New Pop Warner football rules aimed at reducing head injuries

The Philadelphia Inquirer—June 14, 2012

When Pop Warner football practices begin this summer, new rules will limit the amount of contact allowed and the way young players hit each other, the organization announced Wednesday, taking two steps aimed at reducing head injuries.

The changes in the popular youth league arrive as concern about concussions in sports, and particularly football, has vaulted into the national spotlight.

Reducing the amount of hitting in practice will cut down on the exposure to potential head injuries, which can be caused by both big hits that lead to concussions and also from smaller, repeated impacts, doctors said.

The rules ensure that all coaches - from the sophisticated to the inexperienced - are forced to practice more safely, said James Kinderknecht, a physician at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York.

He pointed to a recent Johnson & Johnson study of 752 youth sports coaches that found that 52 percent believed "there is an acceptable amount of contact to the head," such as "getting their bell rung" or "seeing stars" that can be endured without the potential for serious brain injury.

"What they're doing with these rules is setting up a framework to make it less likely for an inexperienced coach to screw up," Kinderknecht said.

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