News / USA

US Youth Football Group Issues Rules to Prevent Head Injuries

Melinda Smith
American-style football can be a violent sport. But the recent suicides of several former professional players who'd struggled with depression and dementia have renewed concerns about the brain injuries players suffer from repeated concussions.  A majority of the pros in the National Football League start learning the game as young boys in youth football leagues.  Now, officials with one organization, Pop Warner football, have announced major rule changes designed to better protect young players from head trauma. 

Bumping heads, part of the game

The rough-and-tumble game of American football. Players colliding.

It is not a sight many parents want to see.  

In recent years, helmets have been designed to prevent skull fractures, but neurosurgeon Julian Bailes, who serves as chairman of the Pop Warner medical advisory board, says even the best helmet can't prevent a concussion -- or brain damage.

"You could have padding six inches thick, and the brain's still freely able to move and twist and tear from time to time, explained Bailes. "But in these cases, we worry about brain impact, brain damage, brain injury."

Law requires better saftey rules

That's what happened in 2006 to Zackery Lystedt.  The 13-year-old athlete in Washington state suffered severe brain damage from repeated concussions he sustained during a football game.  The state's governor later signed a law forbidding coaches from sending injured players back onto the field without a doctor's approval. Similar restrictions were enacted in other states, and adopted by the National Football League.

Young athletes suffer more than 2 million sports-related head injuries every year, and according to Dr. Bailes, by the time players finish college football, they've experienced as many as eight-thousand hits to the head or brain.

The Pop Warner Little Scholars program teaches football basics to young players.  More than 5,000 teams play under the Pop Warner banner.  Executive director Jon Butler says the group's new safety rules require that players must be less than three meters from each other during head-on tackling practice to limit the speed and force of impact. The new rules only protect players during practice. 

"Teams spend multiple more hours in practice than they do in games.  More injuries occur in practice, just because of the increased time," said Butler.

Whether it is the Pop Warner league or the NFL, Dr. Bailes says practice games frequently involve a rougher, faster style of play.  He hopes the rule changes will reduce concussions by at least 60 percent. "We...right off the bat...[we] will eliminate the majority of brain impacts and concussions which occur...and we'll see how that translates later to the play of the game itself," he said.

NFL faces class-action lawsuit

Meanwhile, a class-action lawsuit filed recently against the National Football League on behalf of 2,000 former players alleges the NFL withheld information about traumatic brain injuries during their years of play. Negotiations between the players' union and team owners have already resulted in some changes to protect players during practice.

The new safety rules for the littlest players take effect this August when the Pop Warner league's new season gets underway.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs