While our Mountain View-Los Altos High School Board of Trustees considers installing stadium lights at our high schools, I've seen some residents voice concerns about the safety of football. I, too, have been concerned about my players' safety. I've seen fewer young men coming out for football because of concerns about concussion risk and the potential for traumatic brain injuries that can cause chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
High school athletics is my job and passion. I really care about these kids and want to make our team as safe as possible, so we have taken several important steps to protect our young athletes.
First, we proactively implemented safe tackling standards established by the Seattle Seahawks. Their approach takes the head out of the play and increases safety while maintaining the physicality that makes the game great. Our players use this technique, the same technique used by rugby players around the world, and it really works.
We know that no tackling technique alone can completely eliminate the risk of injury. We also can't control how the opposing team tackles, so our next step was to get the best protective gear available.
The Mountain View High School athletic department and sports boosters did a special fundraiser to get new, state-of-the-art helmets: the Riddell Speedflex. It is a top-rated helmet that is worn by professional and Division 1-A athletes. It's designed to protect against dangerous impacts. We put sensors in each helmet so, when a player takes a hit, it is measured and transmitted to the coaches on the sidelines. Even if a tackle doesn't cross a threshold, coaches can pull a player and check on them.
At Mountain View High and Los Altos High, every player's helmet has a "Guardian Cap," the leading soft-shell helmet cover engineered for impact reduction. It reduces impact up to 30 percent. This safety gear is worn by over 80,000 football and lacrosse players nationwide, including our athletes.
Our high school players now wear both a Speedflex and Guardian Cap for all practices. For games, the Speedflex with sensors adds an additional layer of safety not otherwise afforded players in the past. These efforts have made head injuries extremely rare.
Our young men still want and need a "rough and tumble" outlet, and football provides that. On the sidelines and off the field, we do our level best to keep them all safe while they practice and play.
Shelley Smith is the athletic director, a physical education teacher and head football coach at Mountain View High School.