Posts Tagged ‘youth football’

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 www.sadlersports.com/ayf.

California Youth Sports Concussion Law Ramped Up

State aspires to greater concussion education and caution

A California youth sports concussion law that broadens the current return-to-play law went into effect January 1, 2017.

The previous return-to-play legislation only applied to scholastic sports, as is the case in many jurisdictions across the country. The new law applies to all youth sports organizations that are defined as camps, competitions or clubs in which participants are under the age of 18.

The changes involved

The additional law surrounding youth sports concussions and head injuries could result in significant changes in operations for many organizations. Specific stipulations in the law include:

  • Concussion and head injury information must be distributed to and signed by athletes and parents/guardians every year prior to play. The material must include information regarding head injuries, potential consequences of such injuries, concussion signs and symptoms, best practices for athlete removal from play upon suspicion of a concussion, and return to play.
  • Every organization’s coaches and administrators must be offered concussions/head injury education and/or materials every year. Education materials must include the same information as that distributed to parents and athletes.
  • Immediate removal of any athlete suspected of suffering a head injury. Athletes can only resume play upon submission of written clearance from a licensed healthcare professional trained in concussion management. Athletes diagnosed with a concussion or head injury will only resume participation on a gradual return-to-play protocol for no fewer than seven days under the supervision of a licensed healthcare provider.
  • Parents/guardians of athletes suspected of suffering a head injury or concussion must be notified of the date/time the injury occurred, the symptoms displayed and the treatment received.
  • Youth sports organizations must identify the procedures that were adopted or adapted to comply with the new law.

Liability fallout

The new law could spark interesting legal scenarios:

  • The new higher standards of care and increased obligations could be the basis for an injured athlete suing for negligence.  An organization’s procedures and implementation will have to comply fully with the law’s requirements to meet the duty of care owed under the law of negligence.
  • Any youth sports organization that doesn’t provide the mandated information and education to athletes, parents and coaches prior to play will likely have more difficulty in relying on assumption of risk defense and waiver/release for protection.
  • The youth sports organization’s obligation to to provide greater education for and oversight of all coaches means they will have a duty of general supervision to make sure that coaches receive the proper training and make the right decisions.
  • Sports equipment manufacturers and distributors may be able to avoid liability based on an alleged equipment defect if they can show the sports organization failed to comply with the law.

New California Law Likely To Be Adopted By Other States

It’s likely that California’s broader concussion law will spur similar changes in other states. All 50 states and the District of Columbia already have concussion laws on the books, and there is both a need and demand for more comprehensive concussion education efforts for coaches, players and parents – particularly in the areas of removing suspected injured players from play and returning injured players.

The CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control offers sports organizations resources on complying with the law. We invite you to peruse our extensive library of articles on concussions and brain injuries on our blog and check out our free concussion risk management material.


Source: Anne Marie Ellis and Paul A. Alarcon. “New California Law Will Change Youth Sports Concussion Cases.” www.lexicology.com. 23 March, 2017.

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

.19

 

.68

HUF Only

.65

 

1.50

Non HUF

.58

 

1.46

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.

AYF Study: 2005-15 Concussion Trends in Youth Tackle Football

Provides perspective for impact of education, getting head out of tackle, and practice restrictions

The latest American Youth Football (AYF) study on concussion trends reveals that education of administrators, coaches, parents, and players is having a positive impact on the identification of and more aggressive response to concussions. On the other hand, popular initiatives to remove the head from the tackle and practice contact restrictions may have a more limited role than portrayed by various groups due to the high percentage of concussions that would not be impacted by these measures. Nevertheless, these initiatives are important components of a broad based brain injury/concussion risk management program.

Updated statistics based on Accident insurance claims for 2005-15 seasons

AYF is the largest youth football organization in the U.S. and represents a wide cross section of players aged five to 15.  The data in this study is based on Accident insurance claims filed with the endorsed AYF insurance program through Sadler Sports & Recreation Insurance. An injury questionnaire consisting of some 20 questions is completed by the authorized team official as a part of the claims filing process and the answers are input into a database. A variety of reports can be produced to drill down to answer specific questions about concussions. The study includes 3,855 injuries reported from 2005 through 2015 of which 434 are concussions. This study is a representative sample of concussion trends occurring not only in AYF, but in youth tackle football as a whole.

Concussions as a percentage of total injuries

What this tells us about the positive impact of concussion education

201514.48%
201416.18%
201316.41%
201215.99%
201111.55%
20107.73%
20098.20%
20086.36%
20075.88%
20063.80%
20056.72%
Total All Years11.26%

Notice the spike in concussions reported in 2011 and continuing through 2015. This coincides with the media reports of the NFL class action lawsuit, other concussion related lawsuits, autopsies indicating CTE in deceased pro football players, and anecdotal stories of disabled pro athletes. This also coincides with the beginning of widespread and heavily publicized educational efforts on behalf of the Center for Disease Control and various football-sanctioning and governing bodies on concussion recognition, removal-from-play, medical response, and return-to-play protocols.

It appears that the media attention and educational efforts to train administrators, coaches, parents, and players are having a positive impact in that concussions are taken more seriously and reported more frequently than in past years. Suspected concussions are resulting in increased rates of emergency room and doctor office visits, and diagnosed concussions are resulting in more follow up care as pertains to return-to-play protocols. Overall, Accident insurance carriers are experiencing increased claims payouts for concussion care.

Concussion by situation (physical cause at point of contact)

What this tells us about initiatives to remove the head from the tackle and to limit contact at practice

Tackled by player23%
Contact with ground23%
Collision with opponent18%
Tackling player7%
Blocked by player7%
Collision with teammate6%
Blocking player5%
Other3%
Total100%

The initiative to take the head out of contact as detailed by the Seahawks Tackling video or Heads Up Football (HUF) is very important, but not the magic silver bullet to solve the concussion problem in youth tackle football.

For argument’s sake, assuming that the initiative to remove the head from the tackle is 100% effective in reducing concussions (Datalys study by Kerr on HUF refutes this – see paragraph below), this would result in a reduction of concussions by 30% (sum of tackled by player 23% plus tackling player 7%). If heads-up blocking is added to this equation, that would result in a total reduction of 42% (add blocked by player 7% plus blocking player 5%). The other 58% of concussion claims that occur due to contact with ground, collision with opponent, collision with teammate, and other would not be touched by this initiative.

The above analysis assumes that HUF is 100% effective in reducing concussion claims arising from tackling and blocking. To the contrary, the Datalys study by Kerr in Table 2 indicates that HUF-only leagues have slightly higher concussion rates that non-HUF leagues. Let’s hope that future concussion studies with more participants reach a different conclusion.

On the other hand, the initiative to limit contact at practice would likely have a larger impact in reducing concussions among more categories of physical causes of loss, including contact with ground, collision with opponent, and collision with teammate.

Concussion by activity being performed

 

Tackling33%
Running with ball30%
Blocking15%
Running w/out ball6%
Shedding blocker5%
Passing3%
Catching ball2%
Recovering fumble1%
Other5%
Total100%

Concussion by event type (practice or game)

What this tells us about initiatives to remove the head from the tackle and to limit contact at practice

Practice32%
Game65%
Other3%
Total100%

Since most concussions occur during games and not practices, the initiative to limit contact at practice would only impact those 32% of concussions that occur during practice. With regard to the initiative to remove the head from the tackle, it’s easier to get the head out of the tackle in controlled practice drills as opposed to live action during games, and as a result, its effectiveness should be expected to be diminished as well.

Concussion by position played

 

Running back20%
Linebacker16%
Defensive line16%
Quarterback10%
Offensive line8%
Secondary7%
Receiver4%
Practice drills4%
Kickoff returner2%
Kickoff blocker2%
Kickoff tackler2%
Punt tackler1%
Punt return blocker1%
Other7%
Total100%

 

Concussion by type of play from perspective of injured participant

 

Offense42%
Defense42%
Receiving kickoff4%
Other practice3%
Kicking off2%
Punting1%
Kicking field goal/extra point1%
Other5%
Total100%

The kickoff accounts for 6% of total concussion injuries: 4% when receiving kickoffs plus 2% when kicking off. That statistic does not seem to be out of proportion with the total percentage of plays in a typical game that are kickoffs. Pop Warner recently banned kickoffs for ages 10 and under starting with the 2016 season due to perceived risks.  Based on our statistics, banning kickoffs would not appear to reduce concussion rates.

Concussion and absence from play

 

2011-20152005-2010
1 to 3 Weeks44%46%
3+ Weeks27%15%
1 to 7 Days11%18%
None2%7%
Unknown/Not Answered16%15%
Total100%100%

The period from 2011 to 2015 shows increased absence from play, i.e. later return-to-play times, presumably due to following suggested return-to-play protocols. The 3+ weeks category shows a significant increase with significant decreases in the “1 to 7 Days” and “None” categories. This is further evidence that increased educational initiatives are having a positive impact on concussion treatment.

Concussion and weight of injured player compared to other players

 

About-average weight78%
Below-average weight10%
Above-average weight6%
Significantly below-average weight1%
Significantly above-average weight1%
Other4%
Total100%

It appears that players of below-average weight are only slightly more susceptible to concussions than players in the other weight categories. Players classified as significantly below-average weight have the same percentage of concussions as players of significantly-above average weight.

Conclusions about concussions from the study of Accident insurance claims

The higher rates of concussion reporting and more aggressive medical care and return-to-play protocols seem to validate that concussion education is having a positive impact. Initiatives to get the head out of the tackle and to limit contact at practice, while not game changers in themselves, are important components of a broad based concussion/brain injury risk management program as they have the potential to reduce a significant percentage of concussions and subconcussive impacts. Our statistics indicate that practice restrictions may play a larger role than removing the head from the tackle. Additional studies with more participants are required before firm conclusions can be drawn on these concussion reducing initiatives.

Beware USA Heads Up Football League Contractual Requirements

Leagues forced to share liability limits and assume liability that should belong to HUF

Last September, we posted “USA | Heads Up Football Imposes Onerous Contractual Requirements On Leagues” in an effort to educate our clients on how they were exposing themselves to legal risk when they signed the 2015 Heads Up Football (HUF) contract. In summary, most leagues that signed the contract were unknowingly reducing (i.e. giving up) their valuable league insurance limits by sharing them with HUF and were contractually accepting liability that should otherwise belong to HUF.

This conclusion was not just my opinion as a 30-year veteran sports insurance specialist, sports risk manager, and attorney, but was also the opinion of the experts at a major sports insurance carrier.

HUF is taking advantage of its superior negotiating strength to transfer insurance responsibility and litigation risk to the leagues that usually don’t have the luxury of staff legal counsel to review contracts on their behalf. That’s a smart move by HUF if no one notices and they can get away with it. However, it’s my job to educate my league clients so that they are informed decision makers before they give away their rights and protection.

Negotiation attempts with HUF have not been productive

During the off season, we shared our concerns and thoughts with USA Football about a more equitable HUF contract that would be fair to our insurance clients.  However, the recently released 2016 Heads Up Football Youth Coach Training agreement does not provide any relief on these unfair provisions. This is very disconcerting, and leagues need to understand this risk prior to signing the 2016 contract.

What do we have against USA Heads Up Football?

Absolutely nothing. We commend them for developing the HUF program and they are one of the few vendors providing this type of training to get the head out of the tackle. We just want them to back their product and to use their own insurance limits if they are sued in conjunction with a league for negligent course content or negligent training.

Does USA Heads Up Football have a different opinion?

Yes, they have a different opinion and think that their contract is equitable. We just disagree and want to work with them to clarify some provisions. This is a highly technical contractual problem with potentially serious consequences for our clients.

Would you turn over your liability insurance limits to football helmet manufacturers and agree to accept their liability?

What if you wanted to buy new football helmets for your league and you approached the big helmet manufacturers, Riddell, Schutt, and Adams? And what if they told you that you could not buy their product unless you named them as a primary additional insured under your General Liability policy and signed an indemnification / hold harmless provision agreeing to accept their liability if you did not meet 10 of their conditions? I’m sure you would be outraged. You would probably be wondering why they did not want to be responsible for the safety of their own product and why they wanted to tap into your insurance limits and reduce your potential coverage when they already buy their own insurance. This situation is very similar to what HUF is trying to accomplish. Both are vendors of a high-risk product and/or service. If you wouldn’t accept this from the helmet manufacturers, why would you accept the same from HUF?

Are there any alternatives?

Some youth football leagues may want to explore other coach training options to get the head out of the tackle such as the  2015 Seahawks Tackling video. The  Seattle Seahawks video was developed by coach Pete Carroll and delivers online training to coaches on rugby style tackling techniques. It includes drill demonstrations and actually displays techniques during live action. The 2014 video was updated for 2015 and is touted as an excellent resource for youth tackle football coaches. AYF has developed an online test that can be found on their website that goes along with the video to verify that the coach has learned the essential elements.

Coach training to remove the head from the tackle is an important part of any youth tackle football concussion/brain injury risk management program. We discussed this in our recent post, “The Truth About Concussion Risk Management In Youth Tackle Football.”

The Truth About Concussion Risk Management in Youth Football

How to Plan a Youth Football Brain Injury Risk Management Program

Local associations must adopt and implement a concussion/brain injury management program to battle looming liability crisis.

For the past three years, Sadler Sports & Recreation Insurance has been urging our youth tackle football clients to implement comprehensive brain injury risk management programs to help to prevent injuries and resulting lawsuits from becoming insurance claims. In the event that a lawsuit is filed by an injured participant, whether from a single concussion, multiple concussions, or cumulative traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), it is crucial for a local association to show that it has complied with the national standard of care for brain injury protection. Doing so not only protects the players against injuries and the association and staff against lawsuits, but also protects the General Liability insurance carrier, which makes it more likely that brain injury coverage will be available in the future.

Standard of care owed is determined by state legislation, case law, sanctioning and governing bodies, risk management resources, and expert witnesses

In a negligence-based lawsuit, the claimant filing the lawsuit must prove that a duty was owed, the duty was breached, and that the breach was the cause of the damages. The duty that is owed is also known as the standard of care. The standard of care to protect against brain injury for youth football players will be determined by state legislation, case law, sanctioning and governing bodies, risk management resources, and expert witnesses.

Depending on the source, some standards are mandated and others are recommended or are just guidelines. However, understand that the claimant’s attorney will argue that even recommended standards and guidelines should be implemented by a reasonable and prudent youth football association.

9 Elements of a solid written risk management program for youth football associations

The following elements should be considered by local tackle football associations when developing their concussion/brain injury risk management program.

  1. Written program

A written risk management program should be adopted by board action and communicated to all administrators, staff, players, and parents. A written program that builds in accountability is much more likely to be implemented than a program that is not in writing.

  1. Educational awareness through online training and information handouts

Coaches should receive training and certification in both 1) concussion basics for youth sports through the CDC Concussion Training CourseNAYS Concussion Training Course, or a similar online course, and 2) a tackle training program on how to remove the head from the tackle such as through Seahawks Tackling.

Players and Parents should receive and be required to sign off and return to the association a concussion fact sheet handout from the CDC or a similar source at the beginning of every season.

  1. Document retention

The local association should maintain documentation of coach training certificates and player/parent fact sheets for 15 years. Note that a 5-year-old child may wait until age 20 in many states before filing a lawsuit for a past injury.

  1. Baseline and post injury neurocognitive testing

This is a rapidly changing area with the emergence of new, lower-cost technologies where baseline and post-injury testing can be delivered on the sidelines through smart phones and tablets. So far, baseline neurocognitive testing is considered to be a voluntary measure in most instances.

  1. Identify suspected cases of concussions

The highest medical authority (M.D., D.O.,  athletic trainer, or person with EMT or Red Cross certification) at a practice or game should make the call in terms of signs observed by parents, guardians, or sports staff and symptoms reported by player. The highest authority must be aware of danger signs that would result in an immediate trip to the emergency room and in questions to ask and exertional maneuvers to perform to identify a potential concussion. Identification of potential concussions is a rapidly evolving area with a number of new tools that have recently hit the market or that will soon be available, such as helmet impact indicators, smart phone/tablet apps for sideline testing of memory and fine motor coordination to compare to baseline results, tablet eye-tracking devices, telemedicine with doctors via smart phones, etc.

  1. Actions to take if a concussion is suspected

Remove the athlete from play, make sure the athlete is evaluated by an M.D. or D.O., inform parents through the CDC fact sheet, and keep the athlete out of play until written return-to-play medical clearance is received from a qualified medical provider. Some state concussion laws allow return-to-play medical clearance by a “health care provider” which may also encompass professionals such as physicians’ assistants and nurse practitioners.

  1. Reduce full contact during practices

The Datalys Study by Kerr indicates that limiting contact at practice may reduce concussions in youth tackle football. Governing and sanctioning bodies have started to adopt contact limitation guidelines.

  1. Proper fitting and care of helmets

This has always been and continues to be of critical importance in protecting youth football players from head and neck injuries. A number of online guides and videos are available from helmet manufacturers to assist coaches and equipment managers in this area. A list of these sources can be found on the risk management section of our website.

  1. Compliance with state concussion laws and governing body and sanctioning body requirements or recommendations

Any risk management program should comply with the standards as prescribed by state concussion legislation (this only applies to schools in some states) and governing body (USAFB) and sanctioning body (AYF, Pop Warner) requirements and recommendations.

Based on my 30 years of experience in the sports insurance niche and the potential for brain injury litigation, I would not want to be a board member or staff member involved with a youth tackle football organization that did not have an effective, formally-adopted and fully-implemented written concussion/brain injury risk management program.

Sadler Sports & Recreation Insurance has developed a sample concussion/brain injury risk management program for our youth football clients that incorporates the elements listed above and that can be downloaded from our website in WORD document format.

10-Second Sideline Concussion Test

 Software tracks eye movement on iPad

As the sports world continues to focus on concussion prevention, it’s no wonder innovators are coming up with faster, smarter ways to detect a brain injuries. EyeGuide, start-up group out of Texas, has introduced a concussion

EyeGuide’s Focus technology uses a headset connected to an iPad to track eye movement. Users set a baseline reading and then repeat the test when it’s suspected they may have suffered a concussion. Coaches can have each player take the test at the beginning of the season to set their normal baseline eye function. The Focus is then used on the sidelines for immediate comparison on players suspected of suffering concussions.

New technology using known methods of concussion detection.

EyeGuide’s Focus system was developed after years of research at Texas Tech University. The software quickly measures neurological impairment following protocols established in neuroscience research. There are similar products on the market aimed at aiding coaches and trainers to detect concussions immediately.

Eyeguide explains the Focus technology in layman’s terms by comparing it to the follow-my-finger eye test given to suspected drunk drivers.

Players avoiding concussion diagnosis vs. intelligent technology

Approximately 500,000 concussions are reported in youth sports across the U.S. each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Eyeguide, knowing that even more concussion go unreported, took into account that players fear being removed from play if they report symptoms of a concussion.The Focus technology gets smarter with use as it compares each player’s eye movements with a database of other athlete’s records. This prevents players from cheating the system.

Company still awaiting funding

The company is still awaiting start-up financing, which it believes to be imminent. Therefore, the product has not yet hit the market.

Sadler Sports & Recreation Insurance is all about safety and injury prevention. We offer more information on concussion research and prevention on our blog and free concussion risk management resources in our risk management library.


Source:  Mary-Ann Russon, “EyeGuide Focus: This eye-tracking headset can diagnose concussions in just 10 seconds,” www.ibtimes.co.uk. 3 Dec. 2015.

Concussion Paranoia Trend in Youth Tackle Football on Decline

Many mainstream media outlets, bloggers and brain injury research groups have had a field day so far in reporting on the dangers of concussions and CTE and how youth tackle football is very dangerous. It seems as if many of them need for football to be very dangerous to further their interests. Generally, those in the media need an entertained audience and research groups need continued funding.

We recently blogged about two events that represent a return to common sense. The first is a report published by the American Academy of Pediatrics on safety in youth tackle football. The second is news that a judge dismissed a concussion class-action lawsuit against the Illinois High School Association. Interestingly enough, neither of these two events have received any significant amount of press.

Just to be clear, the media and these brain injury research groups have served an important function in the education of players, parents, administrators and staff on the dangers of concussions and too early return to play. They also reinforced the need for mandatory concussion risk management protocols that must be implemented by local youth tackle football organizations. Please see our youth tackle football brain injury risk management program under the concussion resources of the risk management page on our website. However, talk of widespread brain damage in youth football and the need to ban football is not based in science.

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.

IL High School Assn. Concussion Class-action Lawsuit Dismissed

Judge uses head in rendering decision

An Illinois concussion class-action lawsuit, which is the first concussion class action against a state high school association, has been dismissed. The suit was filed by players against the Illinois High School Association. The judge ruled that IHSA has put policies in place to improve the safety of the game and minimize brain injury risks. Judge Leroy Martin, Jr. also stated that mandating costly requirements would only cause football to be unaffordable for many schools.

The judge recognized IHSA’s efforts to protect student athletes, and that it has no direct relationship to football or the plaintiffs. In addition, his written decision read in part, “Imposing broader liability on this defendant would certainly change the sport of football and potentially harm it or cause it to be abandoned.”

The suit against the IHSA is the first of its kind against an organization overseeing high school football. The plaintiffs were asking the court to supervise high school management of football head injuries and seeking payment for medical testing of former students who played from as far back as 2002. The suit’s lead plaintiff played from 2010 to 2014 and states he continues to suffer memory loss from injuries suffered during that time.

The arguments

IHSA argued that it’s not an NFL-like cash cow and has an annual revenue of only $10 million to cover over 40 sports and other activities among the state’s high schools. There would be no room in the budget to comply with any requirements imposed by the court, according Thomas Heiden, the attorney representing IHSA.  He also argued that covering the payment the plaintiffs requested would lead to poorer schools shutting down their football programs and leaving only the students in wealthy schools eligible to participate.

According to plaintiffs’ attorney Joe Siprut, IHSA was giving the false notion that high school football is being threatened, and that improved safety would lead to its survival. He argued that the sport is already in danger since many fearful parents are not allowing their students to play.

In my opinion

This is a common sense ruling that may help to restore some balance against the media and research group-induced paranoia that evidently needs youth and high school football to be very dangerous to serve their interests. But, of course, this is just a trial court ruling and we probably have not seen the last of these. The good news is that the educational outreach programs and new risk management protocols seem to be having a positive impact.


Source: Michael Tarm and Sara Burnett, “Judge Tosses Concussions Lawsuit,” insurancejournal.com. 20 Oct., 2015.