Concussion Prevention in Youth Football

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New (and Old) Tackling Techniques in Youth Football

Origionally Posted by admin on February 16th, 2012 at YTH FOOTBALL FORUM


In light of concussion concerns new rules have been put in place nationwide regarding helmet contact in youth football. In terms of tackling you can no longer hit the torso of a runner with your facemask. Nor can you initiate contact with the top of your helmet as a tackler OR a runner – this is an old rule – although the call against the runner is seldom made.

See slides 35 and 36: ihsa rules

Old Football Tackling Techniques

I personally taught face mask tackling in the past as illustrated in this Penn State video (never mind about Sandusky), the same technique was taught for many years by many great coaches:

The technique worked because it kept the aiming point centered and helped avoid missed tackles and as long as you kept you neck bowed and shoulders shrugged you were relatively safe from injury. Arguably, it’s safer than other methods because the neck doesn’t get attacked in a sideways fashion. However, the head was still involved and it may cause concussions so it has been rightly outlawed.

To avoid running afoul of these rules and to protect players there are two different primary techniques you can teach. One has been around for a long time. It’s basically a head up, head across, shoulder tackle – the object is to initiate contact with the inside shoulder and place the facemask on the football. Some call it “screws to the ball” or “bite the football.”

You can see the technique visually illustrated here: single shoulder tackle.  It’s time tested and it works. It’s the way I was taught to tackle when I was growing up. It also has the potential to generate fumbles because the helmet hits the football in theory. The drawbacks are that it causes more misses than the technique illustrated above and still can put sideways pressure on the neck at high impact. It’s still a relatively safe technique for tackling.

New Football Tackling Techniques

In the last couple of years there has been some new techniques that a lot of big programs are adopting. It features an exaggerated hip roll that pulls the head back and out of the way. The hit is made with the tips of the shoulders and there is no head contact at all.

You see the technique illustrated step by step here by Bobby Hosea:

Here is the St. Viator h.s. football program running through some drills using the same basic technique:

I like this technique because I’ve been getting away from tackling to the ground in practice and changing my philosophy a bit after last year in terms of tackling for the following reasons:

1) Not going to ground in most drills cuts down on injuries in practice.
2) It encourages gang tackling.
3) It allows time for stripping the ball.* This is the primary reason for the switch in my mind. You can combine tackling and strip drills and create turnovers.
4) It cuts down on miss hits and tackles.
5) Dove tails nicely with open field tackling techniques.

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