Posts Tagged ‘high school football’

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.

High School Football Benefits vs. Risks

Contrarian voices ignored by media, advocacy groups, and most researchers

Concerns about concussions and other head injuries have a lot of parents debating about whether or not to allow their children to play high school football. But I have been stating for quite some time that I don’t think youth or high school football is doomed and believe that there is credible evidence that recent initiatives on coach/player/parent education, state laws, and brain injury risk management plans are already having a positive impact.

Unfortunately, my opinion isn’t shared by everyone, despite the evidence.

However, I recently came across an opinion piece that I would describe as the contrary voice of sanity amid a sea of sensationalism spurred by the media, advocacy groups, and most researchers. In short, these groups very much need tackle football to be considered dangerous because that is good for business, at least in the short term. There is no denying that advocacy groups and researchers are just doing their job and have provided a valuable service with the heightened awareness of this very real risk. But too often they draw conclusions which are just not backed by good science, at least for youth and high school football. Furthermore, the media is more interested in publishing the reports that will shock their audience as opposed to those with a contrarian view.

The author of the article, who is a father and physician, speaks to that in detail, but also eloquently points out the beneficial aspects of playing football.

Most of the media hype is centered around the NFL concussion lawsuits, the basis of which have nothing to do with youth athletes. The recent Boston University study about increased risks to NFL players who played youth football before age 12 is scientifically flawed. It doesn’t take into account other high risk behaviors of NFL players and there was no control group. Even the researchers admit the limitations of their study. Science and hard facts are what should drive a parent’s decision making on whether a child should or shouldn’t play football. The potential for injury, which is minimal at the youth and high school level, is only one element to consider.

Apparently, the emotional tide is beginning to turn, as the number of high school football participants is slowly rising. As a risk management expert, I encourage you to read Ed Riley’s “High school football’s benefits outweigh the risks” and consider the points he raises. And if, like me, you see the sense he makes, please share it with others.

We have more more posts on this topic on our blog.

The Concussion Risk in High School Football

The science behind the statistics

Grantland.com published an insightful blog post,  “The Fragile Teenage Brain: An In-depth Look at Concussions in High School Football.” The post explains why teenage brains are so susceptible to injury and provides a glimpse into exactly what happens inside the brain during a concussion. It also provides an excellent explanation of how the head injury problem in football in the 1960s and early 1970s was addressed by the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE) standard, which established guidelines for sports equipment including football helmets.

The following excerpts from the article are especially revealing:

The compromises of helmet design help explain why there will be no quick technological fix for football concussions. Last October, Jeffrey Kutcher, chairman of the American Academy of Neurology’s sports section, told a committee of United States senators that all the current concussion prevention products being sold were largely useless. “I wish there was such a product (that could prevent concussions) on the market,” he said. “The simple truth is that no current helmet, mouth guard, headband, or other piece of equipment can significantly prevent concussions from occurring… Is extremely unlikely that helmets can prevent concussions the way they prevent skull fractures.” He went on to criticize numerous claims by helmet manufacturers suggesting otherwise, noting that even Riddell’s specialized anti-concussion helmet has only been shown to reduce the rate of concussions by 2.6%.

Coach Rollinson echoes the skeHigh school athletespticism. “Every year, we get more and more parents showing up with some fancy helmet and telling us that this is the one their kid has to use,” he says. “I’m sure they spent a lot of money on that helmet. I know it makes them feel better. So we always say, sure, your kid can use that helmet, but we have to do the fitting. And you know what happens? The helmet doesn’t fit. They spend $1000 on it because the manufacturer makes some crazy claim, but it’s way too big. And then when you fit it properly, the kid says it’s too tight, that it’s not comfortable anymore. But that’s the way it needs to be.

This is a recurring theme among the coaches and trainers at Mater Dei. According to the football staff, the most important helmet factor has little to do with the helmet itself. Instead, it has to do with the way the helmet fits the head. In theory, this is an easy problem to solve: Every NOCSAE approved helmet is fully adjustable. Teenagers, however make the fitting process surprisingly difficult. “Most of the time, the problem is forgetfulness,” says Fernandez. “That’s why we are always reminding the players to check air levels. We tell them that before every single game. But sometimes they leave it loose on purpose, just because he can get hot and sticky in there.”