November 28, 2011
Coaches, officials, players sound off on concussion awareness

Here are some thoughts by coaches, players, doctors and officials on issues related to concussion awareness.

On the emphasis of proper tackling and avoiding leading with the helmet:
"We do a lot of teaching, fundamental stuff - keeping the head up and the butt down - so much so that the kids sometimes get tired of us chewing on them about it. But the last thing we want to see as coaches is some kid wheelchairing around town because we didn't coach him up well enough."
- Dave Johnson, Union Mine football coach and athletic director

"One thing we always teach is to keep the head up and to tackle with the face on the football. We want them to avoid helmet to helmet contact at all costs. But I still see some players on other teams who are diving at feet and knees with their heads down....One of our problems as coaches is that we're spending more and more time on schemes and less time on the fundamentals of tackling."
- John Heffernan, Burbank football coach and athletic director

On coaches who have suffered concussions understanding the dangers and the importance of proper equipment:
"I played in alumni game in 1984 and had on a really old Wilson helmet that I didn't like the way it felt. I wound up getting a pretty big concussion. I had a headache that didn't go away for 10 days. I was nauseated. It wasn't a good thing to have to go through, and it's something you never want one of your players to have to experience."
- Ron Barney, Mesa Verde football coach and athletic director

On the pros and cons of base-line testing high school athletes:
"It's not perfect, and one size does not fill all. It's very helpful in the hands of a skillful interpreter. If it's interpreted by someone without skills, it can be dangerous as far as making return to play decisions."
- Dr. Stanley Herring, co-director of the Seattle Sports Concussion Program

On the CIF's voluntary on-line concussion care course, aimed at coaches and parents:
"It offers a nice, concise snapshot. It was a good refresher course for me - I teach concussion training in the first-aide course - and I think if you are a new coach, it's very beneficial to take."
- Steve Eakes, Highlands athletic director and a certified CPR/first-aid instructor.

On the second-year CIF rule giving football officials greater latitude in removing players suspected of a concussion:
"There hasn't been any controversy, and it hasn't risen to our level as far as any issue of coaches complaints about players being removed (who shouldn't be). It was one of the things that was feared could happen."
- John Williams, Sac-Joaquin Section assistant commissioner

On the debate about how much contact players should have in practice:
"It's nice to get that feeling of getting hit and knowing what to expect as often as possible. It prepares you better for what you are going to face in the game. At the same time, you don't want to kill your teammates."
- Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick, Whitney tight end-defensive end

"We block and tackle every day because if you don't, it shows on game day, especially defensively. When you practice, you have to go full speed."
- Rio Americano coach Christian Mahaffey

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Bee staff writers Joe Davidson and Bill Paterson provide news, analysis and insight on the area high school sports scene in their Prep Blog. Have a question to ask them? Send them an email any time at or

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