By Khalil Garriott, contributing editor
WASHINGTON -- Heads Up Football, a joint partnership of the NFL and USA Football, is bringing more hands on deck as it continues leading the way in the sport's health and safety improvements.
The NFL and USA Football announced Tuesday at the NFL Fall Meeting that the American College of Sports Medicine will support Heads Up Football. Additionally, the PTA and National Athletic Trainers' Association now endorse the program.
USA Football chairman Carl Peterson, a former Kansas City Chiefs executive, and Charlotte Jones Anderson, executive vice president of the Dallas Cowboys and NFL Foundation chairperson, announced the partnership at a news conference.
"We're changing how coaches are prepared, how safety is addressed and informing parents of what Heads Up Football is about," said Peterson, who called on every coach, player, parent and administrator to look into Heads Up Football on USA Football's website. "We're advancing player safety conversation into action. This is for the safety and enjoyment of all youth football players."
Dr. William Dexter represented the ACSM at the announcement. Eric Hargis, national PTA executive director, and Jim Thornton, president of the NATA, also were present.
"I certainly wish I had a program like Heads Up Football when I was playing," said Dexter, who played football for 12 years as a youth.
Jones Anderson said Tuesday's announcement is part of the NFL's ongoing concerted efforts to make football safer for players at all levels.
"We're here to spread information on how to play the game safely," she said. "I think we're all very pleased at the direction we're going."
Hargis said sports provide an important outlet for physical activity and help instill values such as teamwork and leadership in children.
"The PTA wants to do everything to ensure that our children are both healthy and safe," said Hargis, whose son recently graduated from high school after playing football. Hargis added that in some ways, his son learned more about life on the football field than in the classroom.
Thornton thanked the NFL and USA Football for their efforts, saying the NATA is honored to stand in support and looks forward to the partnership.
"We understand the importance of educating all people involved in youth sports," Thornton said.
Almost 2,800 youth football leagues representing approximately 600,000 players and 90,000 coaches in the U.S. have registered for Heads Up Football this season.
For the complete press release from the announcement, click here.