By Dan Guttenplan, FNF Coaches Managing Editor
A few individuals and businesses are emerging as leaders in making the sport of football safer. Through educational videos and the development of safer equipment, these businesses are leading the way in limiting concussions.
If you’ve seen a 7-on-7 game recently, you know that soft-shell protective headgear is being worn by most players.
GAMEBREAKER is at the head of the industry as a supplier of soft-shell protective headgear, which helps fill a safety void where incidental contact from athletes might result in a head injury.
“I’m a huge football fan, and have always played and coached,” GAMEBREAKER President Michael Juels said. “Our motto is: Protect the player, protect the game. We want to address what’s hurting football and prescribe a solution.”
GAMEBREAKER protective caps are molded out of EVA rubber foam. The hook and loop chin strap combined with adjustable laces enables the headgear to custom fit each player’s head.
The material that surrounds the outer shell allows air flow to release heat during those summer 7-on-7 contests.
Juels said the creation of GAMEBREAKER protective caps was a response, in part, to reports of the decreasing popularity of football.
“We thought the reason the game was shrinking was concern for head injuries,” Juels said. “We can’t allow those 7-on-7 games to have as many head injuries as tackle. Then we’d really have a problem. We feel this protects the player as well as the game.”
Practice Like Pros
Practice Like Pros Founder Terry O’Neil learned how a football practice should be run while serving as a television producer for NFL broadcasts in the 1980s and ‘90s.
One of the lasting impressions he gained came when he watched Bill Walsh run a practice with the San Francisco 49ers.
“For the first time, I saw them going full speed in shorts,” O’Neil said. “Before that, I’d only seen full speed in pads. He’d say to the defensive backs, ‘Everyone must stay on their feet. Nobody goes to the ground.’”
That helped spawn O’Neil’s idea for Practice Like Pros, an organization that travels the country to share videos with high school coaches of successful, safe practice strategies.
The tenets of Practice Like Pros include:
- Grade-school boys should be restricted to flag football. Full contact should not begin until ninth grade.
- High school coaches should ban full-contact practices in the offseason, and limit full-contact periods to three hours per week during the preseason and 30 minutes per week in-season.
- Coaches should educate players on concussions and second-impact dangers.
- Every team should have access to a full-time athletic trainer or comparable medical professional.
- EMS should be on site at every game.
Practice Like Pros
Shadowman Sports has helped coaches solve the mystery of how to teach proper tackling technique without putting players at risk of injury.
Shadowman has created a product that allows players to take game-speed reps without player-on-player contact. The Shadowman Pro and Shadowman Junior offer players moving targets with strike zones between the shoulders and knee flex.
“Our philosophy is we try to protect the game of football,” said Shadowman Sports President/COO Stephen Flanagan. “We hear from Moms and Dads at all different levels, thanking us for doing that with our equipment.”
Shadowman Pro models are 5 feet, 10 inches tall and manufactured with heavy-duty three-layer PVC. The product is inflated with air and water and pulled manually. It has three options for a target zone and has a bent-knee posture.
Three Shadowman Pro units retail at $2,500 or $833 per unit.
“Our product emphasizes the target zone with white areas numbers 1, 2 and 3,” Flanagan said. “It’s ideal for teaching tackling and replicating good form over and over again. We’re trying to protect players and allow coaches to get around limited or no contact restrictions. The players are doing it at a high level with a ton of repetitions.”
Do you have a thought about this article that you would like to share? If you do, email managing editor Dan Guttenplan at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tweet us @fnfcoaches.