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Commentary:

Video of Eric LeGrand's (Rutgers University) Head-Down Hit and Comments
By Jon Heck, MS, ATC 10/10


LeGrand is #52 in the red jersey:

Clear slow motion video of the hit begins at about 1:14


Clearly A Head-Down Hit
LeGrand is at least the 4th football player paralyzed so far in 2010 in high scool and college football. There is excellent slow motion video of this hit. He approaches contact with his head-up but (as often happens) he makes the mistake of lowering his head just before impact. The top of his helmet makes contact with the back of the ball-carriers shoulder. The usual mechanism of injury is on display here, head-down contact that results in an axial load to the cervical spine. I don't think there is much controversy here. But, to be clear, this was not a "freak accident" we have known the mechanism of these catastrophic injuries since the mid 1970's.


LeGrand (52) makes head-down contact with the ball-carrier. This hit resulted in a cervical spine injury and paralysis.

You'll notice no flag was thrown on this play. This continues to be the norm for incidents of head-down contact in college. Even the hits that result in paralysis. This hit could have easily been flagged under the NCAA rule for initiating contact ... "No player shall initiate contact and target an opponent with the crown (top) of his helmet. When in question, it is a foul" ... Throwing flags on more of these head-down hits that don't result in injury will serve as a deterent and help prevent the catastrophic injuries that do result from it.

This injury has to be used to prevent similar injuries in the future by showing the mistake that was made and demonstrating the mechanism of injury. The bottom line remains: By keeping the head-up and initiating contact with the shoulder, these injuries can be prevented at every level ... high school, college and professional.