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Orthop J Sports Med. 2016 May 19;4(5):2325967116648441. doi: 10.1177/2325967116648441. eCollection 2016 May.

Comparison of Indiana High School Football Injury Rates by Inclusion of the USA Football "Heads Up Football" Player Safety Coach.

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Datalys Center for Sports Injury Research and Prevention Inc, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA.
USA Football, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA.



In Indiana, high school football coaches are required to complete a coaching education course with material related to concussion awareness, equipment fitting, heat emergency preparedness, and proper technique. Some high schools have also opted to implement a player safety coach (PSC). The PSC, an integral component of USA Football's Heads Up Football (HUF) program, is a coach whose primary responsibility is to ensure that other coaches are implementing proper tackling and blocking techniques alongside other components of the HUF program.


To compare injury rates in Indiana high school football teams by their usage of a PSC or online coaching education only.


Cohort study; Level of evidence, 2.


Athletic trainers (ATs) evaluated and tracked injuries at each practice and game during the 2015 high school football season. Players were drawn from 6 teams in Indiana. The PSC group, which used the PSC component, was comprised of 204 players from 3 teams. The "education only" group (EDU), which utilized coaching education only, was composed of 186 players from 3 teams. Injury rates and injury rate ratios (IRRs) were reported with 95% confidence intervals (CIs).


During 25,938 athlete-exposures (AEs), a total of 149 injuries were reported, of which 54 (36.2%) and 95 (63.8%) originated from the PSC and EDU groups, respectively. The practice injury rate was lower in the PSC group than the EDU group (2.99 vs 4.83/1000 AEs; IRR, 0.62; 95% CI, 0.40-0.95). The game injury rate was also lower in the PSC group than the EDU group (11.37 vs 26.37/1000 AEs; IRR, 0.43; 95% CI, 0.25-0.74). When restricted to concussions only, the rate was lower in the PSC group (0.09 vs 0.73/1000 AEs; IRR, 0.12; 95% CI, 0.01-0.94), although only 1 concussion was reported in the PSC group. No differences were found in game concussion rates (0.60 vs 4.39/1000 AEs; IRR, 0.14; 95% CI, 0.02-1.11).


Findings support the PSC as an effective method of injury mitigation in high school football. Future research should seek to replicate this study using larger samples from additional states.


epidemiology; pediatrics; prevention

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