How to Tackle in Football Without Getting Hurt or Injured
Football and tackling go together like peanut butter and jelly. However, as player safety has become a greater concern in the sport, more and more parents and players are looking for new ways to ensure safety while playing the game. And although football and tackling go together, player safety is of the utmost importance and should be taught from a young age.
Below, we are going to review and discuss just how to tackle in football without getting hurt or injured. And although some injuries are inevitable in any sport, by taking certain measures, particularly when tackling another player, you can significantly reduce the total incidence of injury while playing a game of football.
Why is Proper Tackling So Important?
As mentioned above, tackling in football is a natural by-product of the game. In fact, for many professional and older-aged leagues, in order for a player to be considered down, the defending team must tackle the player with the ball to the ground.
However, just why is proper tackling so important in the sport?
For starters, in order to effectively stop a run, whether straight from the snap or after a catch, the defending team must tackle the player with the ball. Doing so not only stops the current play but also ensures that the offensive team is limited in the number of yards that they will carry the ball forward for.
Similarly, proper tackling helps to avoid a missed tackle. Too often, football players attempting to make a tackle will do so incorrectly, missing the opposing player with the football and allowing them to gain additional yards and a potential touchdown.
And lastly, learning how to properly tackle will help you to avoid both minor and major injuries. Football is a tough, physical, contact sport. And as a contact sport, there will be hits and tackles in the game. However, by learning how to hit and tackle properly, you will be able to significantly reduce the likelihood of a minor or major injury occurring.
What is Proper Tackling in Football?
In American football, proper tackling is meant to accomplish two main objectives. The first, and most important one, is to avoid injury to both the tackling player and the player being tackled. And secondly, proper tackling is meant to fully stop a moving player with the football from gaining additional yardage or from scoring a touchdown.
However, although there are two main objectives in every proper tackle, doing so can be both difficult and slightly counterintuitive. As humans, our natural instincts are to avoid situations which may cause injury and harm. And in football, completing a proper tackle requires us to ignore our instincts and natural reflexes.
This is because in a proper football tackle, the tackler should maintain a 45-degree angle with their head up when making contact with the opposing player. However, again, our instincts will kick-in and will attempt to lower our heads when going in for the contact.
Lowering your head and not maintaining a proper 45-degree angle is not only an incorrect way to perform a tackle but could also lead to significant injury to the head and spine. Below, we will discuss, step-by-step, how to properly tackle in football without getting hurt or injured.
Wear a Properly Fitted Helmet
While football players wear many layers of clothing and pieces of equipment, there is, perhaps, no equipment more important to any player or the sport than the football helmet. The football helmet is meant to protect against translational movements and the impact injuries they cause. By wearing a football helmet, you significantly reduce the risk of skull fractures and internal bleeding inside of the skull.
Football helmets are specifically designed to dissipate force from an impact. This is done by having a hard outer shell and a soft, inner foam layer within the helmet. By wearing a football helmet, football players can spread the impact of a tackle over a larger area, reducing the injury to any one portion of the skull.
If you are looking to tackle in football and reduce the incidence of injury and harm, then wearing a properly fitted helmet is one of your best defenses. A football helmet should fit snug around your head and should not move while you are wearing it. If it moves around, then it is too large, and you should opt for a smaller sized one.
Keep Your Head Up While Tackling
While finding and wearing a properly sized football helmet is relatively easy, tackling properly on the football field requires you to keep your head up while tackling. Again, this is counterintuitive to your natural instincts and will require both practice and discipline to accomplish.
While tackling, you will need to maintain a heads-up position throughout the game. Not only will doing so help you to tackle properly but it will also help you to maintain a level of awareness of the field and your surroundings while you are playing the game.
However, while your head is up, you should keep your neck slightly flexed back. This will help to keep your neck safe during tackles and will help you to avoid injury to that region of your body. Dropping your head and tackling with your headfirst can not only lead to brain and skull injury, but also neck and spinal ones.
Decelerate Before Making Impact
Although most football players tend to accelerate before making impact with an opposing player, doing so is incorrect. And while accelerating before making impact will deal more impact, it can be more dangerous to both the tackler and the player being tackled.
Rather, decelerate slightly before making the tackle, adjusting your head and neck to proper positioning. You will not only decrease the likelihood of injury, but you will also have better positioning to ensure that your tackle will make impact and will successfully bring the opposing player to the ground.
Tackle With Your Arms
Similarly, many football players will opt to tackle an opposing player with their heads. Again, this is incorrect and will lead to injury to both the skull and neck. And while tackling with your head can be seen as an easy and effective tackle-form, you should avoid doing so to reduce the incidence of injury and to avoid a potential penalty.
Rather, when making a tackle, always do so with your arms. Tackling with your arms helps you to fully embrace the opposing player, providing you with better leverage against the player and making the tackle easier and safer.
In addition, you can work on building your arm strength in the gym to better assist you in making tackles with your arms and providing you with the confidence you need to do so.
Hit the Player’s Opposing Shoulder
Lastly, and one technique that isn’t commonly discussed, is that when you do make a tackle against an opposing player, do so against their opposite shoulder. This means that if the opposing player is holding the ball with their right arm, aim to tackle them against their left shoulder. Alternatively, if they are holding the football in their left arm, aim to tackle them against their right shoulder.
Doing so will not only help you to make a proper tackle, but you will also face less resistance and impact against their vulnerable arm. And while you may feel compelled to tackle against their arm holding the football to force a fumble, it is more important to practice safe tackling techniques and effectively tackling the opposing player.