Shadowman tackling tool helps prevent concussions


It’s a staggering number: 67,000. That’s how many U.S. high school football players are diagnosed with concussions each year, according to a recent study. With the spotlight on the permanent damage concussions can cause, teams nationwide are making every effort to minimize that risk.

That’s where a new piece of equipment called Shadowman comes into play.

Shadowman is a mobile tackling system that allows athletes to perform full-speed drills without player-to-player contact.

Several Valley high schools have been using the system—and now Brophy College Preparatory in Phoenix has added it to the equipment lineup. Brophy Head Coach Scooter Molander has purchased 10 Shadowman systems, which are manufactured in Ireland, from a local sports equipment rep.

“It allows our guys to use great tackling technique without banging unnecessarily. It allows us to stay safe,” says Molander.

The Shadowman is made of the same plastic material used for inflatable rafts. The bottom of the humanoid (or dummy) is filled with water and the base on which it rests is filled with air. To simulate a moving opponent, a player puts on straps and runs with the Shadowman, making the tackle without hitting another teammate.

Molander says the practice tool has helped Brophy comply with new national guidelines that reduce the amount of time a player can spend tackling during practice. “It steps in for a person; therefore, it doesn’t count toward the time that you are actually allowed to hit.”

Varsity linebacker Rex Tessler, a junior, says the simulated player feels like the real deal: “The way it’s shaped and the weight at the bottom definitely feels like you are tackling another person.” Tessler also thinks it helps with his technique, including keeping his head up: “It’s just safer football.”

Molander stresses the importance of players learning to tackle with their heads up to reduce the risk of head injuries and concussions. “The Shadowman is not going to juke and jive and jump around, so a player can learn to fit his head in the perfect position.”

But new equipment like Shadowman is not the only solution to reducing concussions. Molander says ongoing training for coaches, player conditioning and injury protocol all play a role—and as head coach, he wants to ensure his team is playing to win when it comes to safety.