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On the first page of today's NY Times"Sports Thursday," is an article that details a two-hour lecture on safe tackling delivered inside the home of the Dallas Cowboys. More than 450 Texas high school football coaches attended this seminar to familiarize the state's junior high and high school coaches with the innovative rugby-tackling system proposed by Atavus.
Atavus, a familiar name to the rugby community, is a Seattle-based company that has pioneered less dangerous methods of tackling for rugby and football. The key to its system is for tacklers to utilize squared up shoulders and legs to make contact and, importantly, to avoid using the head.
In Texas high schools, the growth of football has flattened, as a result of specialization in other sports, but also because of incipient apprehension of possible concussions. The latter worry - world wide for all sports -has fostered new techniques and new protocols during games to safeguard injured players. (World Rugby leads in the rules to prevent "concussed" players from returning too quickly back into the game, or returning at all.)
One of the suggestions is also to limit contact during football practice. Dartmouth eliminated tackling in practice in 2010 and instead, employs remote-controlled cones of padding that speed along on the turf. More than 100 high schools also use these mobile targets for tackling practice.
The Atavus system's objective is to make football tackling safer. In no way does it promote dropping football for rugby.
In reality, states like Texas where high school football borders on religion, must implement systems in practice and play that reduce injuries, especially to the head. Rugby tackling that historically opts for the shoulder and not the head has become the safer contact sport model.