PLYMOUTH, Minn. (FOX 9) - A school is experimenting with a football alternative they say is making the game safer, while staying true to the nature of the sport, and keeping kids interested.
Providence Academy was one of the first schools to start using the TackleBar harness. The goal of the harness is to get more students out on the field, while also reducing the risk of injury. They say now, four years later, the harness has done so much more than just that.
The company, based in Minnesota, describes the harness as a transitional teaching tool.
"So it’s held on with Velcro in the front, and then the back are two bars that go along the lower back of the ball carrier, and it pulls off," described TackleBar CEO Tim Healey.
The Tacklebar Method is a segue between flag and tackle football. The changed method has resulted in higher team turnout and, according to a recent study published in the Orthopedic Journal of Sports Medicine, a lower number of injuries.
The TackleBar harness strapped around the waist of a player.
"The boys just weren’t coming out, the numbers were going down, and football is such an important sport," said Healey.
So TackleBar tried to do something different while still maintaining the integrity of the sport.
"It’s still a contact game," explained Healey. "We don’t take contact out. We just take the most dangerous part of contact, the tackle to the ground."
The harness is attached to the rear of the player's uniform. Defenders have to reach to their back for a tackle.
The study, published earlier this month, shows the number of injuries sustained by students playing TackleBar football are lower than those playing both youth tackle and flag football.
Over the course of 16,000 exposures, in one season there was only one injury reported with no concussions.
"We’re teaching them the fundamentals of a tackle so when they get older they’re not going to be using the top of the head," added Healey. "They’re not going to be spearing. They’re going to be coming in with their shoulder which is much safer. And I think we’re going to see a safer football."
Providence Academy says the program has shown positive results for its school.
Providence Academy started using the Tacklebar when it first came out. Director of Athletics Daren Messmore says they've seen its benefits first hand.
"I think that our numbers show that at our upper level, the high school, kids have really stayed with the sport," said Messmore. "Where a lot of times you see individuals from the 7th and 8th grade level leave at the 9th grade level."
It has also eased the minds of parents and a method that studies show has minimized the dangers. Ninety percent of parents said they felt it was safer, and 78 percent said they felt like their kids were playing real football.