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USA Football blogger: Rugby players are taught to not use head

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Thursday's Heads Up Football news:

* Jen Welter's blog at USA Football's site looked at the difference between a low hit in rugby and football.


To address whether or not it is dirty play to hit another player low, I'm again going to return to my rugby roots. If you have been keeping up with my blogs, you may recall that I've credited my rugby roots with my success at staying healthy in professional sports. I truly believe that relying on rugby fundamentals and hit-wrap-drop, rather than my helmet, to keep me from concussions has been a secret to my success. With that said, I believe rugby also holds insight into the "low blow" question as well.


First, a high tackle is a penalty in rugby, and this is not helmet-to-helmet contact. Many football players have a hard time going from football to rugby because of a tendency for some to tackle high. Now, if it is a penalty to tackle high in rugby, there is obviously less concern over tackling low. Why is it that football players associate tackling low with a dirty play and rugby players are encouraged to do it? Well, football players associate getting hit low with taking the knees and ankles out. Why aren't rugby players concerned with the same injuries?


The difference between rugby and football, in terms of low tackling, is the helmet. Football players think of getting hit low. Rugby players think of getting tackled low. Football players are thinking a helmet to the knee. Rugby players are getting wrapped up and having their knees put together. Trust me when I tell you: I have been rugby tackled countless times around the knees without knee problems. However, a helmet to the knee has taken me out every time. Tackling low is not a "low blow," but "hitting low" absolutely is.


The art of the form tackle has been lost on many football players. The answer for many of today's questions about football is getting back to the fundamentals of tackling. Hit-wrap-drop will protect you as a player and lower the chance for injuries.


* USA Football reported that Centreville High School, one of 35 Heads Up Football pilot programs around the country, won the Virginia Class 6A state title. Coach Chris Haddock credited Heads Up Football for helping the team win the title.


"I think we benefitted greatly from the program," Haddock said. "I felt like defensively we were surer tacklers. When you play 15 games and have a month of practice prior to that, you are talking about three to four solid months of competition. I think certainly the Heads Up Football fundamentals played a part in that."


Centreville was one of 25 Fairfax County, Va., teams to take part in Heads Up Football this fall. Heads Up Football is USA Football's comprehensive approach to a better, safer game that educates coaches, players and parents about proper equipment fitting, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concussion recognition and response and Heads Up Tackling techniques.


Starting in the offseason, Haddock and his staff installed Heads Up Football drills, techniques and language to get everyone on the same page. Haddock got a bit of a jump start while serving as a USA Football Master Trainer, helping to bring Heads Up Football to nearly 2,800 – more than 25 percent – of all U.S. youth football leagues nationwide.


"Once the season got under way," Haddock said, "kids and coaches were comfortable with the stations and the terminology. Once we put the pads on and the season started rolling, we got more efficient.


"Moving forward, the moment we mention a certain drill or use terminology, kids will instantly know what we are talking about."


-- Bill Bradley, contributing editor

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