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USA Football aims to combat concussions with player safety clinic in Gettysburg

When it comes to dealing with concussions on football sidelines, there's a simple rule: "When in doubt, sit them out."

That's according to USA Football Master Trainer Kevin Lynott, who will host a player safety clinic Saturday in Gettysburg for local coaches. The interactive clinic, which focuses on combating concussions in youth sports, allows coaches to learn new ways of making the game safer through an initiative called Heads Up Football.

More than 30 coaches from six youth organizations and several high schools in southern Pennsylvania are expected to be at Gettysburg High School, as Lynott leads them through a classroom seminar and Q&A on heat hydration and techniques for tackling and blocking, then eight to 10 interactive drills on the field. After Lynott explains the drills, coaches will be divided into smaller groups where they can teach each other.

"It's all about promoting a better, safer way to play football by giving coaches the proper curriculum to pass along," Lynott said. "The one takeaway we want them to leave with is that the whole premise is to keep the head out of the game. Shoulders and body should be the primary contact points."

The clinic, which was started in response to data and research on a rise in concussions, will add a new feature this year: sudden cardiac arrest training. Coaches will learn what procedures to take if there is a sudden cardiac event on the field and the importance of having an AED (automatic external defibrillator).

"They really save lives," Lynott said of the AEDs. "We track safety statistics and decided it was important to roll this out this year. Most high schools have had them for years, but we're striving to make that an important part of youth leagues, as well."

Another item on the itinerary that Lynott and the trainers will stress on Saturday is what steps a coaching staff should take before allowing a player to return to action after they have shown symptoms of a concussion.

The Heads Up Football program suggests a five-day, five-step protocol that includes slowly easing the athlete back into light drills and closely-monitored, non-contact practices after receiving clearance from a medical professional. If at any point during the first four days, the athlete shows symptoms of a concussion, they would start the process over again, but if they make it through, they're good to go, Lynott said.

The bottom line: When in doubt, sit them out.

"That's the policy," Lynott said. "Anytime you're dealing with an athlete and you think they might have a concussion, stick to that theory."


When: Saturday, July 25, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Where: Gettysburg Area High School

What: Heads Up Football overview, 8 a.m.; Concussion recognition and response, 9:05 a.m.; Heat preparedness and hydration, 9:35 a.m.; Equipment fitting, 10:15 a.m.; Sudden cardiac arrest protocols, 10:45 a.m.; Player safety coach overview, 11:15 a.m.; Heads Up tackling and Heads Up blocking, 12:30 p.m.; Football practice guidelines, 1:45 p.m.; Heads Up tackling and blocking (on field instruction), 2 p.m.