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National PTA, American College of Sports Medicine and National Athletic Trainers' Association Officially Support USA Football's Heads Up Football Program

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Heidi May, Media Relations Manager

Leaders in sports medicine, children’s advocacy back USA Football’s Heads Up Football program, supported by NFL

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), National PTA and the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) have partnered with USA Football and the NFL to advance youth and high school football player safety by officially supporting USA Football’s Heads Up FootballSM program. Representatives from each organization joined NFL Foundation Chairman and Cowboys executive vice president Charlotte Jones Anderson and USA Football Chairman Carl Peterson to make the announcement today in Washington, D.C.

Combined, these organizations represent more than 85,000 medical professionals and millions of families, students, teachers, administrators and business and community leaders devoted to the health, safety and educational success of children and the promotion of family involvement in schools.

Through its membership, ACSM unites global experts in multiple disciplines from science to practice to policy, including education, medicine, research and health and fitness, to provide educational and practical applications of exercise science and sports medicine.

National PTA brings youth health and wellness programs to its membership, which includes more than 4 million parents, teachers and community members nationwide. As part of the NFL and National PTA’s Back to Sports initiative, launched this fall, PTA leaders across the country will support Heads Up Football education and training, among other safety-focused programs, for young athletes and their families. The program is aimed at helping youth stay safer and healthier on sports fields.

NATA is the professional membership association for certified athletic trainers. Founded in 1950, the organization advances and integrates scientific research to enhance the quality of health care provided by certified athletic trainers. The NATA Foundation is also an official supporter of Heads Up Football.

Nearly 2,800 youth football leagues representing approximately 600,000 players and 90,000 coaches across the U.S. have registered for Heads Up Football this season in a commitment to their children’s health and safety. The program is being piloted on the high school level this fall in 35 schools spanning 10 states.

Created by Indianapolis-based USA Football, Heads Up Football delivers coach certification, safer tackling techniques, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concussion recognition and response protocols and proper equipment fitting instruction.

“In my clinical practice and as a team physician, I see first-hand the difference that evidence-based best practices can make in managing sports-related concussion,” said William Dexter, M.D., president of the American College of Sports Medicine and director of sports medicine at Maine Medical Center. “By systematically training coaches and players on established best practices, Heads Up Football helps make the game safer. As a result, more youngsters will be able to enjoy the benefits of sports participation, leading to a lifetime of healthy physical activity.”

“It is critical to ensure that student-athletes and their families are knowledgeable about ways to stay safe and healthy while playing the sports they love,” said Eric Hargis, National PTA executive director. “PTAs play an important role in engaging and educating families, and we are pleased to bring insights and techniques from experts in medicine and sport to communities across the country through the Heads Up Football program to help keep children safe on sports fields.”

"Heads Up Football reinforces many of the safety messages the NATA communicates and is an excellent complement to our organizational initiatives designed to make sports safer for young athletes,” said Jim Thornton, NATA president. “Our association is proud to endorse this valuable program that aligns so closely with our goal to keep young and aspiring athletes on the field, off the sidelines, and doing what they enjoy best in a safe and competitive environment."

“This support for our Heads Up Football program was gained after extensive medical review and underscores the value of the standards we’re establishing in our game,” USA Football Executive Director Scott Hallenbeck  said. “We are inspired to continue to advance behavior change, ensuring that America’s favorite sport is safer and better for every youth and high school player.”

USA Football’s five primary elements of Heads Up Football

Heads Up TacklingSM
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.

Coach Certification
All coaches complete USA Football’s Level 1 Coaching Certification course.

Concussion recognition and response

  • Coaches learn and are assessed on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) concussion recognition and response protocols.  
  • Coaches, parents and players are taught concussion-related protocols at the start of the season and have them reinforced throughout the year.

Player Safety Coach
Appointed by each participating Heads Up Football high school or youth program. This individual is trained by USA Football to implement Heads Up Football’s player safety protocols, including coaching certification, and conducts safety clinics for fellow coaches, parents and players.

Equipment Fitting
Coaches, parents and players are taught proper helmet and shoulder pad fitting.

In addition to the ACSM, National PTA and NATA, organizations that support USA Football and its Heads Up Football program include the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS); the American Football Coaches Association; the Atlantic Coast Conference; the Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences; AAU Football; the Boys and Girls Clubs of America; the National Police Athletic League (P.A.L.); Sports Safety International; the NFL and NFL Foundation; Pop Warner Little Scholars; and the Sports and Fitness Industry Association. 

About USA Football

Indianapolis-based USA Football is the sport’s national governing body, leading the game’s development for youth, high school and other amateur football players. The independent nonprofit is the official youth football development partner of the NFL, its 32 teams and the NCAA’s Atlantic Coast Conference. USA Football (, endowed by the NFL and NFLPA in 2002, is the sport’s leader in coaching education and player skill advancement for a better, safer game.

About ACSM

The American College of Sports Medicine is the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world. More than 50,000 international, national and regional members and certified professionals are dedicated to advancing and integrating scientific research to provide educational and practical applications of exercise science and sports medicine.

About National PTA

National PTA® comprises millions of families, students, teachers, administrators, and business and community leaders devoted to the educational success of children and the promotion of family engagement in schools. PTA is a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit association that prides itself on being a powerful voice for all children, a relevant resource for families and communities, and a strong advocate for public education. Membership in PTA is open to anyone who wants to be involved and make a difference for the education, health, and welfare of children and youth.

About NATA

Athletic trainers are health care professionals who specialize in the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of injuries and sport-related illnesses. They prevent and treat chronic musculoskeletal injuries from sports, physical and occupational activity, and provide immediate care for acute injuries. Athletic trainers offer a continuum of care that is unparalleled in health care. The National Athletic Trainers' Association represents and supports 35,000 members of the athletic training profession.