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					Head Contact and Spearing
    in Tackle Football
NATA/AFCA Spearing in Football
        Task Force
     January 11, 2005   Louisville, KY
Why Are We Here Today ?
High Profile Injuries from Helmet to
     Helmet Hits: Drew Hixon
High Profile Injuries from Helmet to
   Helmet Hits: Reggie Brown
PERTINENT QUOTES
        • “An once of prevention
           is worth a pound of
           cure”
            Ben Franklin, 1775




        • “For cervical
           quadriplegia there is
           no cure”
           Joe Torg, 1975
           National FB Head & Neck Injury Registry
Head-Down Contact and Spearing

               • Catastrophic cervical
                 spine injuries are among
                 the most devastating
                 injuries in all of sports

               • Primary mechanism is
                 axial loading that occurs,
                 whether intentional or
                 unintentional, as a result
                 of head-down contact and
                 spearing
Head-Down Contact and Spearing

               • Development of
                 improved helmet
                 technology has led to
                 increase in use of
                 head as a weapon
Head-Down Contact and Spearing
Head-Down Contact and Spearing

               • With initial rule
                 change, decrease in
                 catastrophic cervical
                 spine injuries
               • Recent years have
                 shown a resurgence
                 in number of cervical
                 spine injuries as well
                 as closed head
                 injuries
 Survey of NCAA Officials
on the Helmet-Contact Rules
ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big Twelve, Pac Ten, SEC
NCAA Football Rules and
    Interpretations
            •   Rule 2, Section 24: Spearing
                 – Article 1. Spearing is the
                    intentional use of the helmet
                    (including the face mask) in an
                    attempt to punish an
                    opponent.
            •   Rule 9, Section 1: Contact and
                Interference Fouls
                 – L. No player intentionally shall
                    use his helmet (including the
                    face mask) to butt or ram an
                    opponent.
                 – M. There shall be no spearing.
                 – N. No player intentionally shall
                    strike a runner with the crown
                    or the top of his helmet.
               The Problem
• 2001- NCAA Major Division 1 Football

   20,837 Penalties Called
      25 Helmet-Contact Penalties


   = 1/10th of 1%
   1 for every 833 called (holding: 1 of 6)
   1 called for every 50 games
              WHY
                This
                Low




                And

• Is an enforced penalty a deterrent?
          Coach Feedback

1. Catastrophic Injuries
2. Helmet-Contact Penalties
How many games have you worked so
          far this year?

•   Total responses: 205
•   Total of 2,027 games
•   Range: 0-18 games
•   Average of 9.9 games each
    How many helmet-contact penalties
        have you called this year?
               80.0%   80.0%
               70.0%
               60.0%
               50.0%
               40.0%
               30.0%
               20.0%            16.0%
               10.0%
                                         2.0%   2.0%   0.0%
                0.0%




                                                      ur
                     ro


                               ne



                                        o


                                                e
                                              re
                                    Tw
                   Ze




                                                    Fo
                           O




                                            Th
•   51 Penalties Called
Do you feel the PRIMARY purpose of the helmet-contact
                 penalties is to protect:


             60.0%                               56.2%
             50.0%               43.8%
             40.0%
             30.0%
             20.0%
             10.0%
              0.0%                g




                                               it
                               in




                                             H
                           itt




                                           s
                                         et
                      H




                                         G
                       e
                    et
                 hl
              At
How comfortable would you feel calling a helmet-contact
                penalty on a late hit?

            100.0%   98.4%

             80.0%

             60.0%

             40.0%
             20.0%
                                  1.5%        0.0%
             0.0%


                                t




                                          +
                     +



                              ha




                                          m
                    f.



                             ew
                   m




                                        co
                Co




                            m




                                     Un
                         So
How likely are you to enforce the helmet-contact penalties
                     in this situation?


            100.0%        98.1%

             80.0%

             60.0%
             40.0%
             20.0%
                                      1.5%         0.5%
             0.0%




                                                  y+
                                    t
                      +



                                  ha
                     ly




                                               el
                                 ew
                   ke




                                            lik
                                m
                Li




                                         Un
                             So
How comfortable would you feel calling a helmet-contact
        penalty during the tackling process?

             60.0%   58.1%
             50.0%
             40.0%
             30.0%
                                  22.9%
             20.0%                             19.0%

             10.0%
             0.0%


                                t




                                           +
                     +



                              ha




                                           m
                    f.



                             ew
                   m




                                         co
                Co




                            m




                                      Un
                         So
How likely are you to enforce the helmet-contact penalties
                     in this situation?


             70.0%        63.4%
             60.0%
             50.0%
             40.0%
             30.0%
                                      20.0%        16.6%
             20.0%
             10.0%
              0.0%




                                                   y+
                                    t
                      +



                                  ha
                     ly




                                                el
                                 ew
                   ke




                                             lik
                                m
                Li




                                          Un
                             So
How comfortable would you feel calling a helmet-contact
       penalty on an athlete who is blocking?

             50.0%                                49.3%

             40.0%

             30.0%                   26.3%
                       24.3%
             20.0%
             10.0%
             0.0%
                     f. +




                                   t




                                              .+
                                 ha




                                              m
                    m



                                ew




                                            co
                 Co




                               m




                                         Un
                            So
How likely are you to enforce the helmet-contact penalties
                     in this situation?


             50.0%                                 48.0%

             40.0%

             30.0%        27.4%
                                      24.5%
             20.0%
             10.0%
             0.0%




                                                   y+
                                    t
                      +



                                  ha
                     ly




                                                el
                                 ew
                   ke




                                             lik
                                m
                Li




                                          Un
                             So
Can a ball-carrier initiate illegal helmet contact?


         80.0%      75.4%
         70.0%
         60.0%
         50.0%
         40.0%
         30.0%                     24.6%
         20.0%
         10.0%
          0.0%
                   s




                                 No
                 Ye
How comfortable would you feel calling a helmet-contact
              penalty on a ball-carrier?

             70.0%                             63.9%
             60.0%
             50.0%
             40.0%
             30.0%
             20.0%   16.6%        19.5%
             10.0%
              0.0%


                                t




                                           +
                     +



                              ha




                                           m
                    f.



                             ew
                   m




                                         co
                Co




                            m




                                      Un
                         So
How likely are you to enforce the helmet-contact penalties
                     in this situation?


             70.0%
                                                   60.5%
             60.0%
             50.0%
             40.0%
             30.0%
                          21.0%       18.5%
             20.0%
             10.0%
              0.0%




                                                   y+
                                    t
                      +



                                  ha
                     ly




                                                el
                                 ew
                   ke




                                             lik
                                m
                Li




                                          Un
                             So
How likely are you to call a penalty on an athlete whom you
       feel accidentally initiated head-down contact?


             60.0%                                 54.6%
             50.0%
             40.0%
             30.0%                    23.4%
                          22.0%
             20.0%
             10.0%
              0.0%




                                                   y+
                                    t
                      +



                                  ha
                     ly




                                                el
                                 ew
                   ke




                                             lik
                                m
                Li




                                          Un
                             So
Head-down contact is the primary injury mechanism of
          severe cervical spine injuries.


          90.0%     82.9%
          80.0%
          70.0%
          60.0%
          50.0%
          40.0%
          30.0%
          20.0%                    15.7%
          10.0%                                  1.5%
           0.0%
                                d
                    e+




                                                 +
                              de




                                              ee
                 re




                              ci




                                           gr
              Ag




                            de




                                         sa
                         Un




                                      Di
Head and neck injuries can occur with head-first contact
   regardless of the athlete’s intent to use the head.


           100.0%     94.1%
            80.0%

            60.0%
            40.0%
            20.0%
                                     4.9%         1.0%
            0.0%
                                  d
                      e+




                                                  +
                                de




                                               ee
                   re




                                ci




                                            gr
                Ag




                              de




                                          sa
                           Un




                                       Di
There is little or no head-first contact in college football.


             70.0%                                 69.1%
             60.0%
             50.0%
             40.0%
             30.0%
             20.0%     15.7%          15.2%
             10.0%
              0.0%
                                   d
                       e+




                                                    +
                                 de




                                                 ee
                    re




                                 ci




                                              gr
                 Ag




                               de




                                            sa
                            Un




                                         Di
There is little or no head-down contact in college football.


             60.0%                                 58.8%

             50.0%
             40.0%
             30.0%     25.0%
             20.0%                    16.2%
             10.0%
              0.0%
                                   d
                       e+




                                                    +
                                 de




                                                 ee
                    re




                                 ci




                                              gr
                 Ag




                               de




                                            sa
                            Un




                                         Di
Do you feel the helmet-contact rules are easily interpreted?


                          60.0%
                60.0%
                50.0%
                                         40.0%
                40.0%
                30.0%

                20.0%

                10.0%

                 0.0%
                          s




                                       No
                        Ye
All head-first contact is illegal in college football.


         50.0%                                 49.2%

         40.0%
                   34.1%
         30.0%
         20.0%                    16.6%
         10.0%
          0.0%
                               d
                   e+




                                                +
                             de




                                             ee
                re




                             ci




                                          gr
             Ag




                           de




                                        sa
                        Un




                                     Di
The helmet-contact rules are written in a way that allows
                 easy enforcement.


            50.0%     45.1%
            40.0%                                 36.3%
            30.0%
            20.0%                    18.6%

            10.0%
             0.0%
                                  d
                      e+




                                                   +
                                de




                                                ee
                   re




                                ci




                                             gr
                Ag




                              de




                                           sa
                           Un




                                        Di
  Trying to decide on an athlete’s intent or if a head-first
contact was purposeful makes the penalty hard to enforce.


             70.0%     69.8%
             60.0%
             50.0%
             40.0%
             30.0%                                24.9%
             20.0%
             10.0%                    5.4%
              0.0%
                                   d
                       e+




                                                   +
                                 de




                                                ee
                    re




                                 ci




                                             gr
                 Ag




                               de




                                           sa
                            Un




                                        Di
The helmet-contact penalties need to be changed to allow
                  better enforcement.


            45.0%     43.6%
            40.0%
            35.0%
            30.0%                    28.4%        28.0%
            25.0%
            20.0%
            15.0%
            10.0%
             5.0%
             0.0%
                                  d
                      e+




                                                   +
                                de




                                                ee
                   re




                                ci




                                             gr
                Ag




                              de




                                           sa
                           Un




                                        Di
Better enforcement of the helmet-contact penalties will
      reduce the incidence of head-first contact.


           60.0%     56.2%
           50.0%
           40.0%
           30.0%                                 26.6%
           20.0%                    17.2%
           10.0%
            0.0%
                                 d
                     e+




                                                  +
                               de




                                               ee
                  re




                               ci




                                            gr
               Ag




                             de




                                          sa
                          Un




                                       Di
Should there be increased emphasis regarding head- first
   contact for officials, coaches and student-athletes?


        100.0%     91.2%

        80.0%

        60.0%

        40.0%

        20.0%                        8.8%

         0.0%
                   s




                                No
                 Ye
Official’s Comments
           Officials are generally not
            willing to call this penalty.
            Too many old time
            officials and coaches
            think head first is just part
            of the game, a good,
            clean hit. There needs to
            be significant injury
            education with example
            hits and have the injured
            kids talk on the film.
Official’s Comments
           In recent years there has been
            emphasis on helmet blows to
            QB’s/WR’s, but beyond those
            and late hits, I don’t think I
            have ever seen this called in a
            major college game …

           Coaches need to understand
            why we call this penalty, for
            player safety. They don’t like
            fouls called period, but if you
            call this on the goal line, they
            dang sure don’t like it.
            Coaches and players need
            better education to the
            potential injury results.
Official’s Comments
           I called no spearing or
            “head first contact”
            fouls all year, but it is
            probably a 2-3 times
            per game warning to
            players to “keep their
            heads up” during
            tackles.
       Official’s Comments

The rule needs to be specific and remove
intentional. The current rule puts officials
in a tough position to determine whether
helmet contact was accidental … I feel
this is the main reason the rule is not
enforced, not because of severity.
Official’s Comments
           The rule is written in such
            a way that it implies
            protection for the player
            who gets hit by the
            helmet contact… But
            often the player who
            initiates the illegal strike
            with the helmet may
            suffer the greater injury to
            his own spine, neck,
            and/or head.
Official’s Comments
           The fans/media need to
            be educated along with
            the enforcement. Too
            many believe that this
            type of contact gets you
            on the highlight film
            quicker.

           Educate the media,
            especially TV
            commentators, who in
            turn educate the fans.
NCAA Football Rules and
    Interpretations
 2005 Rule Changes: Approved April 2005

                     •   Rule 2, Section 24: Spearing
                          – Article 1. Spearing is the use
                             of the helmet (including the
                             face mask) in an attempt to
                             punish an opponent.
                     •   Rule 9, Section 1: Contact and
                         Interference Fouls
                          – L. No player shall use his
                             helmet (including the face
                             mask) to butt or ram an
                             opponent or attempt to punish
                             him.
                          – M. There shall be no spearing.
                          – N. No player shall strike a
                             runner with the crown or the
                             top of his helmet in an attempt
                             to punish him.
                     Education
• Student-athletes
    – NCAA poster
    – Powerpoint
      presentation
    – videotape
•   Coaches
•   Officials
•   General Public
•   Media
NFL Poster   NCAA Poster
Why Are We Here Today ?

				
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