Football players learn ways to avoid concussions on the field

Photo courtesy Tempe Union High School District

By Alex Zener

Mike Pollak, a former NFL football player and Aztec alumnus, came back to Corona on July 8 to teach football players about a relatively new program, Tip of the Spear, modeled to help prevent concussions and other head injuries common to football players but which can lead to CTE, or Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.

CTE has been documented in the media and corroborated by the medical field the last few years as more NFL players have come forward to complain about this progressive degenerative disease of the brain that has been found in people with a history of repetitive brain trauma, which happens often in athletes, specifically football players, who suffer diagnosed concussions and asymptomatic sub-concussive hits to the head that do not cause symptoms.

Pollak, who graduated from Corona in 2003, played football four years at ASU where he earned a degree in communication. He was drafted after the 2007 season and played for the Indianapolis Colts, Carolina Panthers and Cincinnati Bengals.

He retired from playing in the NFL after the 2015 season.

Pollack travels around the country as part of “Tip of the Spear” football clinics that teach football players, like the ones at Corona, through MMA, or Mixed Martial Arts, techniques and special training on how to avoid concussions and other serious football related injuries while at the same time improving their performance on the field.

Pollak initially became interested in ways to prevent concussions in football players when his sons were considering playing football and he was concerned about them suffering head injuries that could lead to nontreatable CTE.

Football, a game he loved, had given him and his family so many things, but at the same time he did not want his sons to suffer any long-term football injuries, if there was something to make the sport safer. That’s when he discovered Tip of the Spear.

A fellow ASU football player, Scott Peters, developed the Tip of the Spear program. It is a comprehensive instructional training and skill development concept for contact in football—blocking, defeating blocks and tackling—that utilizes techniques to take the head out of the contact without taking away from the physical nature of football.

Basically, Tip of the Spear relies on science-based techniques that focus on mechanics of the body instead of leading with the head in the contact. These techniques use a martial arts combination of Brazilian Jiu jitsu and MMA to teach student athletes to drive with their hips instead of their head to elevate their opponent and eliminate head impact. If the hips are used properly, the helmet should not be leading the hit.

It’s important to note that Tip of the Spear does not want to take away the physical, aggressive nature of the sport of football but instead focuses on providing a solution to the growing concern about head trauma and concussions leading to CTE, an untreatable degenerative disease in football players.

Tip of the Spear principles are taught to many college, high school and youth football teams throughout the country. There are currently 22 schools in Arizona that require the Tip of the Spear training including the high schools in the Tempe Union, Chandler Unified and Phoenix Union school districts.

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