Athletic director and football coach discuss efforts to prevent injuries
By Kathie Scanlon
Safety in Haldane sports was the topic discussed with Athletic Director Tom Cunningham and Varsity Football Head Coach Ryan McConville on Aug. 1. While injury and concussion can occur in other sports, Cunningham acknowledged the higher stakes in football: “You can’t cut corners in football.”
Equipment safety is one aspect of Heads Up Football, the program used nationally to increase safety and concussion awareness in youth football. Cunningham explained that helmets and shoulder pads are sent for reconditioning yearly to Riddell, the manufacturer at the cutting edge of safety engineering.
This equipment must be recertified annually and replaced about every 10 years. Proper planning and budgeting helps to even out the costs over time. Currently, the Blue Devils own 21 Riddell Revolution Speed helmets, the latest model of the Riddell line. Five new helmets will be purchased this year and five more in the next to replace those that will reach obsolescence.
School coaches are required by New York State to be certified every two years in Heads Up Concussion, an online training program by the Center for Disease Control. A poster taped on the door of Cunningham’s office read: “When in doubt, sit them out!” — the CDC’s recommendation if there is a suspicion of head injury during a game or practice. “Three or four years ago, this (recommendation) was not the case,” Cunningham said regarding the increased efforts to improve safety in youth sports. “Every precaution possible is taken,” Coach McConville added.
The Blue Devils varsity and JV teams will begin practicing on Aug. 18. Modified teams begin on Sept. 4. Training and practice schedules reflect the Heads Up principles for hydration and heat preparedness. While coaches can encourage good hydration, ultimately it is the athletes’ responsibility and parents can help monitor this off the field. Symptoms of dehydration include the obvious thirst and dry mouth, as well as dry, cool skin, headache, muscle cramping and decrease in urination and dark yellow urine. Sipping water, sucking ice cubes and drinking sports drinks with electrolytes may provide complete recovery when action is taken quickly.
McConville and Cunningham both emphasized the need for coaches to engender their athletes’ trust as well as the necessity for athletes to be honest with their coaches. In every post-game debriefing, players are asked to report any injuries or physical concerns. Cunningham explained the triangle of cooperation: parents, athletes, coaches and school staff, including teachers and the school nurse needed to monitor during concussion recovery.
Athletes and parents are responsible for educating themselves about the signs of concussion: headache, dizziness, neck pain, nausea, tiredness, ringing in the ears, or feeling dazed or confused. Parents and coaches can download the Heads Up app for concussion basics at cdc.gov. Trainers or EMTs assess athletes on the sidelines for signs of concussion and recommend follow-up testing when any indicators are present.
Cunningham is confident that safety is a priority in Haldane Athletics as evidenced by the decline in injury reports last year. He noted: “In previous years the injury report binder has been much thicker.”
Photo by K. Scanlon