Parents may be more aware of the danger of concussions when playing football, but it doesn’t seem to be keeping them from letting their children play, according to Kavita Varma-White from Today. As the current statistics from Pop Warner show, the number of youth players – almost 250,000 in the United States – were steady from 2011 to 2012.
Pop Warner is the largest and oldest youth football organization in America, and their national director of media relations Josh Pruce told Varma-White there was a consistent increase of 1 to 2 percent for the five years prior to 2012.
Pruce does acknowledge there has been an increase in questions about head injuries associated with football, “but we tell them safety is Pop Warner’s number one priority.”
It is true Pop Warner has a respectable concussion rule, instituted in 2010, which requires several steps to be taken if a player is suspected to have a concussion. Most importantly, any player diagnosed with a concussion cannot be allowed back in play for the rest of the game. They also cannot return to practice or competition until they are cleared by a doctor.
Pop Warner has also begun limiting the amount of contact allowed during practice, ad outright banning some hitting drills which were deemed to be the most dangerous.
In Texas, there is absolutely no sign of slowing down, says Chris Martinez, father of three football playing boys and president of the South Texas Youth Football League. Martinez says his league, located in Corpus Christi, started in 2009 with 12 teams and 288 kids, but has grown to 72 teams and 1,700 players. It appears, this growth can be attributed to extended measures taken to better manage concussions.
The league sends coaches four hours away, to Houston, for a mandated six-hour training course, as well as having a four-hour online course, which focuses on identifying concussion and other injuries. When asked by Varma-White, Martinez is quick to repeat the manta, “when in doubt, sit him out.”
Parents aren’t keen on willingly putting their children in harm’s way, but football is deeply embedded in American culture. So long as the youth leagues are showing that they are taking extensive measures to prevent as many concussions as possible, and ensure concussions are properly managed, youth football will remain a popular pastime for many young children across the country.