Earlier this month I was invited, along with other bloggers and press, to NFL headquarters in New York for a luncheon on youth safety in sports. If you follow football even just a little bit, you know that player safety has been in the headlines, and more specifically concussions. We spent the afternoon getting educated on concussions, and what the NFL along with it’s partners are doing to make the game safer from that aspect. Below are six things that I learned about youth safety in sports during my visit.
The NFL has partnered up with organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and USA Football to educate youth coaches, players and parents about how to prevent, identify, and properly treat concussions.
USA Football, the national governing body of American football at the youth level, is working to change the culture of the sport. They’ve realized that in order to do this they have to start with kids who are just beginning the game. The Heads Up Football program is a new approach to tackling that the organization is spearheading. The best way to prevent concussions is to take the head out of the game, and the Heads Up program, aims to do just that.
THE PROPER AGE TO BEGIN TACKLE FOOTBALL:
I know that a lot of you want to know what is the proper age for your child to begin tackle football. I asked that question to USA Football Executive Director Scott Hallenbeck, who advised that currently the organization doesn’t have an age that they promote. There currently isn’t enough specific research to link concussions to children beginning tackle football at a certain age.
CONCUSSIONS & YOUTH:
When many of us think about concussions, we think about tackle football. The truth is that concussions happen in many other youth sports as well, like lacrosse, and soccer. For children under the age of 10 the most likely cause of concussions are bicycles and playground activities.
The NFL has worked to pass legislation in states across the US to protect youth athletes from head injuries. The laws, often referred to as Lystedt Laws normally involve three tenets;
- Annual concussion education for athletes, parents and coaches.
- Players must be removed from play when suspected of having a concussion.
- A licensed health care professional must clear the athlete before returning to play.
For more information about legislation in your state visit NFLevolution.com.
THE MOST IMPORTANT PERSON IN THE PROCESS IS…
After I left NFL HQ the thing that stuck with me the most is the parent’s involvement in the youth safety. I learned that most concussions are not the “lights out” variety that we see on NFL football fields during the season. Normally concussions happen without the player losing consciousness and symptoms may not appear for 24-72 hours. During this time the player will no longer be on the field, they’ll be with their parents. Commissioner Goodell made two comments regarding parents that stuck with me as well. The first comment was that no one knows your children as well as you do. You can tell when something isn’t right, or when they’re acting a bit differently. The commissioner also made a strong statement in regards to coaches who won’t take players off of the field. Commissioner Goodell spoke about sports being like anything else in life. As parents we won’t leave our children with babysitters, neighbors or others who don’t look out for their best interests, so don’t leave them with a coach who won’t do the same.
The topics above only scratch the surface of what I was exposed to, but thankfully the bulk of this information has been made available on the web for you and me. To learn more about concussions and youth safety in sports, you can check out the following websites:
- CDC Concussion information for athletes and parents
- USA Football health and safety resources
BMWK family, have you or your child ever experienced a concussion? What happened? Do you have concerns around your children and injury in youth sports?
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