Injury rates in youth football teams in the 2014 season by implementation of Heads Up Football (HUF), affiliation with Pop Warner Football (PW), event type, and type of injury. Players in the non–Heads Up Football (NHUF) group were also not affiliated with Pop Warner Football. Time-loss injuries are those that restrict participation for at least 24 hours. AE, athlete-exposure, defined as 1 athlete’s participation in 1 practice or 1 competition.
No matter how careful a player is, there’s really no way to avoid injuries completely. Any fast-paced, high-impact, contact sport exposes athletes to a certain amount of risk. If you play your heart out, there’s a very real chance that you will suffer injuries during the course of your career. Heck, you can get injured just playing a pick-up game of basketball at the park or throwing the football around with your friends.
But according to a 2015 study, coaches can play a very large role in reducing the risk that their players will be injured. Something as simple as injury prevention courses for coaches is a highly effective method of keeping players safe. The study, conducted at the Datalys Center for Injury Research and Prevention, tracked data collected during the 2014 football season. The researchers divided the athletes into three groups: a control group with no coach education program, a group of coaches who had participated in the Heads-Up coaching education program, and a group of coaches who had participated in both the Heads-Up and Pop Warner Football program intended to restrict potentially injurious physical contact during football practice.
As suspected, the teams under coaches who had gone through either the Heads-Up coaching program or both the Heads-Up and Pop Warner program had significantly lower injury rates—2.73 injuries for every 1,000 exposures for the former coaches, and 0.97 injuries per 1,000 exposures for the latter. Compare that to the 7.32 per 1,000 exposures for coaches with no coach education, and you can see the difference. The groups also had much lower injury rates per game: 3.42 per 1,000 exposures for the test groups versus 13.42 per 1,000 exposures for the control group. The data points to one simple, irrefutable fact: education saves lives. Or, less dramatically, it can reduce the risk of injuries.
The Heads-Up football program was created by USA Football, the national football governing body, in order to teach coaches how to train their players as safely as possible. The Pop Warner Football program was also intended to reduce in practice contact for the purpose of reducing injuries.
Coaches who want to get the most out of their team would do well to consider undergoing one or both of these training programs. Consider it an investment into the future, safety, and wellbeing of your athletes. Injuries sustained at such a young age (5-15 years old) can worsen as the players grow older, potentially preventing them from having a successful football career. It’s in your and their best interest for you to undergo the education that can help them to practice and train safely.
1. Z. Y. Kerr, S. Yeargin, T. C. V. McLeod, V. C. Nittoli, J. Mensch, T. Dodge, R. Hayden, T. P. Dompier, “Comprehensive Coach Education and Practice Contact Restriction Guidelines Result in Lower Injury Rates in Youth American Football.” Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine, 2015; 3 (7) DOI: 10.1177/2325967115594578.