‘TackleBar’ pitched to Canadians as safer approach to football


A Minnesota-based company is hoping its new form of football catches on in Canada.

At the Nike Coach of the Year clinic in Calgary on Saturday — held for the first time in Canada — Jeremy Ling promoted TackleBar football as an extra-safe way of playing the celebrated sport.

Here’s how it works: players strap on a harness that holds two vertical foam handles on their lower back. Opponents must use proper tackling form to wrap the ball carrier — but instead of flattening them into the dirt, they rip the bar from the carrier’s back.

While that may sound similar to flag football, TackleBar has players geared up in full equipment and requires players to use proper football technique.

“This is a tool that allows coaches and teams to really refine their technique and simulate that live tackling, without putting their players through the full wear and tear,” Ling said.

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As a football coach, Ling said he kept hearing safety concerns from parents and wanted to develop a safe way for young players to transition from flag football to full-contact.

“At the youngest levels, it’s been really a challenge to get kids to sign up,” he said.

“So by offering this as a way to teach proper technique but keep contact at lighter levels, we’ve been able to open up the doors and address those safety concerns that parents have.”

TackleBar claims to be up to seven times safer than other forms of football. It has been incorporated into youth football leagues in 21 states in the U.S. and has been endorsed by the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings.

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A recent study that reviewed team contact sports found American football carried the second-highest risk of concussion behind rugby.

Scott Rathwell is an assistant professor of kinesiology at the University of Lethbridge and believes the new approach to football could be helpful for young athletes or for older teams in practice scenarios.

“I don’t know that you’re ever going to see this translate to professional or college level, but this might be an awesome way to mitigate concussion exposures… for when you’re growing up and teaching the fundamentals of wrapping and playing the right way,” Rathwell said.

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He added that children are generally less likely to incur a brain injury in football because of their weight and the speed at which the game is played.

“But, when a kid incurs a concussion, it’s worse off for them,” he said. “They have a developing brain and they tend to experience worse symptoms and longer symptomology.”

TackleBar was one of a number of exhibitions set up at the Nike Coach of the Year clinic on the weekend. Canadian Football Academy director Tom Higgins said attitudes towards player safety have shifted drastically as concussion awareness and research continues.

“One of the biggest takeaways now is: how can we continue to grow the sport of football, but also to make it safer?” Higgins said.

“The pendulum has swung completely to the safety side. [Taking] the head out of tackling, we are now tackling like rugby players but we have equipment on.”

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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