A group of 10-12 year old students from St. Joseph, MO arrived at The University of Kansas Hospital Training Complex earlier this week to participate in the Chiefs Heads Up clinic. Former Chiefs players, Shawn Barber and Anthony Davis led the students through drills and taught them proper techniques.
The clinic is an opportunity for local youth football players and their parents to become better versed in concussion awareness, as well as proper tackling techniques and equipment fitting.
"The team here, the St. Joseph Trojans, and their coaching staff is very dedicated and have really taken the Heads Up program and ran with it," Ty Collins, Director of Coaching of Wyandotte Youth Football and Cheerleading explained. "They endorse the principles, both in the online certification and the hands-on training."
For the first 30 minutes of the clinic, coaches, along with Chiefs Ambassadors Shawn Barber and Anthony Davis led players in an on-field session focusing on proper Heads Up tackling techniques.
"It's great exposure having these kids and coaches from Wyandotte youth league come out to the field and have a chance to work with them and walk them through some of the main drills of Heads Up," Barber noted. "This is a process of helping kids develop a new way of thinking when it comes to hitting. We want to make the game safer for the kids. We want to give them the chance to play this game for a very long time and to walk away from the game."
Dr. Stephen Lauer from The University of Kansas Hospital spoke to the parents of the students to discuss concussions and safety.
"The message to the parents is to work with groups like this, who teach their kids good techniques, so they can avoid concussions," Dr. Lauer commented. "Also, the parents can be looking for signs at home that would suggest their child has had a concussion. If they've been hit in the game, those symptoms can evolve over time. It can take one or two days for things to really show up."
Dr. Lauer notes that some of the things to look for are headaches, dizziness, problems focusing, problems getting to sleep or being sleepier than usual, if they have trouble getting through their homework, or are very irritable. These are all signs of a concussion and medical attention is needed.
"There's still a lot of getting past the old idea of 'walking it off' or 'it getting better on its own'," Dr. Lauer said. "But I think the awareness is really changing…there's a lot more awareness about concussions and their effects right now."
The students were thrilled to have the chance to play on the same field the Chiefs practice on and learn from former Chiefs as well.
"It's amazing for them to get to see the former Chiefs players teaching them how they can advance their game," Collins mentioned. "But also, that someone who played in the league still cares about teaching them how to play the game right to make sure that they don't end up injured. These kids could barely contain themselves. Watching them run down from the parking lot, they were so excited, they were almost skipping."
At the conclusion of the event, Barber and Davis spoke to the young team about the importance of teamwork, safety, and dedication, before opening it up to questions. Each student received a Chiefs football following the event in which, Barber and Davis signed as well as took photos with the group.
This is the second Heads Up collaboration between the Chiefs and their Official Health Care Provider, The University of Kansas Hospital. In August, the duo hosted a Heads Up seminar, along with USA Football, for local youth football coaches and administrators.