Big Ten Partners with USA Football to Advance Youth Player Safety

Aug 19, 2013

Heads Up Football PSA Featuring Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald

The Big Ten Conference announced today a partnership with USA Football to advance player safety through USA Football's Heads Up Football program.

Nearly 2,800 youth and high school football programs across the United States representing 600,000 players and 90,000 coaches have committed to the health and safety of their players by adopting Heads Up Football, a new program dedicated to making the game better and safer. Heads Up Football provides coaching education and teaching resources that benefit players, parents and coaches while teaching tackling techniques that take the head out of the game.

Indianapolis-based USA Football is the sport's national governing body, leading the sport's development for youth, high school and other amateur athletes.

The Big Ten and USA Football will produce public service announcements featuring each of the conference's head football coaches to voice the importance of Heads Up Football participation. Video messages will appear throughout the 2013 football season on BTN, stadium video boards, conference and member institutions' athletic web sites and

USA Football's five primary elements of Heads Up Football:

Heads Up Tackling 
• USA Football's Heads Up Tackling technique, endorsed by medical and football experts, teaches players to keep their heads up and out of the line of contact.

Coaching certification 
• All coaches complete USA Football's Level 1 Coaching Certification course (youth football) or USA Football's varsity-level coach training course (high school football).

Concussion recognition and response 
• Coaches learn and are assessed on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) concussion recognition and response protocols.
• Coaches, parents and players are taught concussion-related protocols at the start of the season and have them reinforced throughout the year.



Player Safety Coach 
• Appointed by each participating Heads Up Football high school or youth program. This individual is trained by USA Football to implement Heads Up Football's player safety protocols, including coaching certification, and conducts safety clinics for fellow coaches, parents and players.

Equipment fitting 
• Coaches, parents and players are taught proper helmet and shoulder pad fitting.

The Big Ten is recognized as a leader in college student-athlete safety as well as concussion research. The conference recently hosted the Big Ten-Ivy League Head Injury Summit on July 18-19 to engage in collaborative discussions and to refine the strategic priorities of the conferences' unprecedented research initiative that was announced in June 2012.  

"We are pleased to support USA Football and its Heads Up Football program," Big Ten Commissioner JIM DELANY said. "It is extremely important to promote the proper instruction of tackling at all levels to ensure the well-being of young athletes as well as our student-athletes - nothing is more important than their health. Heads Up Football reflects the innovation that is woven into football's heritage by changing for the better how our game is played and taught."

"The health and safety of every young football player is our No. 1 priority and the Big Ten Conference shares in that commitment by supporting our Heads Up Football program," USA Football executive Director SCOTT HALLENBECK said. "Commissioner Delany and each of the Big Ten's universities partner with us to further advance a better and safer game for young athletes who enjoy the fun, fitness and other rewards gained by playing this exceptional team sport. We value the Big Ten's trust and continued leadership for the betterment of our children."

"Football is rooted in proper fundamentals and techniques - this has been the case since its earliest days," Northwestern head coach PAT FITZGERALD said. Fitzgerald also is a member of USA Football's Tackle Advisory Committee. "The techniques that USA Football teaches not only make our kids better players, but safer players as well.

"I know that I speak for every coach in our conference when I say that we are proud to support USA Football and our new partnership. Heads Up Football is a vital innovation for our athletes, particularly our children who enjoy and gain from the sport at the youth level."

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