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Pop Warner League Takes Steps to Reduce Traumatic Brain Injuries

Awareness of the danger of traumatic brain injuries–mostly concussions–as a result of youth football is at an all time high. As scientists and medical research discover that even minor head trauma can have serious long-term effects on players, more and more community members are coming to appreciate that steps need to be taken to minimize the risks and keep players safe. Our Illinois brain injury lawyers firmly believe that the lives of youngsters is far too important to leave to chance without properly addressing the head trauma risks.

Of course the most complete way to protect players from these injuries is to not have them play the somewhat dangerous sport altogether. However, all of life has some risks, and those raising awareness of football head injuries are not doing so to eliminate the sport altogether. Instead, the hope is to use other means to lower the risk of serious injury as much as possible. There are two main ways that this can be accomplished; (1) changes the rules of the game; (2) improve safety equipment.

Efforts are being made on both fronts.

Rules Changes
For example, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported this week on new Pop Warner football rules that seek to limit the risk of brain injury. The popular league includes over 285,000 young players between the ages of 5 to 15. Our brain injury attorneys applaud the proactive steps taken by the organization to account for the raising awareness of long-term harm from concussions. In announcing the changes this week the league’s executive director noted, “This is our time to step up.”

The director went on to admit that these changes are “the best way we know to immediately and instantly cut that exposure [to brain injury risks].”

In particular, the story notes that two specific rule changes are being made. One will limit the amount of contact allowed by players and the other will change the way the youngsters actually hit one another as part of the on-field play.

The first change limits full-contact drills to no more than one-third of a practice session. Research shows that even small head contact that occurs over and over–such as hits in practice–can add up to serious long-term effects on player development. Limiting the number of unnecessary head contact is therefore helpful.

Similarly, the league is banning “head blocking” or “tackling drills” that begin with players more than three yards apart. The idea is that head collisions from players further apart are often more substantial because players have time to build up momentum and speed. Those hits are therefore more dangerous. Head contact between linemen will still be allowed, because they line-up less than three feet apart.

In addition to these rule changes, officials will reaffirm existing rules to limit head trauma–including bans on blocks and tackles that lead with the head.

The report explains that Pop Warner football is the first youth sports league to take these preventative steps. Hopefully many more will follow suit and other players are spared the long-term harm that comes with unfettered and repeated head trauma.

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