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Youth football league tries to stem the flood of head injuries

The intensified focus on head injuries suffered by professional football players has led to a national youth football organization changing its rules, in an effort to reduce the number of brain injuries suffered by children learning the game.

Pop Warner, which operates youth leagues in football-crazed Texas, announced the rule changes earlier this week. Starting with the upcoming season in August, no physical contact will be permitted for two-thirds of every practice. The organization is also banning head-to-head contact and drills that involve full-speed collisions.

  - Article By Richard Weaver

In making its announcement, the league cited research that shows players are at the greatest risk for head injuries in practice, instead of games. In all, more than 285,000 children, ranging in ages from 5 to 15 years old, play in a Pop Warner league.

The danger for young children playing football is that their brains are still developing, and a concussion or other head injury can lead to long-term brain damage. A recent study of second-grade football players revealed that the kids were exposed to hits that were equivalent in force to those faced by college football players.

One doctor, who specializes in pediatric sports medicine, said the new rules were not enough, emphasizing that any tackling at that young of an age was dangerous. He said that children should focus on skills such as passing and catching instead of tackling.

Head injuries are currently in the spotlight for the National Football League, which is facing a lawsuit from more than 2,000 former players that alleges the league hid information about the link between head shots and concussions.

And while Pop Warner should be commended for the rule changes, it likely provides little comfort to a parent whose child already suffers from brain damage because of football-related hits.

Source: The New York Times, "Trying to Reduce Head Injuries, Youth Football Limits Practices," Anahad O'Connor, June 13, 2012

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