Heads Up Football Advisory Committee Unites Football, Parenting and Medical Experts for Youth Player SafetyHeads Up Football Advisory Committee Unites Football, Parenting and Medical Experts for Youth Player Safety

Brett Favre, Whoopi Goldberg and Christine Golic to help guide USA Football program

The Heads Up Football Advisory Committee will gather with representatives from USA Football and the NFL for the first time May 30 at the NFL office in New York. The committee – which currently includes 22 men and women representing youth football experts, retired NFL players, educators and medical professionals – will advance Heads Up Football’s mission to promote player safety for the children in all 50 states who love to play the sport and gain from its rewards.

With a diverse range of backgrounds and expertise, committee members will help guide the further development of USA Football’s Heads Up FootballSM program.

Heads Up Football is a new, comprehensive youth football membership program developed by USA Football and supported by the NFL to further strengthen youth player safety. More than 1,900 youth football leagues across the United States representing more than 375,000 players and 54,000 coaches have committed to the health and safety of their young players by adopting Heads Up Football in 2013.

Heads Up Football Advisory Committee members: 

Dr. Mitchel Berger President, American Association of Neurological Surgeons, San Francisco
Cris Collinsworth Former NFL player; NBC Sports football analyst
Bill Cowher Former NFL player and head coach; CBS Sports football analyst
Brett Favre Former NFL player, high school football coach
Whoopi Goldberg Actress, comedian, singer-songwriter, author, talk show host
Christine Golic Football mom to two players, wife of former NFL player
CatherinE Graves Team mom, Severna Park (Maryland) Green Hornets Football
Merril Hoge Former NFL player; former youth coach; ESPN football analyst
Leroy Hollins Youth football commissioner, Louisiana Youth Football League
Chuck Kyle Head football coach, Cleveland St. Ignatius High School
Marvin Lewis Head football coach, Cincinnati Bengals
Diane Long Lawyer, author; wife to former NFL player; mother of two current NFL players
Howie Long Pro Football Hall of Famer, Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders; father of two NFL players
Dr. Elizabeth Pieroth Neuropsychologist, NorthShore University HealthSystem, Chicago
Liz Raeburn Teacher; wife of college football head coach, football mom
Amanda Rodriguez Blogger
Barry Sanders Pro Football Hall of Famer, Detroit Lions
Deion Sanders Pro Football Hall of Famer; NFL Network analyst
Michael Strahan Former NFL player; co-host “Live with Kelly and Michael”
Otha Thornton President-elect, National Parent Teacher Association
Erin Zammett RudDy Magazine writer, blogger

Youth coaches of participating leagues will be trained in Heads Up Football techniques before leading their teams this season. All head coaches and assistant coaches are required to complete USA Football’s accredited Level 1 Coaching Certification Course, which includes Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) concussion recognition and response protocols; proper helmet and shoulder pad fitting; and Heads Up Tackling techniques, which aim to take the head out of the line of contact, and teach proper fundamentals.

“Our committee members are as diverse and dynamic as the youth football community we serve,” USA Football Executive Director SCOTT HALLENBECK said. “This group believes in football’s team-first values and is inspired to be part of Heads Up Football to help change the game’s culture to a safety-first approach.”

“We are pleased to be collaborating with so many respected members of the sports and medical communities as part of the Heads Up Football Advisory Committee,” NFL Commissioner ROGER GOODELL said. “We look forward to learning from them as we continue to make safety the priority for players at all levels of the game.” 

“I am excited to be involved with USA Football and its Heads Up Football Advisory Committee because I believe this comprehensive approach to injury prevention and awareness is the best way to make football safer for young athletes,” committee member DR. ELIZABETH PIEROTH said. Based in Chicago, Pieroth is the NorthShore University HealthSystem’s sports concussion program associate director. “Building a better, safer game has to include involvement from all those who support the game: coaches, parents and players; but it also needs to examine other key components, such as equipment fitting. Heads Up Football is the only program that I am aware of that takes this multi-faceted approach.”         

Heads Up Football is comprised of five primary elements:

Heads Up Tackling
  • USA Football’s Heads Up Tackling technique, endorsed by medical and football experts, teaches players to keep their heads up and out of the line of contact.
Coaching certification
  • All coaches within a youth program are trained to teach the game’s fundamentals by completing USA Football’s nationally accredited Level 1 Coaching Certification Course.
Concussion recognition and response
  • Coaches learn and are assessed on CDC concussion recognition and response through USA Football’s Level 1 Coaching Certification Course.
  • Coaches, parents and players are taught concussion-related protocols at the start of the season at a leaguewide clinic and have them reinforced throughout the season.
Player Safety Coach
  • Appointed by each participating Heads Up Football youth organization. This individual is trained by USA Football to implement Heads Up Football’s player safety protocols, including coaching certification, and conducts safety clinics for coaches, parents and players.
Equipment fitting
  • Coaches, parents and players are taught proper helmet and shoulder pad fitting.

Parents can learn more about Heads Up Football by visiting www.usafootball.com, which also is where youth leagues register for the program and have their coaches certified. 

In addition to the NFL and NFL Foundation, organizations that support Heads Up Football include the NCAA, National Federation of State High School Associations, American Football Coaches Association and Sports and Fitness Industry Association. National organizations that play youth football that have adopted or endorsed Heads Up Football include the United Youth Football League, National Police Athletic League, Amateur Athletic Union, Boys and Girls Clubs of America and Jewish Community Centers Association. The goal is to encourage all 10,000 youth football leagues across the country to sign up for Heads Up Football.

USA Football’s Heads Up Tackling technique was developed with contributions from USA Football’s Tackle Advisory Committee, which includes Northwestern head coach PAT FITZGERALD, UCLA head coach JIM MORA, former NFL running back MERRIL HOGE, Miami Christopher Columbus High School head coach CHRIS MERRITT and sports psychologist DR. DAVID YUKELSON.

About USA Football: USA Football leads the game’s development, inspires participation and ensures a better and safer experience for all youth, high school and other amateur players. The independent nonprofit is the official youth football development partner of the NFL, its 32 teams and the NCAA’s Atlantic Athletic Conference. USA Football (www.usafootball.com), endowed by the NFL and NFLPA in 2002, provides more than $1 million annually in equipment grants and youth league volunteer background check subsidies.

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