FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) --Head injuries and the long-term effects suffered from playing football have become a hot-button issue in recent years.
But Thursday, the sport's governing body USA Football stopped in Fresno to help teach coaches proper techniques to pass along to their athletes in the hopes of reducing injuries.
Turn on any NFL game this weekend and there's a good chance you'll see high-impact collisions with bone-rattling results. Scenes that's all to familiar to former 49ers defensive end and Super Bowl champion Dennis Brown, "When I played, I had many concussions, but we just called it getting your bell rung," Brown said. "And we find out it was a concussion, the brain damage thing."
Brown along with USA Football wants to make the game safer, speaking to dozens of local coaches. Brown and football's governing body are on the road teaching proper tackling and blocking techniques to reduce head injuries. "The kids are bigger, stronger and faster, and when they hit, they hit hard," Brown said. "I was the biggest kid when I played, now I would be the smallest kid on my campus. It's changed a lot, so safety has to change."
The changes are happening, California has already reduced the amount of contact high school programs can have during practice. "Having been a head football coach for 12 years," Rich Hammond of Clovis said. "Looking at where it was when I started and where it is now and seeing the rate of injuries go down. It's important to buy in to make our game as safe as possible."
Hammond led Central Section powerhouse Clovis High to an 11-win season in 2015 and is a huge supporter of the culture shift happening in football. "It's a labor of love," Hammond said. "You're there because you love the young people you work with. So, obviously, if you love people, you want to make sure you're doing things as safe as possible."
Experts agree the commitment to make the game safer begins in youth leagues. "With young athletes now we're going to teach them to do something different," Hammond said. "And, hopefully, they'll carry it on, and the culture of the NFL will change -- that's the goal."