Brandon Hardin injury: How not to tackle

Dan Pompei's column on the play that ended the season of Chicago Bears safety Brandon Hardin is smart and important, and I want to make sure as many people as possible see its message.

As you know, Hardin suffered an unspecified neck injury Aug. 18 during the Bears' 33-31 preseason victory over the Washington Redskins. He attempted to tackle Redskins tight end Logan Paulsen, fell to the ground and was removed from the field on a stretcher. Hardin never lost consciousness or movement, but the injury was serious enough for the Bears to place him on season-ending injured reserve Sunday.

As the photograph shows, and Pompei reinforces, the injury resulted from the kind of poor technique that coaches and doctors warn against from the start of Pop Warner football. If you watch the replay, you see Hardin lower his head at the point of impact and smack the top of it on Paulsen's hip.

Lowering the head is a natural but dangerous instinct. Anyone who has played the game knows you're taught to keep your "head up" when you make a tackle. You're supposed to "see what you hit," and it's for an important reason: Violent contact to the top of your head, which is what you lead with when the head is lowered, increases the chance of a neck injury because it "jams" the spinal column.

We don't know the specifics of Hardin's injury, and he is far from the only NFL player to demonstrate poor technique. But if lowering his head didn't contribute to this injury, it absolutely could in other instances. It's an unfortunate but important reminder for anyone who plays the game, especially as high school seasons open across the country: head up.