ON THE TUNNEYSIDE of SPORTS August 27, 2012 #399 Coming up next…”Heads up!”

After further review…”Heads up”! my dad used to call out, alerting me to such possible dangers as an errant pitch traveled toward my head when I was batting, or to a car approached as I was learning to drive. He must have blurted that phrase a thousand times. The message never failed. Being an admirer of my father, I adopted the same warning as a parent and coach, and whenever I could alert anyone of a possible risk.

While this expression is an ancient one, it certainly is popular today. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with a primary mission of controlling infectious disease, have nonetheless joined the national discussion about sports-related head injuries. The CDC has an online training program, called “Heads Up”, for coaches and athletes. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has recognized the importance of such education.

Concussions are in the spotlight in the game of football. A recent report indicated more than 3,000 former NFL players, many well known, have filed concussion-related lawsuits. Tackle football played by secondary, college, and professional athletes is a physically violent game. Yet with all the apparent risks of physical damage (e.g., concussions, broken bones, nerve degeneration) the majority of former players say they “would do it all over again”. However, some of these same players have grave concerns about their sons playing football at those levels. Parents should also be “heads up” for their daughters and sons who play soccer – a popular sport with young athletes. The caution here is using “header” shots to redirect balls traveling 30-40 mph.

“Heads up”  is also an expression used by former NFL Hall of Fame Coach Don Shula, whose 347 victories gathered in a three-decade career will never be equaled. Shula always taught his players to block and tackle by “seeing what you hit”. When you see what you hit, it requires keeping your head up. So many players in today’s game, falsely protected by a plastic helmet and a cage facemask, believe leading with your helmet is a safe style of play. It’s not!

And finally, former NFL head coach Herm Edwards always told his players, when they were trailing in a game, to “keep your heads up”. Edwards’ instruction was for the benefit of maintaining poise and confidence.

Will you be aware of potential rewards in keeping your head up?

To contact Jim go to jim@jimtunney.com or email him at jim@jimtunney.com.

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