A new program in Quebec is trying to make high school football safer by teaching kids early the techniques for avoiding potentially brain-damaging concussions
Allen Champagne, a researcher at Queen’s University’s Centre for Neuroscience Studies, introduced players from Dalbe-Viau High School in Lachine, Que., to the program over the weekend.
“Head injuries right now, it's a big deal,” he told CTV Montreal Saturday. “If you know anything about sports, there's a lot of heat around football and should I let my kid play hockey and all that. So what we're trying to do here is bring a solution.”
Champagne, a Montreal native who played football for the University of North Carolina Tar Heels, believes that teaching kids about good technique when they are young could help protect them as they grow in the game.
He teaches players the proper way to tackle, impressing on them the importance of not leading with their heads, so as to avoid head injuries.
On Saturday, he had the players run through blocking, speed work, and tackling drills without wearing helmets to reinforce the importance of not relying on a helmet during contact.
Each player was filmed with a series of motion capture cameras, with the footage then analyzed by biomechanics experts who then broke apart each player’s technique.
With evidence growing about the link between repeated concussions and the progressive brain disease called CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), enrollment in high school football has been dropping. In the U.S., it’s down 4.5 percent over the past decade.
Marie-Michelle Boulanger, a sports psychologist at McGill University, says the physical contact that is integral to football frightens some.
“Parents are hesitant to put their kids in a sport where they're going to be hitting each other, a lot of kids are afraid because they see contact. The point is to run at someone like you're running into a wall,” she said.
The aim of the program is to teach players like Dalbe-Viau’s Damian Alford about the risks of the game and then teach them how to prevent serious injury.
“I try to keep it on my mind. I've never had a concussion yet but it's always on my mind when I'm playing,” Alford said.
The program, called Elite Neuro Kinetix, is already being taught in a dozen schools in Ontario and now in Quebec. Champagne hopes to roll out the program in high schools across the country.
With a report from CTV Montreal’s Kelly Grieg