Here’s a tip of the hat to Pop Warner youth football, which is pro-actively addressing the issue of brain injury: It announced this week that it is limiting the amount of head-to-head contact players have during practice.
“In our continuing efforts to provide the safest playing environment for our young athletes, and in light of developing concussion research, we would like to announce some important rule changes for the 2012 season,” Pop Warner said on its website Wednesday.
“With these rule changes, Pop Warner becomes the first youth football organization to officially limit contact during practices,” the website said. “The changes can be found in the 2012 Official Pop Warner Rule Book and are a result of the advice of our Medical Advisory Board and the direct input of Pop Warner regional and local administrators and coaches.”
The news was considered so important that The New York Times ran it on Page One Thursday, with the headline “Trying to Reduce Head Injuries, Youth Football Limits Practices.”
Here are the new rules:
· No full speed head-on blocking or tackling drills in which the players line up more than three yards apart are permitted. (Having two linemen in stances immediately across the line of scrimmage from each other and having full-speed drills where the players approach each other at an angle, but not straight ahead in to each other are both permitted.)
However, there should be no intentional head-to-head contact!
· The amount of contact at each practice will be reduced to a maximum of 1/3 of practice time (either 40 minutes total of each practice or 1/3 of total weekly practice time). In this context, “contact” means any drill or scrimmage in which drills; down line vs. down line full-speed drills; and scrimmages.
Pop Warner also reiterating its rules regarding teaching blocking and tackling restrictions: “In addition to other specific prohibitions in the National
Federation and NCAA rulebooks, no butt blocking, chop blocking, face tackling or spearing techniques shall be permitted.”
The league, which The Times called the country’s biggest youth football organization, also said that it will be creating a new “Health & Safety” section on popwarner.com in conjunction with the re-launch of its national website “to keep our members abreast of current issues in concussion awareness and other health and safety matters.”
Pop Warner also said, “Over the next several weeks as we all prepare for the kick off of the 2012 season, the Pop Warner National Office staff will be available to answer any questions you may have on these rule changes or other coaching and administrative issues. We will host online chats, add helpful tips for practice and planning to our website and Facebook page, and as always will be available by phone and email to answer any questions.”