Archive for the ‘Football’ Category

Ban Youth Tackle Football? No Way.

Knee-jerk legislation is NOT based on science

California, Illinois, Maryland and New York recently introduced legislation to ban youth tackle football prior to an unspecified age. These are knee-jerk reactions to concerns over chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). In my opinion, this is ridiculous and based on untested theories, not on current, peer-reviewed, scientific studies.

I try to be one of the few voices of reason in the panicky discussion of concussions and CTE in youth football. The media continually fuels the concussion conversation with emotionally-packed and hyperbolic statements. They do this because it sells and keeps readers/viewers tuned in, which is what their advertisers want. Also, many researchers need for youth tackle football to be “very dangerous” so their funding will continue to pour in.

My message, on the other hand, is the importance of risk management and relying on science. I never downplay the risk of concussions or the seriousness of such injuries. I urge my clients  to pay attention to peer-reviewed scientific research and not pay serious heed to unproven theories backed by anecdotal, non-scientific studies.

A good example is this recent study that found no clinically significant harmful association between playing football in high school and increased cognitive impairment or depression later in life.

New, credible voices being heard

Vindication of my stance can be found in the recent article “Does CTE call for an end to youth tackle football?” In it, 26 brain injury experts from 23 U.S. and Canadian universities and hospitals state what I’ve been saying for years. And they have the science to back it up.

One thing I learned is that CTE presents in approximately 12% of healthy people who died at an average age of 81 years.

The authors make many interesting points on the topic. But their bottom line is that there is no strong scientific evidence that links youth sports to brain injury, brain injury to CTE, and CTE to dementia. They refer to three recent studies published in peer-reviewed journals. None found any increased risk for long-term brain damage in older men who played high school football.

They encourage further research to understand the many different variables involved in CTE and to attempt to isolate participation in youth tackle football.

There’s more to it than tackling

Youth tackle football offers many benefits that factor into character development and good health:

  • Combating the obesity epidemic among youths who may not be interested in Youth sports insuranceplaying any other sport
  • Sparking a lifelong interest in exercise and physical fitness
  • Learning invaluable lessons through sports such as teamwork, sportsmanship and commitment.
  • Trading in unhealthy and unsafe after-school activities by at-risk youth for youth tackle football
  • Role modeling through adult administrators, coaches, and other staff.

And what about the other sports that have high rates of concussions such as hockey, rugby, lacrosse, and soccer? Could it be that politics is playing a role in zeroing in on football?

And why is the government getting involved in making decisions for parents when it comes to participation in youth tackle football?

There are others out there who think the same way I do. These doctors wrote their fact-based article so eloquently that I encourage you to read it in full for yourself.

Mainstream Media Continues to Stir Pot on Youth Football Concussion Risks

It’s time to employ our critical thinking skills

Just prior to the Super Bowl, NBC released its recent survey results on parental concerns about high school football-related concussions. Just know that NBC made a calculated move in doing so. Apparently NBC found it necessary to stir the pot while all’s abuzz about football —  because there aren’t enough alarmist opinions and articles already being pushed by the media on the subject.

The NBC/Wall Street Journal survey polled 900 adults between January 13 and 17. Approximately half those respondents were reached by cell phone,  which makes me wonder who these adults were. I mean, who answers their cell phone when they don’t recognize the caller’s number?
youth football insurance

NBC goes on to report statistics that supposedly prove nearly half of American parents have concussion-related concerns associated with high school football. Well, half those polled don’t have children in their homes. And that causes me to ask how current are they on the research being conducted?

The good news is that 49% apparently see no need to encourage a child to change sports for fear of a football concussion.

But the best news about this is that none of what the NBC/WSJ poll has to offer is credible, scientific research.  

Scientific research on high school football-related concussions

Rather than rely on dubious poll results (which can easily be skewed), let’s see what the science has to say.

Researchers specifically questioned whether an association exists between playing high school football and cognitive impairment and depression in 65-year-olds. The Journal of American Medical Association Neurology published their findings in August 2017.

The study included 3904 men averaging 64.4 years of age (not 900 random people). The cognitive and depression outcomes were found to be similar among those who played high school football and their counterparts who did not play. You can access the article here.

It’s important to remember that JAMA only publishes peer-reviewed articles. This means the quality of the research must pass the review of scholars knowledgeable in the subject area before accepted for publication. I’m not sure how much NBC or the Wall Street Journal actually know about high school-related football head injuries. Their news reports are reviewed by an editor, which is a type of peer-review, but not a scientific or scholarly one.

Don’t believe all the hype

I blog extensively on concussions, in football and other sports. I acknowledge that a concussion can be a serious injury and that CTE is a concern that requires additional research. But I also advocate for best risk management practices to lower the risk of any injury. I also present the facts that almost always contradict the hype stirred up in the mainstream media. The media makes money off the fear and controversy surrounding football-related concussions. It’s in their best interest to keep the conversation going.

What they aren’t talking about

What’s missing from media headlines is that all 50 states and the District of Columbia now have concussion laws on the books. And these laws are constantly being improved upon.Concussions in youth sports

They also don’t put on their front pages the the exponential growth in concussion awareness due to education. National sports associations have adopted brain injury and concussion risk management programs that key in on the essential elements of education, limitation of contact, concussion recognition, removal, and return-to-play protocols.

Parents, coaches, trainers and players are getting the information they need to be informed decision makers. The number of concussions in youth football and other contact sports is not increasing. Concussion awareness now results in more concussions being reported and treated.

For further reading

Below is a list of just a few of the articles from our blog that offer credible information to counter the constant flow of hype. Compare them and their sources to the fear-inducing and hyperbolic news reports like the one published by NBC this week. Draw you own conclusions.
Better yet, we invite you to read this like-minded opinion from a well-respected scientist and member of the scholarly  community.


Verbal Abuse, Violence Driving Umpires/Referees Out of Sports

Officials cite verbal abuse and threats as reason for decline

The Washington Post recently ran a story on the shortage of referees in youth sports. It spotlighted several former game officials recounting their many negative experiences. These included instances of verbal abuse by players, coaches and parents, feeling threatened physically, and lack of support from league and school administrators.

One D.C.-area baseball official assigning group is reporting it’s lowest number of umpires in over 25 years. Only 50% of their first-year umpires return to the job. About 20% of those officiating for five to seven years come back. According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, just two out of every 10 officials across all sports return for a third year.

Youth soccer, in particular, suffers from a decline in referees, even as player participation continues to rise year after year. Incidences of red cards remains static. But the number of red cards for filthy and abusive language, often directed at officials, has doubled in the past year.

There’s no reason to expect this trend to change any time in the foreseeable future. The increasing referee shortage means even more game cancellations in the future than are already being experienced.

The responsibility of administrators

High school assistant football coach Scott Hartman told of being verbally attacked by players and their coach following a call he made. After the game, parents and fans hurled insults at the other officials and him. The school’s director of student activities escorted them to their cars, but chastised the referees for missing several possible fouls by the opposing team.

You’re the exact reason that we’re losing referees, and you’re the reason that parents and coaches are out of control,” Hartman told him.

Hartman points out that there are schools that make maintaining decorum a priority.

But many administrators are obviously more concerned about wins and losses, not holding coaches accountable for poor behavior.

Virginia’s Commonwealth Soccer Officials Association (CSOA) conducted inspections at Northern Virginia high schools. Loud vocal disapproval was observed in 85% of the 42 matches observed. Of those, profanity by spectators was involved in 20%.
Not surprisingly, female officials suffer all this and more. Many say they encounter sexism at nearly every event, are spat upon and called whores. “I’ve been called that and worse in at least a dozen languages” said long-time soccer official Thea Bruhn.

A tolerant environment

Officiating organizations are accused of encouraging referees to tolerate behavior by fans, players and parents. Other say coaches even dictate to officiating organizations which referees will work certain games.

Personal and advertising injuryOther factors include travel leagues that are full of aggressive parents making demands as they push for college scholarships. And young athletes observe admired professional players berating referees and exhibiting poor sportsmanship.

To participate in games, umpires and referees frequently have to leave their day jobs early and travel good distances. They often return home lateat night. Pay for youth rec through varsity-level leagues ranges from $25 to $65 per game. It’s no wonder many are deciding they’re no longer willing to sacrifice their time and energy when they’re shown so little regard.

We encourage officials to read Referee & Umpire Insurance. For more information or quote on Referee & Umpire Insurance please call us at (800) 622-7370.

Source:  Nick Ellerson.  “Verbal abuse from parents, coaches is causing a referee shortage in youth sports.” 16 June 2017.

12 Critical Steps to Protect Youth Football Players

A common-sense approach to reducing liability

1.  Buy high-limit, high-quality team/league insurance

 At a minimum, purchase the following policies to assure a funding source for player injuries:

  • Excess Accident: $100,000 medical limit; $5,000 AD&D limit, deductible no greater than $500
  • General Liability: $1,000,000 each occurrence limit; $1,000,000 participant liability limit; includes custom coverage enhancements for sex abuse/molestation and non-owned and hired auto liability and does not include exclusion for brain injury.

See our-endorsed AYF insurance program for an example of an affordable, high quality insurance program that almost any league can access.

2.  Train coaches in the fundamentals of tackle football

A comprehensive online training program is essential in educating coaches on the basic needs of youth and the fundamentals of tackle football.  It makes sense that the better programs that invest in comprehensive coach training will be more safety conscious. The Datalys study by Kerr draws the conclusion that comprehensive coach education combined with practice contact restrictions may help lower injury rates.

3.  Provide basic concussion education training for coaches 

All coaches should be required to complete a basic concussion education course every two years. Completion documents should be retained at the team/league/association level. The National Alliance for Youth Sports has an excellent basic education program available free of charge. I like the NAYS program better than the similar program offered by the CDC. I think it’s organized more intelligently. 

4.  Limit full contact at practices

Intelligently-designed practices have always emphasized non-contact drills and skill development over full contact. An analysis of the above-mentioned Datalys Study indicates that limitation of full contact at practice is perhaps the most effective way to reduce brain injury exposure in youth tackle football. Governing bodies suggest limiting of full-speed head-on tackling or blocking drills to a starting distance of three yards or less. In addition, full contact as defined by “thud” and “live action” should be limited to 60 or 90 minutes per week. 

5.  Follow the concussion protocols recommended by governing bodies and mandated by certain state legislatures that key in on the following elements:

  • Coach education on concussion basics and tackling techniques. 
  • Parent concussion education through CDC handouts.

 Written policies on procedures on how to:

  • identify suspected cases of concussions
  • mandatory removal from play if concussion is suspected
  • return-to-play protocols

See our Football/Cheer Brain Injury Risk Management Program for a sample brain injury risk management awareness program with links to important sources.

6.   Train coaches in Hawks tackling technique and instill a no-tolerance policy for bad hits

Governing bodies strongly recommend the Hawks tackling technique, which quietly replaced the awkward “heads up” technique originally endorsed by USA Football. See our Hawks Tackling Resource page for more information on the Hawks technique.

Instill a no-tolerance policy for illegal and head-first hits. Coaches should not look the other way when this occurs and should bench players to let them know this will not be tolerated.
Football helmets and concussions

7.  Proper fitting of helmets

Helmets should be fitted strictly according to the manufacturer’s instructions. A improperly fitted helmet will not provide the same protection as a properly fitted helmet. 

8.  Follow manufacturer specifications for maintaining and retiring helmets

Liability risk can be reduced by following manufacturer instructions regarding helmet modification, reconditioning, and replacement. Detailed information can be found under our AYF/AYC Sample Risk Management Program in the equipment section.

9.  Baseline neurocognitive and post-event testing

In the past, baseline and post-event neurocognitive testing was expensive and difficult to administer. It took about 30 minutes and required a classroom setting with PCs. A new entrant into the market, HitCheck, introduced affordable sideline testing, which can be completed on a smart phone or tablet in about 10 minutes.

10.  Implement mandatory heat illness protocols 

Heat illness is one of the leading killers of youth football players. It is preventable in most cases if coaches are properly educated and recommended guidelines are followed. 

11.  Implement sex abuse / molestation controls

Mandatory criminal background checks on all staff with access to youth is a critical requirement, but just a starting point. We provide educational resources on types of criminal background checks and background check vendors. However, it’s estimated that less than 10% of sexual predators have discoverable backgrounds. You need to ask yourself what you’re doing to protect your kids against the other 90%. We provide a comprehensive educational program on creating a hostile environment. It includes policies and procedures to make an incident less likely to occur and a requirement to notify law enforcement if an incident is suspected. 

12.  Document all of the above in writing with risk management awareness programs

Here are our most popular free risk management programs for youth tackle football and cheer: 

  • Concussion/Brain Injury Risk Management Program: This sample program incorporates the proven techniques to reduce brain injury exposure as well as common requirements by state legislatures.
  • Sample AYF/AYC Risk Management Program includes Sex Abuse/Molestation: This general risk management program keys in on reducing risk in terms of facilities, equipment, supervision, instruction, sports injury care, and use of autos. It also includes a section on sex abuse/molestation education and risk management.
  • Lightning 30/30 Safety Rule: This is possibly the most abused safety rule in sports. Administrators and officials must make the unpopular call to postpone and evacuate when the rule is triggered. 
  • Before You Sign the Facility Lease Agreement: Agreements with facility owners are subject to negotiation. Don’t let them impose heavy-handed requirements that make you and your insurance carrier responsible when they are negligent. Learn how to recognize pitfalls and tips for negotiation. 
  • Collecting Certificates of Insurance From VendorsAll vendors, including security, officials associations, janitorial, field maintenance, concessions, etc., expose your association to liability due to their negligence. Require them to carry their own insurance so yours does not take the hit when they are negligent.  
  • 12- and 15-Passenger VansDon’t use these types of vehicles to transport participants due to their tip-over propensity.

 If you have any questions about how to protect your youth football and cheer participants or how to get an instant insurance quote, please call us at 800-622-7370 or visit us at

New Device Shows Promise in Preventing Concussions

Unlike helmets, Q-Collar enhances brain’s existing protection from inside

At Sadler Sports and Recreation we keep our eye out for concussion-related news. We’re very careful to share well-researched information and not fan the flames of concussion hysteria. Our focus is reducing concussions during the course of play, not instilling fear of concussions.

That being said, I recently learned of an innovative product currently being tested as a concussion prevention device. Dr. Gregory Myer of the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Division of Sports Medicine is conducting tests on the Q-Collar, which controls blood flow to the athlete’s head.

The Q-Collar approaches concussion prevention differently than helmets.  A helmet can help reduce the force of impact. However, it can’t keep the brain from moving around within the skull, which the Q-collar appears to do.

How it works

The c-shaped Q-Collar fits around the athlete’s neck, which exerts slight pressure on the jugular veins. These veins are the blood’s main pathway from the head back to the heart. The collar mildly increases blood volume in the cranium so the brain fits more snugly, reducing its ability to slosh about. In other words, the increased blood volume acts as an airbag for the brain.

The most recent test participants are high school football players and female soccer players. Earlier tests included high school hockey players. The study results show a potential approach to protecting the brain from changes sustained during participants’ competitive seasons, according to Myer. He is continuing his research  and data analyzation, but is optimistic that the device could be a game-changer in concussion prevention.

Source: Elise Jesse. “New ‘collar’ being tested in Cincinnati could prevent concussions.” 17 Aug.2017.

2017 Insurance Program Released For American Youth Football

AYFThe gold standard that is the envy of the competition

The American Youth Football and American Youth Cheer endorsed insurance provider, Sadler Sports Insurance, has released the new 2017 insurance program for teams /associations /conferences.

Detailed 2017 coverage, rate information, and online enrollment are available now on our website!

Get Quote Now

The 2017 offering is, once again, the gold standard in youth football and cheer insurance with an unbeatable combination of low rates, broad custom coverages, and best-in-industry automation that allows instant online enrollment and issuance of proof of coverage documents and certificates for field owners. But that’s not all: the program also provides best-in-industry risk management resources to prevent injuries before they become claims and groundbreaking studies on safety in youth football and cheer.

Apply, pay, and print proof of coverage documents and certificates in as little as 10 minutes

Our advanced automation is so simple and fast that you can complete the entire insurance purchase transaction and print all your documents in as little as 10 minutes. Many competitors require the completion of forms and days of waiting just to get a quote. Then, once the quote is bound, it can take several days to get the proof of coverage documents and certificates for field owners. Or, they could charge $100 extra for next day rush delivery.

After the purchase, we provide our clients access to our website so that they can self-issue certificates for new field owners 24/7. It’s so easy and our clients love this benefit.

Beware of competing programs that seem too good to be true

We often hear stories about a competitor offering cut-rate policies with a per team rate that is too low to be believable. Whenever this happens, something ends up being defective with the offering, which illustrates that if something is too good to be true, it usually is. We’ve seen cases where the quoted price did not include the cost of both the Accident and General Liability policies, where the organization never reported the transaction to the insurance carrier and no insurance was in force, and where a big corporation was going to foot the bill for the insurance (dream on), etc. Just this year we found a competitor that was bragging about their great insurance program but had grossly misrepresented its limits and coverages to the public. We brought this to the attention of their insurance carrier and corrections were made. After a little bit of digging, these schemes fall apart.

What is being done to combat the risk of concussion/brain injury and related litigation?

Sadler Sports Insurance provides a sample Football/Cheer Concussion Awareness Risk Management Program (short form) that is strongly recommended for all teams/associations/conferences. This free program can be found under the risk management section of our AYF Insurance page. This program consolidates accepted risk management practices into a three-page document for easy board adoption and implementation. We recommend coaches complete the AYF coaching education program. Certification is required of head football and cheer coaches participating in AYF national championships. We also encourage coaches, volunteers and players view our Seahawks’ tackle resources page. which demonstrates their tackling methods. AYF has provided a certification test to take in conjunction with this video on It is important for all teams/association/conferences to thicken their shields by adopting and fully implementing a comprehensive concussion/brain injury risk management program. The future of our sports depends on this action and it’s the right thing to do to protect the kids.

Check Out Our New, Improved AYF Webpage And Video And Our 98% Staff Awesome Rating

Our AYF/AYC webpage has been totally redesigned for an enhanced user experience where our prospect and clients can access all of our services (ex: applying, renewing, issuing certificates, add/delete teams, claims, etc.) without ever having to speak to a staff member at Sadler. However, should you have a question or need assistance, you can contact our staff by email, chat, or phone. We are very proud that surveys indicate that our staff is graded as 98% “Awesome” by those who have contacted us.

Also, all the football and cheer specific risk management content and related blogs are now available directly from the webpage.

In addition, we created a new video that can be viewed individually or by a small group to explain how to access our insurance and risk management services.

Best-in-industry risk management resources (free)

We have an incredible line up of free risk management resources including articles, legal forms, risk management program templates for your easy adoption and customization, and training videos for administrators and staff. This includes the newly created document entitled Sample AYF/AYC Advanced Plan, which is a comprehensive risk management program customized for AYF/AYC organizations.

Be a part of groundbreaking injury studies

If you purchase your insurance through the endorsed insurance program, all Accident claims automatically become part of the database where our custom software analyzes the information to produce meaningful injury reports. This has led to groundbreaking studies on the comparison of injuries in age only vs age/weight categories and the incidence of concussions within AYF/AYC.

Get Quote Now

Please visit our webpage at or call us at 800-622-7370 if you have any questions.


Refuting Reports of Increased Concussion Rates in Youth Sports

Looking at the facts

Reckless reporting and alarmist headlines about rising concussion rates in youth sports are a pet peeve of mine. Parents, athletes, coaches and league administrators deserve to have the facts presented responsibly on such a serious topic.

The headline on a recent article by a doctor screamed “Concussion rates are rising among U.S. youth.” What the doctor didn’t say in the article is that concussion rates are NOT rising; concussion reporting is rising.

Our internal Accident insurance claim statistics reveal the following increases in the reporting of concussion claims as a percentage of total claims reported:


Youth baseball

Youth football

Concussion rates prior to 2012



Concussion rates 2012-16



The significant increases in concussion claims reported over these time periods have nothing to do with change in the risk factors in these two sports over this time period. These increases have everything to do with educational awareness.

We have concussion education efforts and concussion laws on the books in all 50 states and the District of Columbia to thank for that. These efforts have brought about a heightened awareness of concussion recognition, initial diagnosis and treatment, and return to play monitoring. The increase in the number of reported concussions only reflects how many youth athletes were walking around with undiagnosed concussions in the past.

Promoting educational awareness and risk management

Over a year ago, I wrote about the need for increased efforts in concussion education, stating, “Fear of concussion among many parents is affecting their decision to permit their children to participate in contact sports.” And nearly two years ago, I said in an article addressing the media’s concussion hype,  “The best outcome is the awareness being brought to the general puConcussion risk managementblic about diagnosis, second-impact syndrome, removal, and return-to-play policies.“

I’m pleased to see that all this awareness resulting in more athletes getting the medical care necessary, which enables them to return to playing after treatment and full recovery. The Center for Disease Control’s HEADS UP offers many resources to help parents, coaches, administrators, and healthcare providers recognize, respond to, and minimize the risk of concussions or other serious brain injuries.

We’re proud to continually provide up-to-date and credible information on sports concussions and a variety of sports injury and risk management-related topics on our blog.

Source: Brad C. Gollinger. “Concussion rates are rising among U.S. youth.” 07 Mar., 2017.

Risks of Sports Specialization Among Youth Athletes

Focus on a single sport can lead to overuse injuries

Kids are starting to participate in recreational sports leagues and camps at increasingly younger ages in recent years. T-ball teams, soccer leagues, swim clubs, skating rinks, cheer squads, tumbling schools and even dance studios are filled with little people, some as young 3 and 4 years of age.  And many are choosing to participate in a single activity year round from an early age.

Sports specialization (focusing on a single sport) in youth sports can, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), result in early burnout, emotional stress and overuse injuries. However, the risks can be mitigated by following recommendations by AAP.

Weighing the decision to specialize

Research shows that the physical development of children is better among those who play a variety of sports prior to puberty. Encouraging kids to experience a overuse injuries in youth sportswide range of sports activities also means they’ll be much less likely to lose interest or quit altogether. Studies show that children who specialized in a single sport from a young age tend to have more short-lived athletic careers.  The AAP recommends that children put off specializing in a sport until about age 15 or 16.

It’s important to determine why you or your child thinks he or she should specialize. More often than not, college scholarships are a motivator.  Be realistic about such opportunities: on average, 8% percent of high school athletes succeed in making a college team, but only 1% of those make it on an athletic scholarship.

Specialization and overuse injuries

Specialization can lead to overuse injuries, which can be muscle, bone, tendon or ligament damage resulting from repetitive stress and lack of healing time. One of the most common overuse injuries among athletes is shin splints.

Alarmingly, overuse accounts for half of all sports medicine injuries among children and teens. Children and teens are more susceptible to overuse injuries than adults because their still underdeveloped bones don’t recover as well from stress.

Preventing overuse injuries

So, if the decision has been made to specialize, there are steps that can be taken to lower the risk of overuse injuries.

Be Prepared:  It’s critical that all athletes maintain their fitness level both in and off season. General and sport-specific conditioning during the preseason are also extremely important. An evaluation by a physician prior to participation is the most essential step in determining whether a child can safely play his or her chosen sport. This should be done four to six weeks prior to practice and play to allow for time to address any potential obstacles to participation.

Train Smart: Weekly training times, distances, and repetitions should only be increased by 10% each week. For example, a 15-mile per week run should only be increased to 16.5 miles the following week, 18 miles the week after that and so on. Sport-specific trainingOveruse injuries in youth sports should vary. For instance, runners incorporate a diversity of running surfaces by running on the road, on a treadmill, on grass and in a pool. Likewise, training should include a variety of workouts, such as treadmills/ellipticals, weight lifting, and swimming.

Rest Smart: Training every day is a sure path to emotional and physical stress. Athletes should allow time for recovery by taking at least one day off every week from training, practice and  play. It’s just as important to take four to eight weeks off during the year from a specific sport.  A good rule of thumb is one month off for every six months of training and play.

Avoid Burnout: Overtraining can alter an athlete’s physical, hormonal and mental performance. Remember that a child should enjoy participating and the training should be age appropriate. They shouldn’t look at it as a job or a test. Be aware of changes in the athlete’s eating and sleeping habits. In particular, be alert for changes in or cessation of a girl’s menstrual period. Don’t hesitate to consult a physician if such changes are observed.


Youth Athletes and Concussion Recovery

Too many parents following outdated medical advice

Starve a cold, feed a fever. Swimming within 30 minutes of eating causes cramps. Cracking your knuckles causes arthritis. Tilt the head back to stop a nosebleed. All outdated but once heavily relied upon advice from the medical community. Sadly, these and similarly unsubstantiated notions continue to circulate. And apparently so are incorrect ideas about concussion recovery.

Despite ongoing media attention and education efforts surrounding concussions, research shows that many parents still rely on outdated advice when monitoring their concussed children. Where once the impact of concussions was downplayed, apparently now parents are going to the opposite extreme and impeding recovery.

A national survey conducted by UCLA Health asked 569 parents how they would care for a child with concussion symptoms that persisted a week following the head injury. More than 75% said they would wake their child to check on them throughout the night and 84% said they would not permit the child to participate in any physical activity. About 65% said they prohibit use of electronic devices.

Making a healthy recovery

Frequent disruption or lack of sleep can affect memory, moods and energy levels, which are exactly what doctors use to measure concussion recovery. Once the child has been examined by a medical professional and determined to be at no further risk, sleep will help the brain recover more quickly, according to Christopher Giza, a UCLA paediatric neurologist.

And while contact sports are to be avoided until the child is fully recovered and cleared by a medical professional, mild exercise and aerobic activities such as walking and bike riding promote the healing process and overall good health.

As for electronic devices, it’s a good idea to keep kids off them during the early days of the injury. But easing them into their normal social, intellectual and physical activity is what’s best.

Most concussion patients make a full recovery, though dizziness and headaches can persist for weeks. Parents should always heed the advice of the physician monitoring the child and remember that rest and pain relievers for headaches are the best treatments in most cases.

Source: “Parents following outdated concussion tips,” 08 Sept. 2016.

Heads Up Football’s False Concussion Claims Exposed by New York Times

A recent article in the New York Times entitled “N.F.L.-Backed Youth Program Says It Reduced Concussions. The Data Disagrees” has exposed USA Football / Heads Up Football for publicizing misleading data and conclusions about the findings in the Datalys study. In their blogs, USAFB crowed about the effectiveness of the Heads Up Football program in reducing concussions; however, the actual data from the study do not support this.

Sadler Sports Insurance realized that misleading statements were being made several months ago after an independent review of the Datalys Study and mentioned this in our blog entitled AYF Study: 2005-15 Concussion Trends in Youth Tackle Football. We are in favor of getting the head out of the tackle, but have serious concerns about any program that publishes misleading conclusions in its blogs, especially when making the claim that their program is the standard in youth tackle football.

USAFB hired Datalys to study effectiveness of HUF and  practice contact restrictions

USAB hired and funded Datalys Center, an independent research firm specializing in sports injury research and prevention, to study player safety in youth football on a national level. They did so in an effort to promote safer playing standards and lessen injury risk, including concussions. Datalys completed a study in 2014 entitled Comprehensive Coach Education and Practice Contact Restriction Guidelines Result in Lower Injury Rates in Youth American Football.  The study compared overall injury rates, lost time injury rates, and concussion rates between three groups:

  1. Heads Up Football Leagues with Practice Restrictions (Combined HUF | Practice restriction)
  2. Heads Up Football Leagues without Practice Restrictions (HUF Only)
  3. Non Heads Up Football Leagues (Non HUF)

The study has been widely cited by USAFB and the NFL as evidence that Heads Up Football  leagues have significantly fewer injuries and fewer concussions than Non HUF leagues.

The unstated reason for the study was to prove that the HUF Only group significantly reduced concussion rates vs the Non HUF group.

It’s my opinion that the primary reason for the study was to find out if the HUF initiative reduces concussion rates in youth tackle football. Youth tackle football is under attack by the media and various researchers and activists, not because there are too many overall injuries, but instead because there are too many concussions and subconcussive impacts.

However, the statistics generated from the study were not favorable for the HUF Only leagues as regards to reduction of concussion rates. The concussion rates for the Non HUF leagues were actually a little lower than the HUF Only group, as will be explained.

USAFB made misleading claims about Datalys study

In various online publications such as its blog, USAFB made the following statement as regards the Datalys study (but recently taken down):

“Compared to non-Heads Up Football leagues, leagues that adopted Heads Up Football had a 34 percent reduction in concussions in practices and a 29 percent reduction of concussions in games.”

To the extent this statement appears to compare HUF Only leagues vs. Non HUF leagues, this is just not true according to Table 2 in the 2014 Datalys study.

What the math really says about concussion rates in HUF Only leagues vs Non HUF leagues

Table 2 of the Datalys study indicated the following about concussion rates in Combined HUF | Practice restriction leagues vs. HUF Only leagues vs. Non HUF leagues:


Practice concussion rate

Game concussion rate

Combined HUF|Practice restriction




HUF Only








Concussion rate is the rate per 1000 “athlete-exposures,” defined as one athlete’s participation in one practice or one competition.

It’s clear that the concussion rates are actually slightly greater for the HUF Only leagues as compared to the Non HUF leagues in both practices and in games, although these slight differences were statistically insignificant.

Practice restrictions drove the reduction in concussion rates in the study

The Combined HUF | Practice Restriction Group produced significantly lower concussion rates as compared to both the HUF Only leagues and the Non HUF leagues. Why is this the case? Is it the combined synergistic effect of HUF + practice restrictions or is it primarily due to practice restrictions?

The researchers lamented not having a group of leagues to study that consisted of leagues with practice restrictions, but not HUF. That is the only true way to isolate the practice restriction variable. Regardless, instituting HUF without practice restrictions did not reduce concussions.

Was a new group formed after the fact to rescue HUF?

It is possible that the misleading statistics referenced in the USAFB blogs differ from the Datalys study due to an attempt to rehabilitate the poor HUF Only performance?  A new group may have been formed, called “Leagues that implemented Heads Up Football,” consisting of all leagues that used HUF, regardless of whether or not they also used practice restrictions. Data from this new group is consistent with the statistics that were referenced in the USAFB blogs, which USAFB has since taken down. Because the injury rates were much lower in HUF leagues that used practice restrictions, the Datalys report separated out these groups to show the difference, whereas the USAFB blogs may have combined these groups to hide these differences. The statistics that were created in the blogs were misleading because they implied that HUF was the driving force behind lower injury rates and don’t give the practice restrictions the proper credit.

Our conclusions and what this means for brain injury / concussion risk management

We still believe that removing the head from the tackle is an important element of a youth tackle football brain injury / concussion risk management program.  However, it is clearly not the primary solution as touted by USAFB and the NFL. USAFB has hurt its credibility with this misleading marketing campaign.