Bear Down! Mom’s Football Safety Clinic


You might think that phrase “bear down” on a mom’s blog refers to labor and delivery, but in this case, I mean The Chicago Bears.

I was fortunate to attend the Chicago Bears Football Safety Clinic for Moms at Halas Hall on October 29, 2013. I have to admit; it was a similar experience to labor and delivery as I had to prepare questions ahead of time, bring a change of comfortable clothes, and fill out paperwork before I arrived.

Chicago Bears Mom Football Safety Clinic

Chicago Bears Moms Football Safety Clinic

When I began filling out the pre-paperwork, I saw that I would be doing on-field drills with current and former Bears football players! I thought about wearing my glasses on purpose (even though they asked us to arrive in athletic wear) because I thought, “who would hit a girl with glasses?”. That was my poor strategy to stay safe from the football players.

But they weren’t scary at all. The Chicago Bears Organization welcomed 199 nine other moms, and I like queens. We arrived at the beautiful Walter Payton Center in Lake Forest, Illinois, for this quick, efficient meeting that kept my attention for the entire information-packed 2 hours.

I thought it would be a boring conference meeting about football safety and concussion statistics turned out to be an exciting evening adventure in Lake Forest, Illinois, at Halas Hall. Not only was having my camera permissible, which excited me, but I was able to take pictures with some of the most famous Bears icons. In addition to hearing speeches by famous people not usually associated with the Bears, like Dr. Oz!

McCasky Family, Chicago Bears Moms Football Safety Clinic

The night began with a check-in and distribution of free matching (cute!) white t-shirts. We were free to explore the Walter Payton museum on the 2nd floor, including many fun collectibles, including my favorite, a 45-record of the SuperBowl Shuffle! Many famous Bears personalities were in attendance, including George McCaskey, Chicago Bears Chairman, Virginia Halas McCaskey, and Connie Payton.

We took our seats and were introduced to the NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell. He gave moms all the credit. He encouraged our families, especially football players, to be safe. He reiterated the NFL’s commitment to our kids to play safer. Roger reminded us to ask critical questions and not let tonight be the end of our information gathering. Mr. Goodell summarized his talk by stating that “moms are the decision-makers,” moms are responsible, make sure you (all moms) have the right information, the BEST information. Roger was a great salesman at all the benefits that sports have on children. And he gave us a preview of “heads up” tackling: to remember to “see what you hit,” which helps decrease concussions when your players are in that position during a tackle. You can watch a video of the presentation at

Chicago Bears Moms Football Safety Clinic

Next, the speaker was a huge surprise to me, Dr. Mehmet Oz, a cardiothoracic surgeon and TV personality. Dr. Oz talked about making sure you have good coaches for your children. Make sure coaches are certified, knowledgeable, and educated. They should know what a concussion is (identify it, it’s a bruise to the brain). If your child doesn’t remember hitting their head – that’s a concussion. A side note about the brain’s biology: 60% of your brain is fat, so remember to get 1000mg of omega-3 fish oils a day to help heal any brain injuries and keep your head healthy.

Third, Mike and Lisa from Athletico spoke (and provided detailed handouts) on preventing heat-related illness. This information was extremely helpful and applicable to all sports, not just football.

Dr. Elizabeth Pieroth, a neuropsychologist and NorthShore University Health System, explained the biology of brain injuries. Concussions occur at a cellular level and are a metabolic injury, a brain injury, not a “head” injury. Something important to keep in mind is the difference between signs and symptoms. An easy way to tell them apart is: Signs are somethings other can see, Symptoms are reported by the athletes themselves. Dr. Pieroth noted laying in a dark room will not cure a concussion, although it might make your headache better, sleep better and keep your annoying sister out of your way.

In July 2011, a new concussion law was passed in Illinois(1). It’s never been safer to play football. In the United States, sometimes the only regular exercise some kids get is these sports practices. We want kids safe, and we want kids exercising. Obesity is an epidemic in America. Not to be gender-bias, but the reality is, most boys want to hit something. We need to give them a socially appropriate way to get rid of that energy! When deciding on letting your child play football, read about the actual science, don’t indulge in rumors on the internet or what your neighbor says.

Risk is personal. Educate yourself and make the right decision for your family. “I’m not gonna tell you how to play your offense,” she states. Playing football or not is a mom’s decision – be part of the decision! No one can tell a mom what they can and cannot do. Be proud of that. Be an advocate for your family.

Then, it was time to get out of our seats! Tackling was up next. Members of Heads Up Football, a program launched this year by the NFL-supported youth organization USA Football, were on hand to teach the 200 moms safe tackling positions and techniques.

Chicago Bears Moms Football Safety Clinic

As we began learning tackling techniques in front of TV cameras, we were reminded to calm down. “Don’t worry about looking silly. Your kids and hubby aren’t here. Just the commissioner of the NFL,” they joked.

  1. Stomp your feet shoulder with apart.
  2. Squeeze back nice and tall. Chin up and eyes up.
  3. Sit, lean forward.
  4. Hands –out front ready to play football

Hit position
One foot toe to heel
Right toe
Sit (Squat)
Front Foot should cut the ball carrier in half (head off to the side)

As I very un-gracefully fell on the tackling dummy and made a fool of myself participating, I thought, why am I here again? One football coach put it very succinctly, “my mama taught me how to use a fork, clean my room, do my homework, she might as well teach me how to tackle.” And I was back in the game.

A fantastic panel followed our tackle practice, moderated by Jane Goodell, former Fox News Anchor, and wife of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. The panel of experts were:

  • Diane Long, wife of Hall of Famer/Broadcaster Howie Long, and mother of 2 NFL players: Chris Long and Kyle Long.
  • Christine Golic, wife of former NFL player and EPSN broadcaster Mike Golic, and mother of 2 former Notre Dame players Mike Jr and Chris Golic.
  • Britney Payton, NFL Networking in New York, a former college athlete, and Walter Payton’s daughter.

Some of the great insight gained from this panel can be summarized:
Why do you let your kids play football?

  •  Do what their friends were doing
  •  Structure
  • Cool uniforms
  •  Kids get their homework done –because a third party was checking on them (coach)
  • Kids come home exhausted!
  •  They wanted to
  •  Part of a group with positive influence

The sky is not falling, people! Football as a sport is under fire; we are here, getting the word out, as a mom to reach out to other moms and educate.

The panel warns, sometimes there can be intense peer pressure from other moms. How can you handle that?

  • Ask questions
  • Be confident
  • Become educated
  • Implement good techniques
  • All things in life have risks.
  • You can’t avoid all injuries.
  • You can’t live your life afraid of everything.
  • You let your kids get drivers licenses (which is also dangerous)
  • What’s important is your kids: health, happiness, and self-satisfaction
  •  Learn how to talk to a coach and not be intimidated
  •  Get involved! Volunteer and get to know others in the football community. Openly communicate before it becomes negative and that’s the first communication you have

We need to change the culture of hiding concussions. That’s not good for any of our children and players. Let’s talk about it and keep open lines of communication!

Chicago Bears Moms Football Safety Clinic

In summary, your children are more likely to get hurt on the way to practice vs. at football practice. Make sure you protect your kids in practical and effective ways, wearing a bike helmet, wearing a seatbelt, etc.

To end the evening, a second-star studded panel consisted of:

  • Diane Long, wife of Hall of Famer/Broadcaster Howie Long, and mother of 2 NFL players: Chris Long and Kyle Long.
  • Dr. Elizabeth Pieroth, a neuropsychologist and NorthShore University Health System,
  • Christine Golic, wife of former NFL player and EPSN broadcaster Mike Golic, and mother of 2 former Notre Dame players Mike Jr and Chris Golic.
  • Roger Goodell, Commissioner of the NFL
  • Gary Fencik, former Chicago Bears and safety on the 1985 SuperBowl Championship team
  • Jerry Payton, NFL, a former college athlete, and Walter Payton’s son
  • Dr. Mehmet Oz, a cardiothoracic surgeon, and TV personality

Highlights of key learnings included an answer to the question “What do you think about the sensors that are available for helmet now and measure concussions?”
Answer: They shouldn’t be used as the only indicator, it’s very “red light, green light”. Concussions are not that clear cut and shouldn’t be the only decision-maker. The sensors have been known to go off in transit, bus rides, etc.

We don’t want to stop reporting concussions. We shouldn’t institute hard and fast rules “2 concussions, and you’re done”. This needs to be individualized medicine. If we are counting to a certain number will turn this into kids hiding concussions, and we do NOT want that! We want to watch and manage them and make sure they stay healthy.

3 ways to tell when someone has overcome their concussion, and it’s very individual, but all three conditions must be met.

  1. When they feel like themselves again
  2. Their balance ok
  3. Cognitive function has returned to normal

In true women-focused brilliant marketing, the evening concluded by passing out a goodie bag to all attendees. It included a string NFL backpack, NFL water bottle, Dr. Oz’s new hardcover book You Being Beautiful, some Tide samples, a pen, and a most helpful handout about “Moms Football Safety Clinic” with tabs and information on heads up football, equipment fitting, concussion awareness, heat/hydration, and nutrition and biographies on all the evening’s presenters.

Chicago Bears Moms Football Safety Clinic

My personal opinion about this night is, yes, the NFL is trying to protect their pipeline of children, their image, and the face of the sport of football…. But everything they said made sense to me. The information presented was accurate, thorough, detailed, and balanced. I encourage you to see how it feels in your family. Please do your own research and make good risk-based decisions for your children and what activities they participate in.

Chicago Bears Moms Football Safety Clinic

I honestly am so thankful to have a healthy child who can participate in sports. I love spending my weekends with other families in the community. It builds spirit, and I feel camaraderie among the other moms who see their breath and are holding coffee early on Saturday morning out on the field. Sure, it’d be nice to sleep in, go to the gym, have brunch with friends, but there will be time for that. It’s very cliché, but our children grow up so fast. Enjoy the moments: even the frantic, 5 minutes late to practice, I forgot my cleats moments. Embrace the healthy, active kid you have – enjoy the experience football mom, soccer mom, or baseball mom, cheerleading mom… or whatever you are! Or if you choose that it’s best for your family just to take the kids to piano lessons and skip the organized sports – be present in those little moments and enjoy that recital!

Go Bears!


Disclosure: I was invited to this event as a member of the media and a mom. No compensation was received and all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Bear Down! Mom\'s Football Safety Clinic
About Cheryl 49 Articles
Cheryl is a hyper-tasking mom (because who has time to only multi-task?) who stops to take pictures (and smell the roses), loves to jog (slowly) and volunteers way too much.

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