Mike Haynes: Heads Up Football evolves with game's needs

NFL Evolution will feature a guest columnist every Tuesday, each with a different viewpoint of player health and safety from the youth level to pro football.

By Mike Haynes, Evolution columnist

Football never stands still.

For more than 100 years, improvement, innovation and evolution continue to be synonymous with America's favorite sport.

USA Football's Heads Up Football program, embraced by the high school and youth sports community, adheres to these principles of football's heritage.

New to the program this season are Heads Up Blocking and sudden cardiac arrest protocols. Approved by USA Football's medical and football advisory committees, both additions are now included in USA Football's Level 1 coaching education course and its high school certification course, which advance coaching education and offer the best available science for the good of young athletes.

"Coaches should be prepared to respond to a life-threatening emergency if needed," said Dr. Jonathan Drezner, past president of the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine and a member of USA Football's Medical Advisory Committee. "With prompt recognition, early CPR and use of an AED, sudden cardiac arrest is largely a survivable event if treated quickly. USA Football is committed to the safety of young athletes, and I am proud that a sudden cardiac arrest training module is being added to the Heads Up Football program. The module provides coaches the information they need to be prepared for sudden cardiac arrest."

"Blocking is one of football's basic skills that every player needs to be taught," said Jeff Saturday, a former NFL All-Pro center and ESPN analyst. Saturday is a member of USA Football's Football Advisory Committee. "USA Football's Heads Up Blocking technique helps coaches teach this fundamental – properly engaging with a defender, driving with the legs and maintaining the correct body position for effective and safer play. This is how blocking should be taught."

More than 5,500 youth leagues and almost 1,000 high schools participated in the program in 2014, benefitting nearly 1 million players. The demand for Heads Up Football is encouraging, signaling a dynamic and important change for the better how coaches are trained, players are taught, parents are informed and safety is addressed.

USA Football continues to work alongside leaders in medicine and athletics in addition to our partners spanning youth, high school and college football as well as the NFL, ESPN and others.

Working together, USA Football is committed to offer exceptional sports experiences steeped in the fun, fitness and social benefits of a great team sport.

Michael Haynes manages USA Football's Heads Up Football program. A former All-America defensive lineman at Penn State and first-round draft pick of the Chicago Bears, Haynes has a master's degree in education and was a secondary school administrator before joining USA Football.

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