Keegan Baker loves to play tackle football.
“You get to tackle people,” said Keegan, who plays tight end for the Chugiak Mustangs U-10 team that took part in the annual Football Jamboree, hosted by Alaska Boys and Girls Clubs.
Keegan has played tackle football for the last two years, and injuries are the farthest thing from his mind when he takes the field.
His coaches, however, are concerned about the players’ safety, especially when it comes to head injuries.
“It’s an injury you can’t see, people tend to look at it like it’s not a real injury,” said Mustangs Head Coach Scott Stark. “It’s a part of the body; it’s a vital part of the body.”
Stark and the other coaches in the league have been trained and certified. This is the third season the Alaska Boys and Girls Clubs has played its games with the “Heads Up Football” program.
“It makes them aware of the symptoms, signs and symptoms of concussions, and what are the return-to-play protocols,” said the Boys and Girls Clubs athletic director Jason Leonardis.
USA Football created Heads Up in 2013 to help players learn proper tackling techniques and reduce head injuries. It launched a study in 2014 that examined the program’s impact on youth football around the country. The report found Heads Up leagues reduced the number of concussions by 29 percent during games and 34 percent in practices.
Organizers of the Boys and Girls Clubs say their games have always been safe, but the Heads Up program has made them safer.