AAP Makes Safety Recommendations for Youth Tackle Football

American Academy of Pediatrics says no need to delay teaching of proper tackling techniques to younger age groups

The American Academy of Pediatrics is tackling the issue of safety in youth football with new recommendations published in this month’s issue of Pediatrics. The AAP statement is a result of research on football injuries, head and neck injuries in particular, and the connection between tackling to football-related injuries.

The main points of the AAP recommendations are:

  • Enforcement of proper tackling methods by officials and coaches, i.e. not tolerating head-first tackles.
  • Informing players about the benefits of play vs. potential risk of injury.
  • Offering more players opportunities to play through expansion of non-tackle leagues.
  • Putting athletic trainers on the field to assist in preventing injuries.

No perfect answers to safety risks

The removal or delay of introducing tackling are ideas that get floated regularly. According to Greg Landry, co-author of AAP’s recommendation statement, delaying the tackling experience until players are older and stronger could actually result in higher injury rates. The AAP would not go so far as to recommend removing tackling from youth football. Doing so would “dramatically reduce the risk of serious injuries to players, but it would fundamentally change the sport,” said William Meehan, III, a co-author of the statement.

The AAP stance is that proper tackling techniques should be taught early, even if tackling isn’t incorporated into the game. The AAP also encourages reducing the impact to players’ heads through ongoing coach instruction in proper tackling methods.

Tackle football is played by nearly 1.1 million high school players and consistently ranks as one of the most popular sports for youth athletes. There are untold millions  more ranging from 5 to 15 years of age playing in youth leagues.

In my opinion

These common sense recommendations help to restore balance when so many are trying to stir the pot and predict the “end of football” for their self serving interests. The bottom line is that all sports and recreational activities involve risks, but in most cases, the benefits outweigh the risks. I do question whether youth leagues can afford to have athletic trainers on the sidelines at every practice.

Source: “The American Academy of Pediatrics Tackles Youth Football Injuries.” aap.org. 25 Oct. 2015.