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Safety Considerations for Youth Football

By Catherine Holecko, Verywell Family, 07/25/19, 9:15PM CDT


Tough physical play is part of the appeal of American football, but the risk of both short- and long-term injury, especially to the head and brain, is high. So is football safe for kids to play, or not?

That depends on who you ask, and on the player, coach, and league overseeing the game. Does the coach have training in safer tackling techniques? What are the rules regarding contact during practices and games, use of safety equipment, and proper response to suspected concussions? Does the player have any pre-existing health conditions or prior concussions that make it more dangerous for him to play football? (Seek a doctor's advice on that question.)

Pop Warner, a popular youth league for tackle football, forms teams based on players' ages and weights, in an effort to reduce lopsided match-ups between opposing players. The league also introduced changes in 2012 to try to improve player safety. It disallowed "full speed head-on blocking or tackling drills in which the players line up more than 3 yards apart" and reduced the amount of contact to a maximum of one-third of practice time (for example, no more than 40 minutes of a 2-hour practice can include scrimmages or drills that involve player-to-player contact). Initial research supports the success of these rule changes.