Thursday, April 14, 2022

Improving Safety of Football Tackling

For years, football coaches and players have sought ways to improve the efficiency and safety of the sport. Companies have created shock-absorbent padding, improved helmet design, and modified certain tackles and maneuvers rules. One of the main reasons for this was the number of concussions and other injuries incurred due to incorrect tackling.

The National Football League (NFL) has deemed certain types of tackling illegal. One long-standing rule is that a player cannot tackle another by grabbing the face mask and dragging the head down. This protects the ball carrier’s head and neck from injury due to contact with the ground. Face mask tackles used to be deemed intentional or unintentional, with different penalty yards for each. Beginning in 2008, the NFL made nearly all face mask contact illegal and assigned a 15-yard penalty against the offending player.

The horse-collar tackle has been an illegal move since the 2004 season. A horse collar involves grabbing a player by the collar or shoulder pads of the jersey and hurling them to the ground. The rules were changed after several injuries occurred during the 2004 season. Horse collar tackles now result in a 15-yard penalty.

One of the most famous types of outlawed tackles is leading with the head, known as a headfirst tackle. This involves making contact against a player with the top of the helmet with the face down. This is also known as spearing if the player leads with the head and the arms are at the sides. These types of tackles create dangerous contact from the helmet’s crown and incur a 15-yard penalty.

If a player makes a headfirst tackle and makes contact with the opponent’s helmet or facemask, it is deemed a targeting penalty. Recently, the NFL cracked down on targeting due to the number of serious head and neck injuries resulting from the illegal tackle. Coaches and players at all levels of football are advocating for teaching players how to tackle safely.

To help players learn to tackle correctly, companies have created tackle rings for practice drills. Previous equipment often involved practicing tackling on a stationary or moving dummy resembling a human figure. Tackling rings are made of covered foam and resemble a large donut. The coach can roll the ring toward or away from a player, creating unique routes with very little wasted time between practice plays.

The ring shape allows players to aim their heads to one side of the ring and one arm through the hole in the middle. This teaches tacklers to lead with the shoulder, reducing head and neck injuries related to spearing and targeting. This is similar to a rugby tackle, where the tackler aims toward the core of the ball carrier with the shoulder.

The tackle ring foam is soft enough that teams can use it while practicing without padding. One company, Gilman Gear, invented the football tackle ring in 2015 and currently sells 6 different sizes of roll tackle rings to accommodate all ages and sizes of players. The company’s rings are 12 inches wide, making them stable for rolling and guiding in the proper direction to simulate a play. While the roll tackle ring can be used with players of all ages, it is particularly helpful when teaching young players the safest way to tackle at the beginning stages of their development. The Roll Tackle Ring reduces "live" contact during practice and allows coaches to get meaningful technique work done when the players are not in full pads.

Improving Safety of Football Tackling

For years, football coaches and players have sought ways to improve the efficiency and safety of the sport. Companies have created shock-abs...