In the final season of his high school career, William Austin doesn't want to take any chances with another head injury.
After suffering a concussion early in the 2012 season, Austin, along with about a half dozen other Paonia players, now wears a new impact-resistant helmet.
The Riddell 360, designed to disperse the energy of a frontal impact to the back of the helmet, is one way Paonia and other teams are working to decrease the possibility of concussions, which have been a part of the sport throughout its history.
Last spring, newly-hired head coach Brent McRae suggested Austin try the new helmet. Austin explained that the helmet can be custom-fitted by expanding the padding on the interior.
According to Riddell's website, the helmet's facemask attaches at the back of the helmet rather than at the front, in order to disperse the energy of an impact to the rear of the helmet. The site includes a warning that "no helmet can prevent serious head or neck injuries" that might occur during contact.
But getting players into better helmets is just one way to reduce player injury.
Austin, a running back, has had 40 carries for almost 300 yards in four games. Since running backs are at a high risk for injury-causing impacts, especially when running at top speed, Austin is carrying the ball less than last season, and spending more time at defensive end. Coaches are taking all measures to "... try and eliminate possible causes there are for concussion," including tackling techniques and moves that avoid helmet-to-helmet contact, said Austin.
The Colorado High School Athletics Association, the body that oversees high school sports in Colorado, is focusing on reducing head, neck and other injuries common to the sport. CHSAA requires all high school athletic coaches to complete a course on concussions. They have banned the controversial use of new helmet covers, which manufacturers claim reduce the risk of concussion.
This year CHSAA enacted a 15-yard personal foul on any player "who initiates contact with an opposing player whose helmet has come completely off." It's also illegal for a player whose helmet has come off to continue to participate in the game "beyond the immediate action" in which he is involved.
McRea said he puts his players through a series of daily station drills for tackling and other techniques designed to prevent all injuries.
"We're teaching safety first," said McRae. "We teach them the techniques so when they go out there they know what to do and don't get themselves into dangerous situations. It's not just concussions we're worried about."blog comments powered by Disqus