The issue of repeated concussions in sports and the long-term damage it can do to athletes’ brains has been increasingly in the news, and more and more youth and professional sports programs are recognizing the need to reduce traumatic brain injuries during games and in practice. According to a recent New York Times article, one major youth football organization is changing its rules to limit drills that commonly lead to head injuries.
The organization, Pop Warner, works with aspiring football players as young as five. The organization involves thousands of kids and claims to have coached two-thirds of NFL athletes. The organization acknowledges through the recent changes that repeated concussions can lead to long-term brain damage. Research has shown that kids as young as seven are colliding with the impact seen at the college level.
Repeated injuries to the brain are especially bad for kids because their brains are still developing. Pop Warner hopes to reduce brain injuries by 60 percent through the new rules. These rules include only allowing contact for two-thirds of practice sessions. Full-speed head-on contact and head-to-head contact are prohibited.
Repeated brain injuries can lead to long-term cognitive problems and even to brain disease similar to Alzheimer’s. A lawsuit brought by 2,000 former NFL players against the NFL and helmet-maker Riddell accusing them of hiding information about the risk of repeated head injuries was recently consolidated into one massive class-action lawsuit. It will be interesting to see what further changes take place in football at the youth and professional levels.
Source: The New York Times, “Trying to Reduce Head Injuries, Youth Football Limits Practices,” Anahad O’Connor, June 13, 2012