Study on Heads Up Football program effectiveness published by peer-reviewed medical journal

By Steve Alic | Posted 7/16/2015

Coaching education learned through USA Football’s medically endorsed Heads Up Football program delivers positive results, say researchers whose work was published today by The Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine (OJSM), a global, peer-reviewed journal.

The OJSM today published a 2014 study conducted by Datalys Center evaluating the effectiveness of the USA Football program.

“With an estimated 3 million youth aged 7 to 14 years old playing tackle football each year, preventing injuries is key. Our study showed that kids who received a comprehensive education from a coach had fewer injuries,” lead author Dr. Zachary Y. Kerr of the Datalys Center for Injury Research and Prevention said.

The study’s findings include:

  • *-87 percent lower injury rates during practice in organizations with Heads Up Football coach education plus Pop Warner practice guidelines that limit contact
  • *-63 percent lower injury rates during practice with Heads Up Football coach education only compared to those with no coach education or practice guidelines
  • *-82 percent lower concussion rate during practice with Heads Up Football coach education and Pop Warner practice guidelines among 11- to 15-year-old athletes
  • More than 2,100 youth tackle football players ages 5-15 across 100 teams and 10 youth organizations spanning four states (Arizona, Indiana, Massachusetts and South Carolina) were matched for location, socio-economic, playing standard and other factors.

Datalys placed independent athletic trainers at the leagues’ practice and game fields to manage and document player health. Datalys’ study of the Heads Up Football program employed the same intensive methodology as its NCAA Injury Surveillance Program and the National Injury Treatment, Injury and Outcomes Network.

The study had athletic trainers evaluate and track injuries at each practice and game during the 2014 football season. Players were drawn from four states – Arizona, Indiana, Massachusetts and South Carolina.

Youth leagues that employed USA Football’s Heads Up Football program in addition to practice guidelines established by Pop Warner showed the highest level of player safety.

USA Football is committed to continued research on high school and youth levels to further advance its programs and resources for the good of young athletes with standards rooted in the best available science.

*-This blog has been updated with the most recent Heads Up Football efficacy data as published in The Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine (July 2015).