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Heads Up Football program stresses player safety

A total of 43 youth football leagues in the Chicago area have committed to the future of youth football by adopting a new USA Football program dedicated to making the game better and safer.

The Heads Up Football program ensures a positive youth football experience and advances player safety by providing league-wide coaching education and teaching resources that benefit players, parents and coaches.


USA Football is the official youth development partner of the Bears and the rest of the NFL.Former Bears Otis Wilson and Mike Richardson, who were defensive starters on the famed 1985 Super Bowl XX championship team, will work alongside select area leagues throughout the 2013 season as NFL Ambassadors.

USA Football is the official youth development partner of the NFL, the Bears and the league's other 31 teams. These 43 youth leagues are among more than 900 youth football organizations nationwide that will incorporate Heads Up Football into their 2013 season.

Participating league coaches will be trained in Heads Up Football techniques before leading their teams this season. All head coaches and assistant coaches will complete USA Football's accredited Level 1 Coach Certification Course, which includes Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) concussion recognition and response protocols; proper helmet and shoulder pad fitting; and Heads Up tackling techniques, which aim to take the head out of the line of contact.

Parents can help ensure their youth football players are participating in a better and safer brand of football by visiting, where they can enroll their leagues as Heads Up Football leagues and ensure that their coaches are certified.

"The Chicago Bears are proud to endorse Heads Up Football and are dedicated to promoting a better, safer game in our community," said Matt Simeone, Bears youth football and alumni relations manager. "Football offers so many rewards for our children when the game is taught correctly and coaches are prepared to teach. This program is changing for the better how youth football is played."

"The health and safety of every youth player is USA Football's No. 1 priority," said Scott Hallenbeck, USA Football executive director. "These Chicago-area leagues show exceptional dedication to their players, parents and coaches, and we are proud to have them be part of Heads Up Football. Each of them is committed to the highest standards of player safety and coaching education in all of youth sports."

Through Heads Up Football, each league will nominate player safety coaches to be trained by USA Football. Player safety coaches will evaluate and monitor Heads Up Football player safety protocols within the organization as well as work with league commissioners, coaches, parents and players throughout the season to provide on-site clinics and mentoring to ensure that coaching and player safety best practices are used.

Adopted in 2013 by youth leagues on a national level, Heads Up Football requires five primary elements:

1) Heads Up tackling: USA Football's Heads Up tackling technique, endorsed by medical and football experts, teaches players to keep their heads up and out of the line of contact.

2) Concussion recognition and response: Coaches learn and are assessed on CDC concussion recognition and response through USA Football's Level 1 Coaching Certification Course. Coaches, parents and players are taught concussion-related protocols at the start of the season at a league-wide clinic and have them reinforced throughout the season.

3) Coaching education: All coaches within a youth program are trained to teach the game's fundamentals by completing USA Football's nationally accredited Level 1 Coaching Certification Course.

4) Equipment fitting: Coaches, parents and players are taught proper helmet and shoulder pad fitting.

5) Player safety coach: Appointed by each participating Heads Up Football youth organization, this individual ensures compliance with Heads Up Football's player safety protocols, including coaching certification and conducting safety clinics for coaches, parents and players.

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