Concussions have become Public Enemy #1 the last few years. The pendulum has swung all the way to other side; years ago, concussions were just part of the game of football. Now, a gentle breeze through your hair requires a trip to the emergency room and a pacifier. However, when it comes to the health of your noggin, you cannot be too careful.
I cannot change the protocols but I can change our training. Our last two seasons we've only had two concussions (1 each year). This is down significantly. And since the kids, coaches and trainers are very well informed on concussions, I'm very confident that these are true numbers. Remember that no matter what you do in a contact sport, no matter how much your train or prepare, injuries will happen. All contact sports, if you play them long enough, will have a 100% injury rate. Nothing will prevent all injuries (or concussions) from happening.
The head coach and I had a fireside chat and came up with a simple approach to help prevent concussions. I'm going to leave out the obvious "teach them how to tackle/hit correctly."
1. Manage fatigue - A tired athlete hangs his head and will not maintain a good hitting position. The more you can manage the player's fatigue in practice AND in games, the better off you will be. This does NOT mean you should run them into the ground during practice and believing that this will make them stronger/in better shape for game time. Quite the opposite. The players should be rested and as close to 100% as possible on Friday night (or whenever you play the games). So make sure the players aren't exhausted going into the game.
2. Efficiency - This goes along with the first point. To manage fatigue, the skill coaches have to become better. Find a way to get your coaching/learning points across in less time during practice. Be a better communicator. I've watched coaches insist that repetition is the key to victory - only that the majority of these reps were half-assed and half-coached. Repetition is great provided that the quality is great. So don't run your players in a drill for 20 minutes when you can get the same results, with better coaching, in 10 minutes.
3. Have a quality, year long training program. If you want your kids to be playing at a high level during the season, they need to be training correctly during the off-season. This does not mean they play only one sport. This means that they continue to address their physical capacities throughout the year. Luckily for high school athletes, these physical capacities are very similar for each sport. You don't need a specialized training program for each sport. In other words, we are not in the business of skill development/acquisition. There is no excuse for a player to lose out on valuable training time while playing another sport. Well, besides an ignorant sport coach. The more time we have to develop our athletes physically, the less fatigue they will suffer.
4. Training - Address the neck and traps during your training program. This doesn't need to be 45 minutes of direct work. We do 50 reps each training day of neck flexion. Every single day we do something that targets are upper back/traps. There is no quick fix in training - consistent work yields the finest results.