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I played contact football at all levels possible, including the pros. Did I have many concussions? Dunno. I can’t remember. So, I forced myself to go to see Concussion.
Concussions are such a hot topic right now. When youth football parents ask me what I think about football concussions, what do I tell them? Do I tell them the truth? Or do I pretend that it was not that big of a deal? Or do I tell them I had so many that it was just part of the game back in the 1980s?
Concussion was painful for me because Will Smith’s acting was superb. But I knew it had the potential to be excruciating to relive the suicides of a couple guys I knew: Dave Duerson and Junior Sau. Dave was a close teammate of mine with the Chicago Bears Super Bowl XX team. I visited with Junior at San Diego Charger alumni functions and was able to be on the field during his Charger Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
At one point, my wife glanced at me and was shocked to find me crying. It was during the Dave Duerson scene when the actor called him “DD,” his well-known nickname. So yeah, it was painful to me to re-live what they went through at the end of their lives.
As my memories moved at high speed through my mind I tried to think about the future of contact football. The NFL and college football are doing what they can to try to prevent head injuries. Not too sure how to measure the effectiveness of the “targeting with the head” rule, though. It’s like trying to measure something that didn’t happen.
How do you create violence while controlling collisions?
On TV, all they say is, “Don’t put your head down during a collision.” But that comment is only made after a head injury. It’s like a car speeding down the street; if there is no accident, then it’s like it never happened.
Furthermore, coaching for defensive players can often be inconsistent, even confusing. When a player successfully makes a soft tackle, he gets yelled at by his coach for not making a bigger hit. And the ball carrier gets yelled at for not running hard and fast! Imagine the confusion a youth football player works through every game.
And if players aren’t supposed to use their heads as weapons, how do they make hard tackles? Well, just use your shoulder. Fine, I’ve been doing that since I was a kid. But most of the time my head gets there first…because it’s attached to my neck! So, let me get this straight. You want me to turn to my shoulder at the last moment before a high speed collision? Ok, I’ll try that, but I might miss my target and make first contact to his head, or head to head, or miss the tackle altogether.
Now my coach is yelling at me, again!
We as a football community really need to talk about the future of tackling techniques. Many athletes, coaches, and parents don’t know the proper technique. Like Concussion painfully points out, the future of our athletes’ health depends on how well we teach them how to play the game of football.
Be Well, Be Fast!
Kenneth D. Taylor is a SAQ pioneer and Sport Speed Expert who lives in Southern California and has trained well over 5,000 athletes over 20 years. He holds a degree in Exercise Physiology and Sports Science. He was a world class track athlete and played in the NFL for the 1985 Chicago Bears Super Bowl XX team and the San Diego Chargers. Subscribe to “TheSpeedDr1” on YouTube for free speed training videos and visit www.howtobefaster.com.