Researchers: Pop Warner Wrong On Concussions

USA Today


Researchers who studied concussions in youth football say the Pop Warner organization got it wrong last year when it limited contact in practices.

Julian Bailes, chair of Pop Warner youth football’s medical advisory board, defends the policy and says critics are sending a “bad message” to players, coaches and parents.

“We’re not going to repeal it. I think the article was erroneous in its conclusions and not the right message,” says Bailes, a neurosurgeon with the NorthShore University HealthSystem in Chicago. “So we’re not going to repeal it in Pop Warner. We’re steadfast.”

Pop Warner, based in Langhorne, Pa., had about 275,000 youth players nationwide. Last season, it introduced new rules on hitting in practice, including a rule that no more than one-third of practice time be devoted to full speed contact.

In college football, the Pac-12 Conference also recently announced it would be introducing as yet unspecified limits on practice contact.

Released this week, the study by the University of Pittsburgh and its medical center followed 468 players ages 8-12 during the 2011 season in the Pittsburgh area and central Pennsylvania. It found they were 26 times more likely to be concussed in games than in practices.

“Instead of reducing contact practice time, youth football leagues should focus on awareness and education about concussions. We believe that practice is when tackling technique can be taught and reinforced in a much safer environment than in games,” says principal investigator Anthony Kontos, assistant research director for the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center sports concussion program.

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