coverage landmarks of the body for helmets and shoulder pads, how to adjust the equipment, where and how to bring equipment issues to the organization's attention and their roles in regards to in-season equipment checks and maintenance.
Transitioning to the team's indoor practice facility, Upton led coaches through the mechanics of Heads Up tackling and blocking, as well as step-by-step protocol and drills to teach their own players the techniques.
"The on-field demonstrations were great," said Glenn Moore, a clinic participant and youth football coach in Memphis. "Actually seeing them make it happen on the field makes it easier for us as coaches to teach the kids."
Moore asserts that clinics such as this help coaches fully buy into the Heads Up Football® program, and the ways in which the program strives to make the game of football better and safer.
"The Titans are proud to partner with USA Football to bring our inaugural Heads Up Football® Clinic to youth, middle and high school coaches from all over Tennessee and north Alabama," Titans Youth Football Coordinator Josh Corey said. "The information presented today by the staff at USA Football and Dr. Andrew Zurick from Saint Thomas Health provided an excellent professional development opportunity for coaches in an effort to make the game of football better and safer for the young people who play it."
Saturday's Heads Up Football® clinic is just one of many player health and safety initiatives the team will embark upon this offseason.
For more information on USA Football, the sport's governing body, or their Heads Up Football® initiative, visit http://usafootball.com/headsup.