Concussions in Youth Football
There are many debates and concerns about concussions in youth football. There are claims that youth football is an unsafe sport, riddled with concussions and injury. These claims are completely inaccurate. I am not saying there aren’t any risks that come with playing youth football. I am saying that there are risks of head injuries and concussions in any youth sport. It’s all about coaching.
I recently read an article called “Do We Need to Rethink Allowing Kids To Play Tackle Football”, by Ross A. Muscato. Ross compared youth football to the ancient Sparta culture- “When he was seven years old, a Spartan boy was taken from his family and commenced what would be about 11 years of intense physical and martial training and preparation for the life of a soldier. This training and prep were exhausting, painful, demanding, and required a young man to be subject to extreme deprivation.” Is he serious with this statement? He then goes on to discuss how his father believed that kids should not start playing football until they are freshmen in high school. I wonder if this author has any playing or coaching football experience?
So.. children should wait until they are 14 years old to play youth football? High school athletes are stronger, bigger, and faster and that’s where you want them to learn football? This makes ZERO sense. I would rather have my child learn the proper blocking, tackling and conditioning techniques at the youth level, where the collisions are distinctively less powerful, and with age and weight restrictions. Here is what you will learn at the youth football level with good coaching:
- Proper blocking techniques. Executing safe and effective blocks. Proper technique will help deter injuries!
- Proper tackling techniques. Executing safe and effective tackles.
- Nutrition and hydration.
- Learn the rules of the game. Understanding the basic rules and regulations.
- Team work. No sport requires more team work than football (players and coaches)-FACT.
- Equipment fitting. Youth football coaches are required to check and are trained to fit children with proper equipment before every game and every practice. High school coaches fit the players equipment once and that is it. I think it will be a good idea for the children to learn how to put on and check their equipment properly first at the youth level.
- Develops muscles. Playing youth football will allow the children to develop their neck and other muscles from a young age. Ask yourself this- who’s body will be more prepared to play at the high school level- A player that has played youth football for a few years (body comfortable with equipment)? Or a child that starts playing in high school and that has never put on a heavy helmet and is not accustomed to wearing the equipment?
- Youth football also educates parents. Parents will learn how to properly fit equipment on their child. They will also learn the rules of the game. They will learn how the game is played and they will understand how to prepare their child when they start playing high school ball.
- Prepares players for high school football. Playing high school football is a huge commitment. The children that start playing at a young age will know what to expect and are more likely to stick with high school football.
- Builds friendships. When you have a group of kids that have been playing together for a long time they will develop chemistry. This chemistry will continue throughout high school. When a team gets along with one another and are good teammates to each other good things will happen.
For even more reasons why youth football is beneficial for children check out our youth football movement page.
The Real Problems with Concussions in Youth Football
Issue # 1 Uneducated/Inexperienced Coaches
One issue with youth football is the uneducated youth football coach. Many coaches are coaching youth football because their child is playing. Many of the coaches that are coaching their children do not have the coaching experience. Maybe these guys have played football in the past, but playing and coaching are two different things. These coaches will have played before and learned football “back in the day”. The problem with that is that youth football has come a long way since “back in the day”. Some of the drills and philosophies these coaches have learned 20 years ago when they played are not acceptable today. There has been numerous rule changes and equipment advances since then.
The game is getting better and has come a long way, and many of these old school coaches are stuck in their “suck it up, hit everyday philosophies”. The majority of head injuries, concussions and other injuries occur in practice. Coaches will do unsafe drills and over-hit during the practice week. There plenty of drills that practice tackling and blocking technique that are non-contact.
The solution to this issue is youth football organizations have to implement stricter head coaching safety certifications, and requirements. We need better and more in-depth safety courses that become requirements for coaches. This falls on the shoulders of the youth football organizations. They cannot allow inexperienced coaches that are only there because their kid is coaching to be the head coach (I am not saying they cannot coach, but they need to have a certain amount of experience before they can become a head coach). Youth football programs have to enforce strict rules, and make examples out of coaches that do not abide by the rules. Pop Warner Youth Football was the first major youth football program that has limited contact in practice. Educate coaches on injury and concussion prevention and have stricter rules and regulations!
Conclusion: Educating and let more experienced coaches be head coaches will prevent concussions in youth football. Helmets/equipment have improved, parents and coaches are getting more educated and informed. The game just has to weed out or re-educate these “old school coaches” and their old school philosophies that get kids hurt. Youth football is great in every way. Children that participate in youth football have better grades than kids that do not participate, they learn physical fitness, commitment, teamwork, and it will keep the kids busy and out of trouble. Again, there are countless benefits that come from youth football. Concussions in youth football are not as common as the media portrays.