Coaches stress proper tackling to avoid head injuries

From left, Morgan City High School Defensive Line Coach James Bennett instructs players Calvin Bergeron, Tiryce Oliney, Dustin Harris and Harlan Francis during an off-season workout Tuesday afternoon. (The Daily Review/ Crystal Thielepape)

In response to the recent concern over head-injuries in contact sports, area football coaches say they routinely train players how to try to avoid those injuries and have policies in place to protect athletes from further trauma should they suffer concussions.
Central Catholic High School Head Coach Tommy Minton said his coaching staff stresses “taking the head out of football.”
Concussions are at the forefront of everyone’s minds at the moment, Minton said. “We try to teach taking contact on with the shoulder and chest area getting their head across the ball where it’s not at a contact point and wrapping with the arms,” Minton said.
Offensive players also learn proper blocking technique and are taught not to use their heads, Minton said. “It’s definitely a focal point of the teaching that we’re doing,” Minton said. The Louisiana High School Athletic Association, school administrators, and everyone involved in high school sports have drilled home the importance of adequate safety education, Minton said.
Patterson High School Head Coach Chad Blanchard said educating coaches is the first step to try to prevent concussions. Coaches stress the importance of proper tackling and use of equipment while monitoring players closely to make sure athletes are indeed following those rules, Blanchard said.
Showing student-athletes instructional videos for safe play helps a lot in the educational process, Blanchard said. “Once you educate them on it, the rest of it is up to them to just make sure they treat it the right way and do it the right way,” Blanchard said.
Berwick High School Head Coach Craig Brodie said St. Mary Parish Athletic Director Lenny Armato hired a group of trainers to do a baseline test on student-athletes. Players then take the test again if they are symptomatic of a concussion in order to see if the athlete was affected by the injury. “We do that for all of our athletes who are in contact sports,” Brodie said.
If an athlete does have a concussion, doctors run physical, mental, and cognitive testing to determine if and when an athlete is ready to return to the sport, Brodie said.
Brodie and other Berwick coaches emphasize proper tackling techniques from the first day of contact in practice, he said. “One of the problems with concussions is it’s not a one-time blow to the head,” Brodie said. “We try to limit the amount of full contact in our practices, too, because accumulation of hits throughout the weeks can lead up to concussions.”
Though coaches like players to be able to go full-speed in practice, they do not want to bring on the negative effects caused by too many hits, Brodie said. “We try to go full-speed to the ball and wrap up,” Brodie said.
Morgan City High School Head Coach Scott Tregle said his players work on tackling drills every day. “We stress proper tackling and head placement and not to lead with your head,” Tregle said. The team recently bought new helmets that should help better protect players from head-injuries, he said.
“I know last year they had a few concussions, but in the spring we had zero injuries through the whole nine days of practice and the games,” Tregle said. The team was extremely fortunate to not have any concussions during spring practice, he said.
“I think we’re teaching the right way to play,” Tregle said. Morgan City football coaches have gone to lots of clinics and training sessions on trying to prevent head injuries, he said. “A lot of people are teaching the wrong technique nowadays,” Tregle said.

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