The Chicago Tribune reports that Pop Warner Little Scholars Inc., the nation’s largest youth football organization, is banning some common drills and telling coaches to spend two-thirds of their practice time on non-contact activities as part of a wider crusade to reduce the risk of head injuries that can reverberate for a lifetime. The organization hopes the changes lessen concussions and reassure parents and players that the game is safe.
Concern about concussions have risen to the fore in recent years as retired pro athletes recount their struggles with head injuries, and as new research shows the potentially devastating consequences of repeated brain-jarring collisions. Youth leagues in many sports, especially football, have scrambled to adjust. In 2010, Pop Warner started requiring players showing signs of a concussion to be cleared by a medical professional before returning to action. Before, a coach or parent could have made that decision.
The new national practice restrictions, take those precautions a step further. Now, coaches will only be allowed to have full-speed hitting – including one-on-one blocking and tackling, contact between linemen and scrimmages – for one-third of their weekly practice time. Previously, there were no restrictions on contact time. Also barred are any head-to-head, full-speed blocking or tackling drills in which players start more than 3 yards apart.
Most youth football concussions occur in practice, said Dr. Julian Bailes, chairman of Pop Warner’s Medical Advisory Board and chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery at North Shore University Health System. By eliminating high-risk drills and limiting contact time outside games, Bailes said, 60% of Pop Warner concussions could be eliminated.
But reducing concussions is not as easy as writing a new policy, said Pop Warner Executive Director Jon Butler. Drawing proper attention to head injuries requires differentiating the steps for treating a possible concussion and, say, a nasty bruise on the arm. “There is this tremendous he-man attitude,” Butler said. “There’s a lot of injuries you can play through — there’s others you don’t want to.”
Although the risk of concussions in football is no doubt high, the head injuries are not unique to America’s most popular sport. Pop Warner officials say their job is to eliminate unnecessary risks, and to make sure coaches and players are equipped to recognize the symptoms and secure proper care when an injury does occur.
Source: Chicago Tribune, 6/13/12, By Mitch Smith
[Editor's Note: A number of states have enacted or are considering legislation to protect student athletes from concussions and other head injuries. In April 2012, Legal Clips summarized an Associate Press (AP) article on Boston.com, which reported that the New Hampshire House was considering proposed legislation that would require schools to adopt rules related to concussions and head injuries among student athletes. Under the bill passed by the state Senate, information about such injuries would be distributed to all youth athletes each year, and parents would have to sign forms indicating they had read the information before the start of practice or competition. Coaches and other athletic officials who suspect that an athlete has sustained a concussion would be required to remove him or her from play immediately, and the athlete would have to get written authorization from a health care provider before returning.
In August 2011, Legal Clips summarized an AP article in the Chicago Tribune, which reported that Illinois Governor Pat Quinn had signed into law a bill that provides student athletes from elementary to high school with better safeguards against concussion injuries. The law requires student athletes with concussions to obtain medical approval before resuming play. It also requires education for coaches, parents, referees and players about concussion symptoms.]