Saturday, July 7, 2012

New Pop Warner Safety Rules for Football Practice

Recent evidence suggests that repetitive sub-concussive blows to the head may contribute to the development of permanent brain damage later in life. In response to this evidence, Pop Warner announced last month that it is instituting new rules governing football practice sessions. Pop Warner is the oldest and largest youth football, cheer, and dance organization association in the world, with over 400,00 participants between the ages of 5 and 16.

Under the new rules, only a third of practice time can be devoted to contact drills, nor can contact drills exceed 40 minutes per practice session. Full-speed head-on tackling drills are banned. Head-on tackling drills are only allowed if the players line up less than three yards apart. Full-speed contact during drills is still allowed, but it must be at an angle, not straight on. There should be no intentional head-to-head contact, ever.

The organization is clearly taking the lead on safety. No other football organization at any level has such strict rules governing practice. The organization knows that the aggressive culture of football may make acceptance of the new rules a hard sell among some coaches, but believes that the new rules are important for the safety of the players and even the very survival of the game. The new rules will be in effect during the 2012 season.

It’ll be interesting to see how high school, college, and even pro football organizations respond to the current concerns about head injuries in football. Can we make the sport safe enough, if not completely safe?

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