Reporting Dr. Maria Simbra
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Could a practice uniform protect you from concussions? The North Hills school district hopes so.
They get exclusive use of pads, and eventually jerseys, to keep proper tackling on target.
“It gives you a target to like hit, instead of just looking at a player and like oh, I should just aim for his shoulder, that general area, it gives you like a specific place,” says football player Corey Bopp. “Because you have a target, you get used to hitting it even when it’s not there.”
Former NFL Pro Bowl linebacker Lavar Arrington, who went to North Hills High School, created practice jerseys and tackling pads that teach how to hit safely. Dots at strategic points give players a visual cue.
“It’s given our kids a visual point of reference so that when they’re tackling, they know to keep their eyes on that target, keep their head out of the tackle. Use their body, use their shoulder pads, their chest in order to tackle,” says head coach Pat Carey.
The dot on the shoulder area of the pad is the target. This is what they players will be focusing on to learn to tackle properly and avoid head injury. They’ll be getting jerseys with the same markings.
“The coaches are telling them, if you don’t see the dot, your head’s down and you’re not tackling with proper technique,” says AGH Sports Medicine athletic trainer Eric Cardwell.
The project is designed based on Arrington’s theories and practices of hitting, and is funded by a grant from Highmark with Allegheny Sports Medicine.
Because this is new, there is no long term information about whether the concussion rate does indeed go down when these are used in practice, but the coaches are hopeful.
“We will add the jersey to our practice when they arrive,” Coach Carey continues, “I’m hoping that eventually it will trickle down and this will be taught every year, so eventually, three or four years down the road, it’s just a natural habit kids will have.”
“I think they like the idea they’re using a product that no one else is using,” adds Cardwell.
This is in conjunction with neck strengthening exercises.
“They’re finding that with neck strengthening, you decrease the chance and maybe reduce the incidence of concussions,” Cardwell explains.