Coaches go to lengths to protect players

Published 3:06 am Sunday, November 14, 2010

NATCHEZ — Trinity Episcopal head coach David King doesn’t take concussions lightly.

Like all coaches, King wants his players to experience as many wins as possible, but if a player is suspected of having a concussion, King said it’s not a situation to be reckless with.

“I hate it for any kid that loses their career (over a concussion), but there’s a lot more out there in life than a high school football game,” King said.

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As the threat of concussions becomes better known to coaches, players and parents, high school athletic associations are taking more measures to prevent concussions.

Cathedral head football coach Ron Rushing said the Mississippi High School Activities Association made all head coaches in its member institutions take an online course on concussions during the offseason. Rushing said the course consisted of a 15 to 20 minute video which the coaches were tested on after the video was over.

“They’re putting a lot of emphasis on concussions and trying to raise awareness,” Rushing said.

The MHSAA has also taken a lot of pressure off its referees when it comes to concussions, Rushing said.

“Anytime the officials might feel like a kid might have had a concussion, they send them out of the game,” Rushing said. “After that, I can’t send them back in until a certified trainer clears them.”

Teaching the proper tackling technique is the best way to fend off a concussion, Natchez High School head coach Lance Reed said.

“The main thing we teach is form tackling and not using the crown of your head,” Reed said. “We have form tackling drills we do every day where we’re using proper technique to prevent head injuries. Definitely don’t ever want to lead with your head. We think our players have a proper understanding in that. Our focus is just making the tackle, and they know not to lead with the head.”

Adams County Christian head coach Paul Hayles said he has to be conscientious when talking to his players about the way they’re supposed to form tackle.

“They’re wearing protective gear, but you don’t want you to lead with your head,” Hayles said. “It puts you in a vulnerable state. But, most concussions, if you notice, are from taking shots on the side, on the ear hole, or when they roll back and it’s the back of the head that’s struck.”

On-field maintenance is also a key aspect of preventing concussions, Hayles added.

“Players wearing knee braces have to be wrapped the proper way, because that metal caught on the helmet can do a lot of damage,” Hayles said.

All four coaches said if their trainers determine the player may have had a concussion, they won’t play him again until a doctor clears that player. King said his staff is humble enough to realize there are people better qualified in dealing with concussions.

“We’re high school football coaches,” King said. “We don’t profess to know all the particulars about this, and there are a lot of physicians out there who are certainly qualified to tell these kids and direct their parents on the stages of their recovery and how serious those can be.

“I know there are all kinds of crazy concussions, and we certainly want what’s best for a child, so I turn it over to a physician, and they just get back to me whenever we have a kid that has one.”