Face Mask Removal

The athletic helmet and chin strap should only be removed if the helmet and chin strap do not hold the head securely, such that immobilization of the helmet does not also immobilize the head.

In addition, the helmet should be removed only if the design of the helmet and chin strap is such that even after removal of the face mask the airway cannot be controlled, or ventilation be provided.


Safety Procedures

Athletic Trainers

All sports groups, whether school, college, private or professional, should have a Certified Athletic Trainer on hand at all times, even when practicing. A certified or licensed Athletic Trainer has a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university, and more than 70% of Athletic Trainer's have a master's or doctoral degree. Athletic trainers are health care professionals and are trained to medically treat patients of all ages in any setting.

Certified athletic trainers are not the same as personal trainers. Personal trainers are not required to have the education and training that an Athletic Trainer has, and are more likely to be working in health clubs than in college football. An Athletic Trainer will have formal instruction in subjects such as Human Anatomy, Human Physiology, Chemistry, Biology, Physics, Exercise Physiology, and Kinesiology/Biomechanics. In addition, they study Risk management and injury prevention, Pathology of injuries and illnesses, Orthopedic clinical examination and diagnosis, Medical conditions and disabilities, Acute care of injuries and illnesses, Conditioning, rehabilitative exercise and referral, and Nutritional aspects of injuries and illnesses.


Head and neck injuries were reduced by the 1976 ruling which eliminated the head as the primary initial contact area for blocking and tackling. Spearing—“the use of the helmet and face mask in an attempt to punish an opponent”—is now illegal. It is also recommended that athletes receive conditioning exercises to strengthen their necks to cut down on injuries when contact is made.

Heat Precautions

Coaches need to be properly educated in the proper procedures and precautions when practicing or playing in the heat. All athletes should have complete physical examinations before practices begin, and then should be acclimated to the heat gradually. Cold water should be available and given regularly, even before warming up, as many players may be dehydrated from the start. Overweight athletes may be more susceptible to heat. Athletes should be weighed before and after practice in hot and humid climates. A 3% body loss through sweating may be safe, but a 5% loss is in the danger zone and should be attended to.


Over 50% of injured female athletes are high school and college cheerleaders. Many schools have limited the type of stunts that can be attempted by their cheerleaders. It is imperative that cheerleading be taught by a trained instructor. The American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Advisors offers safety certification for cheerleading coaches. New cheerleading rules and safety guidelines can be found on the AACCA site at www.aacca.org.

Spinal Injuries

  • Any athlete suspected of having a spinal injury should not be moved and should be managed as though a spinal injury exists.
  • The athlete's airway, breathing and circulation, neurological status and level of consciousness should be assessed.
  • The athlete should not be moved unless absolutely essential to maintain airway, breathing and circulation.
  • If the athlete must be moved to maintain airway, breathing and circulation, the athlete should be placed in a supine position while maintaining spinal immobilization.
  • When moving a suspected spine injured athlete, the head and trunk should be moved as a unit. One accepted technique is to manually splint the head to the trunk.
  • The Emergency Medical Services system should be activated.