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NFL Health Update: Q&A with CDC's Dr. Julie Gilchrist on injuries



Dr. Julie Gilchrist works at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Injury Center. Below she answers a few questions on the CDC's Heads Up campaign and how the CDC is working to help keep young athletes safe from concussions and other serious brain injuries.

How are the CDC and NFL working together on addressing concussion among young athletes?

Over the last six years, CDC and the NFL have worked together to help get concussion educational materials into the hands of coaches, parents, kids and teens, and school and health care professionals nationwide. Two examples of this work include:

  • CDC worked with the NFL, NFLPA and 16 sports governing bodies to develop the "Concussion: A Must Read for Young Athletes" fact sheet and poster for young athletes. To date, more than 1 million copies of these materials have been distributed.
  • Through a grant from the NFL to the CDC Foundation, CDC launched the "Heads Up to Clinicians" online training for health care professionals, created to help improve concussion diagnosis and management for young athletes.

What is the CDC's Heads Up campaign?

Heads Up is a group of educational initiatives, developed by the CDC, that share a common goal: to help protect children and teens from concussions and other serious brain injuries both on and off the sports field. This year marks the 10th anniversary of CDC's Heads Up.

What materials are available from CDC's Heads Up campaign?

We tailor our materials based on our audience. We offer information for:

  • Coaches: Online training for high school and youth sports coaches on concussion, as well as fact sheets and posters coaches can download for their team. The online training is used by states, schools, and sports organizations, including USA Football and the National PTA, to help spread concussion information out throughout the country.
  • Parents: CDC Foundation's "Heads Up to Parents" website and app that includes concussion and helmet safety information:
  • School Professionals: Fact sheets, posters and other tools school professionals can use, including information on helping students return to school after concussions.
  • Health Care Professionals: Latest information on concussion diagnosis and management to help kids and teens recover quickly and fully.

All of CDC's Heads Up materials are free and can be found online at


Former NFL players now serving as Heads Up Football Ambassadors have spent time with Heads Up youth football leagues across the country in recent weeks, reinforcing the essentials of proper Heads Up tackling and emphasizing the positive values of football participation.

Former Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman Danny Noonan visited the Greater Omaha Youth Football League in Omaha, Neb. "If we can make it a safer game, and if we can make it a game where people can enjoy for the rest of their lives, then that's what we're here to do," Noonan said during the visit.

LaMont Jordan appeared at the Homecoming Parade and Homecoming Game for the Mechanicsville Braves in Mechanicsville, Md. The former New York Jets running back explained his involvement with Heads Up Football.

"I went for training, and decided I wanted to be part of the ambassador program," Jordan said. "(I want to do) anything that's (going to) teach safety first and maintain the physical techniques of the game."

Former Pro Bowl player Brian Hansen attended a practice for fifth- and sixth-graders at the Watertown Boys and Girls Club in Watertown, S.D. Former World Bowl XV MVP quarterback Casey Bramlet spoke to the Douglas Youth Recreation football league in Douglas, Wyo.

Other Heads Up Football Ambassadors making visits to local leagues in September included: Chris Bober, Ray Buchanan, Buddy Curry, Riki Ellison, Roy Gerela, Al Gross, Jeff Hartings, Eric Hipple, Mark Kelso, Brian Kinchen, Neil Lomax, Oliver Luck, Tony Mayberry, Jake Plummer, Karl Swanke and Vince Workman.


As part of the NFL's celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, Falcons players were joined by USA Football master trainer Buddy Curry last week at a NFL PLAY 60 youth football clinic for 150 children at the Walters Boys & Girls Club in Gainesville, Ga. As part of the clinic, the children received instruction on proper Heads Up tackling and participated in other football drills.

The Dolphins recently worked with USA Football and the Orange Bowl to host a clinic for local youth football coaches. As part of the event, which took place at Norwood Elementary School in Miami, Fla., the youth coaches were trained on Heads Up tackling and concussion education.

Former players Twan Russell and Troy Drayton, both of whom now work for the Dolphins, addressed the group. They were joined by Dr. Richard Hamilton of Baptist Hospital and Columbus High School coach Chris Merritt.

"Teaching coaches proper tackling and concussion awareness is very important," said Russell. "Safety is the No. 1 focus, and this clinic did a great job informing coaches on these vital issues."

-- NFL Communications

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