Football safety emphasized for student-athletes

August 1, 2013 (CHICAGO)

There were about 200 kids on the field Thursday night, their parents in the stands. They were learning good football techniques, but also techniques their coaches hope will avoid injuries.

It's unlikely the kids will have a chance to play football at Soldier Field any time soon, but they were doing drills there and learning safe football techniques Thursday night. That's the idea, teaching young kids how to avoid injuries at an early age.

"We're not trying to change the game, but we're trying to change the culture of it to make it a better, safer game," said Frank Priami, USA Football.

It's not just for the kids. Parents also learn from the experts about the techniques their kids are learning and about equipment, including the proper fit for a helmet, perhaps the most important piece of gear.

"It's great they're teaching them the right way, because we don't know the right way. We never played football," said Michelle Michelon.

The emphasis on safety in football has come a long way in the more than 12 years since Rocky Clark was paralyzed in a game. He died a year and a half ago, but Governor Pat Quinn will honor him this weekend by signing legislation mandating schools across the state to carry catastrophic injury insurance for all student athletes.

"This is the weekend that my son fought for," said Annette Clark.

A shrine to Rocky's life is in Annette Clark's front window, testament to her tireless dedication to her son's care after the accident. While he had catastrophic injury insurance, it still ran out. Meanwhile, coaches at soldier field Thursday night hope the techniques they are teaching will help prevent players from serious injuries.

"It'll help you a lot if you learn how to tackle or put your head up because you can get a lot of neck injuries, fast," said former Bears player Anthony Adams.

The bill Quinn plans to sign on Sunday would be a maximum of $3 million insurance for all players. Supporters say that's a good first step, but they would like to increase it.

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