Photo Credit: Jim Higley
Over 400 football moms participated in the first-ever "Football Safety Clinic for Moms" hosted by the Chicago Bears and the NFL. Held at the Bears' training facility, the program featured NFL execs as well as medical experts -- including Dr. Mehmet Oz. Former Chicago Bears players helped moms put some of their new information to practice with on-field drills and tackling practice.
"We don't want you to rely on myths or misunderstandings," said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in his opening remarks to the attendees. "We want you to have the best information to keep your children safe."
Dr. Oz shared not only his personal passion for football, but also his hopes for football moms across the country. "I want to turn to you, as moms, to be the auditors of the system." Here's what all moms should know about kids and football safety.
1. Ask about your league's education and safety policies.
A well-run league will be glad to share their program for training coaches and keeping players safe. Ask about programs for teaching coaches (and players) about equipment fitting, determine if they have a concussion management program that follows guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), understand their coaching philosophy, be clear about practice expectations and inquire about their coaching education program. (USA Football, which oversees "Heads Up Tackling," is the only football coaching course certified by the National Council for Accreditation of Coaching Education.)
2. Make sure your child's equipment fits properly.
This starts the day equipment is issued and continues throughout the season. Proper-fitting equipment -- especially a helmet -- is one of the best ways to protect your child. (Here's how to be sure your child's helmet and shoulder pads fit properly.) Be sure to ask your child how the helmet feels and make sure they are comfortable every step of the way.
3. Know the signs and symptoms for a concussion.
A concussion is a blow or force to the head that causes mental status changes, disorientation, confusion, memory loss or slowness in thinking. It doesn't always involve a loss of consciousness and symptoms are not always present immediately. Because of this, it's critical that you, your child -- and the entire coaching staff -- know the warning signs and follow a policy of when to remove an athlete from play. You can find reliable information about concussion from the CDC, including this comprehensive video. USA Football also has awareness cards that can be distributed to players and coaches.
4. Stay on top of hydration and nutrition.
Players need to take extra steps to insure they don't get dehydrated and have enough energy for a game. These guidelines can help:
•Four hours before the game, your child should eat carbohydrates with protein (whole wheat pasta with chicken, broccoli, bread and butter) as well as 24 ounces of water (or 100-percent juice or low-fat milk).
•One hour before the game, your child should eat a carb-based snack (fruit, pretzels or graham crackers) and 8-ounces of water.
•During the game, hydrate with 8-ounces of water every 15 minutes (sports drinks only needed if game exceeds one hour or if it is hot or humid). Carbs are only needed if the game exceeds an hour, as well.
•Within 30 minutes of the end of the game, hydrate with 24- ounces of water and a carb / protein snack (chocolate milk, granola bar, string cheese, bagel with cream cheese).
•Within two hours of the game, hydrate with 24-ounces of water (or 100 percent juice or low fat milk) and some carbohydrates with protein ("breakfast dinner", grilled chicken with brown rice, burrito and rice).
5. Establish strong dialogue with the coaching staff.
This is one of the most important things you need to do to help keep your child safe and it needs to start long before there is a problem. Don't be afraid to ask questions about equipment, training of coaches, safety policies, whether the league conducts background checks on adult volunteers and how decisions are made as to when a player needs to sit out. You know your child better than anyone. In addition to being the #1 sideline cheerleader, you're also your child's #1 safety advocate.
iVillage iVoice Jim Higley is a writer and dad of three. Find him at Bobblehead Dad, Twitter and Google +.