Catholic High football players learn rugby tackling to prevent head injuries

Football players at local school taught rugby tackling to prevent head injuries

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Over the last few years, conversation in football has largely centered on head injuries and how to prevent them, specifically concussions.

Adrian Thompson is the national talent manager for Rugby Australia. He came all the way to Catholic High School to teach Coach Gabe Fertitta’s players how to tackle without losing their heads.

"We’ve had a number of issues with concussions and the number of the laws have changed to adjust to that, but so has coaching in terms of making things safer while still maintaining the force and contact you want,” Thompson said.

In rugby, players do not have helmets, so they have had to adapt.

"It’s just about making sure where to target with their shoulder. They know where to get their head on the right side so not to cop a knee or a hip to the head,” Thompson said.

Adrian Thompson, the national talent manager for Rugby Australia, is teaching football players at Catholic High how to tackle in such a way to reduce the chance of head injury.
Adrian Thompson, the national talent manager for Rugby Australia, is teaching football players at Catholic High how to tackle in such a way to reduce the chance of head injury. (Source: WAFB)

Ronnie Harper, the athletic trainer at Dutchtown High School, says innovations such as rugby tackling are largely taking hold in the U.S. due to the attention on head injuries.

"The community at large, the coaches at large, the athletic training staff, the awareness of concussions on the past six, seven, eight years, it’s in the media, it’s in the NFL, it’s all over the NCAA, and concussion management, so what you find is there is a broad awareness for the community to speak up,” Harper said.

That is the precise reason why Fertitta invited Thompson to train his players.

"You can do these tackling techniques and it’s a safer technique, but though the video they’ve shown, it’s also that it’s going to be more effective,” Fertitta said.

While it’s not easy changing long taught techniques, he says it’s a learning experience for the coaches as well.

"I think the critical part is showing the people that although it is safer, it can be even more effective than what you are already teaching,” he said.

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