Pop Warner Changes

It is about time someone took a proactive step in football.  The sport is not the sacred cow everyone thinks it is; football is touchable by the courts and deep pockets, it is “when” not “if” when it comes to disruption of the sport.  However Pop Warner football actually took a very bright and forward step in limiting contact for its players;

Pop Warner is limiting contact in practice as part of an effort to reduce players’ risk of concussion. Pop Warner’s medical advisory board made the announcement this week.

Under the new regulations, coaches must limit contact to no more than one-third of their practice time. It also is banning full-speed, head-on blocking or tackling drills in which players line up more than three yards apart. Coaches can have full-speed drills in which players approach each other at an angle but “not straight ahead into each other.” There also should be no head-to-head contact.

HOWEVER!!!  (Always seems to be that or a ‘but’ with me)…  There still can be contact 7 days a week, or back-to-back with games, too many days.  It is a start but the problem with football is that you start to mess with it and people get in a tizzy.  Although the sport is dang good as it is, there needs to be slight adjustments as to how it is played in practice.  Someday in the near future (1-3 years) everyone will see what I have been clamoring about (being backed up by research from VT, Purdue, and BU) – practices are where concussions not only manifest more often, but I truly believe practices are where concussions begin.

It would have been better if Dr. Julian Bailes would have advised only hitting 2 days per week (games included), however at least someone is listening enough to make a change.

I think highly of Kevin Guszkiewicz and agree on a small part with him here, but everyone is thinking in terms of absolutes on either end, there is a common ground;

Kevin Guskiewicz, a friend of Bailes, is the founding director of the Matthew Gfeller Sport-Related Traumatic Brain Injury Research Center at the University of North Carolina. He said he believed contact was a necessary ingredient for youth football. Without contact, he said, players might be unprepared to face competition from bigger athletes at the high school level, which could cause “serious catastrophic injury.”

You can still have forms of contact in flag football just not massive collisions and of course the repetitive blows kids are getting in practices.  In the next five years we find out that the damage is as bad or worse than we thought what does that mean;

“There’s much more that we don’t know, than what we do know,” Guskiewicz said about football’s impact on head injuries. Pop Warner has decided to wait for more definitive proof before issuing even more restrictive rules. Guskiewicz said it could take another four or five years before research determines the short-term effects, and the length of an adult life to determine the resulting cause of depression or dementia.

Where as we can make proactive changes now and then go back to the old ways if we find out we are making a big deal about nothing.  To me it is just logic and CYA to do something now.  Like these proposals that should be adopted everywhere for HS footballcommentary here –  especially if you want to keep it around (call it hyperbole if you like but look what is happening in the NFL, that WILL TRICKLE DOWN, it always does).

21 thoughts on “Pop Warner Changes

  1. Glenn Beckmann June 18, 2012 / 12:04

    You also have to put yourself in PW’s shoes, however. Like it or not, they’re in a business. Granted, an important part of that business is to keep kids safe but they also have to actually be in business if they’re going to protect football players.

    If they go too far with the first wave of changes, there’s going to be a big backlash. And it might be big enough to harm their business – which is to provide a safe place for kids to play football. If they lose to many players because of these changes, they cease to have a business.

    Heck, we have people inside our doors that think PW’s changes are too much and fundamentally changing the game of football. Personally, I like them. And I’m of the opposite opinion when it comes looking back a few years from now: it’s easier to keep pushing the needle in one direction then it is to push it really far and then work back. It’s like a tax and government. When’s the last time any government ever gave back tax money they didn’t need (and trying to buy our votes with the last “refunds” doesn’t count). So once you’ve set the bar on what contact you’re going to allow, the parents and lawyers won’t let you go back.

    Just my two pennies.

    • Dustin Fink June 18, 2012 / 17:15


      Great and welcome observation, perhaps I glance over that when thinking and writing… However changes are needed, small changes make sense – as I state – but I really feel to make sure our sport and these businesses stay the course the perceived big steps are actually small in nature compared to what could be coming.

      I am not advocating the elimination of youth football, although I think we should reconsider what is appropriate for full collision and at what age. I hope it comes through I am trying to create solutions that will make an positive impact for the long haul.

      Appreciated it man!

  2. A Concerned Mom June 18, 2012 / 12:38

    Great post. I really think your approach would be better, and agree with the following quote:

    ” … we can make proactive changes now and then go back to the old ways if we find out we are making a big deal about nothing.”

    On the positive side, at least there will be some limitations on contact, and the media coverage is sure to have reached some parents who haven’t previously been exposed to the concerns regarding impacts sustained in youth football.

    Many children who play youth football never go on to play in high school for various reasons, so perhaps parents should take into account whether or not their children even need to develop protective skills for higher levels of play.

  3. A Concerned Mom June 18, 2012 / 16:13

    In addition to the Pop Warner reduction in full contact practice time, additional state youth concussion laws are either in the process of being passed (like Ohio) or put into effect (like Indiana). Indiana passed their law last year, but it is set to go into effect beginning July 1:


    “Starting July 1, Senate Bill 93 mandates proper treatment and recovery time, enabling most high school student athletes the chance to get back to school, sports and other activities.”

  4. A Concerned Mom June 18, 2012 / 16:20

    Speaking of research by Perdue (surprised about the 100 g-force for heading a goal kick):


    ““This is our first chance to really say that the changes that have been observed, in what were more or less traditionally psychological measurements, are really injury,” Breedlove said. “Where it goes beyond just having some cognitive deficits that might be transient and then go away.”

    The team has been designing a new material to try and absorb as much of the impacts as possible. Eric Nauman, an associate engineering professor, said they have made progress with the new padding material.”

    “With a sport such as soccer, players experience over 100 g-forces when heading a ball after being goal kicked across half field. Football players have been known to receive hits producing over 300 g-forces.

    “ … If it was up to me,” Nauman said, “I would put helmets on the keepers, I would let a little air out of the ball and (I would make) a few simple rule changes to help avoid head injuries.””

  5. A Concerned Mom June 18, 2012 / 18:07


    “Lawsuits and legislative efforts could spur sports organizations to take measures to better protect athletes from head injuries, lawyers said Wednesday afternoon at a panel put together by the Chicago Bar Association.”

    “Katz said school officials might have to look into whether similar regulations should be applied to physical education classes.”

    “Last year, a student at Eastern Illinois University who said he suffered several concussions while playing football, leading to memory loss and migraines, filed a federal lawsuit against the NCAA that asked for stricter guidelines about when players can return after suffering a concussion, said Joseph Siprut, the plaintiff’s lawyer.

    “The way to save football is to adopt regulations that protect athletes,” Siprut said. “Or in my case, sue football in order to save football.””

  6. A Concerned Mom June 18, 2012 / 22:05

    Lots of different opinions are being expressed about youth football:


    “Football is dangerous enough when fully grown guys play the sport, but exposing children to such injuries when it is not necessary is foolish and irresponsible.

    Pop Warner, which claims some 400,000 participants, does not have affiliates in Sevier County. Youth football here is managed by local organizations that may or may not feel these rules changes are needed or wanted. If they don’t see the urgency of tighter controls, it’s regrettable. These changes are the least a youth football organization should do to protect the children under their control.

    Besides, not all youth sports coaches are trained and experienced in detecting head injuries and dealing with them. While there may be medical personnel stationed at games, a possible head injury is harder to detect and not so easy to spot. The win-at-all-costs mentality of some youth coaches makes handling of head injuries and possible concussions a risky thing to leave in their hands.”

  7. A Concerned Mom June 18, 2012 / 22:16


    “Some coaches in Central Mass. like Carelli don’t think they will have to drastically alter their practice routines to comply with the Pop Warner mandates.

    “Lately we’ve had a trend toward less hitting, working more with technique on blocking and tackling,” said Carelli, whose son Jack, then 9, suffered a concussion during a practice last year and followed Central Mass. Pop Warner’s procedure before his return to the field. “We’ll be able to hit no more than 40 minutes — we didn’t do much more than that anyway.

    “I don’t see a big impact on how we do things in Grafton. We’ve tried to minimize the hitting anyway.””

  8. A Concerned Mom June 19, 2012 / 08:04


    “… and football isn’t the only sport involved. Recreation officials in Bergen and Passaic counties say that additional precautions to prevent head injuries are now being taken in hockey and soccer.”

    “Many youth leagues and teams also are working to put trainers on the sidelines of every game in hopes of more quickly diagnosing head injuries,”

    “”There needs to be a culture change in the way we look at concussions and the way [football] is played if we’re going to make a dent in the concussion issue.” Few sensible people can argue with that.”

  9. A Concerned Mom June 19, 2012 / 08:14

    Wonder if USA Football will also call for reduced contact at practice:


    “[Numbers will drop] if we don’t change the way we coach,” said Drew
    Potthoff, former McHenry athletic director and a former high school football coach who serves as IYFL secretary. “I’m glad Pop Warner came out with those rules.”

    Graves agrees and believes better education can help.

    “What we can’t detect is scary,” said Graves, who is president of the Comets’ program. “It’s all about education. We have to have our coaches know how to handle things [with concussions]. Fortunately, I don’t think [the IYFL] has had any serious, serious injuries, thank God. It’s come a long way.”

    Graves said the IYFL tries to err on the side of caution. Paramedics are on hand for games, and the league wants to grant officials the authority to remove players they consider concussed.”

  10. A Concerned Mom June 20, 2012 / 06:10

    Good to hear other youth programs are adopting new rules to protect children, yet somewhat discouraging to realize it’s taken some leagues until this year to require medical clearance from a doctor.


    ” … one of Fort Wayne’s entry-level football programs is changing its policies this fall.”

    ““Normally when a child says he has a headache, he has to let his parents take a look at it, but you can’t take a headache lightly any more,” said Winters who has been with the league for 38 years. “We have some parents who will say he’s going to be OK and put him back in. We have to make sure we are here first for the safety of the children.””

    “PAL does not keep statistics on concussions, but Butz could recall two players with symptoms last year.

    ” … “We’re in the process now of also looking at doing a cutback on contact during practices. How far back do we need to go? We’re taking a little glance at that. There’s also going to be more instruction on proper tackling using the shoulder and not the head.””

  11. A Concerned Mom June 21, 2012 / 15:46

    Hruby on Pop Warner:


    “Little kids will still be smashing each other’s brains. Only now a bit less often. Such is the news out of Pop Warner, …

    Better something than nothing, I suppose.
    I don’t mean to sound cynical. Honest. Even if Pop Warner’s new tack is more band-aid than tourniquet — Why more than three yards? What about sub-concussive blows that result from scrimmage line play? Who enforces these changes when tough guy youth coaches who fear the Pussification of American Manhood far more than future chronic traumatic encephalopathy Medicare bills are abundant? — it’s certainly a welcome change. When it comes to preventing football-induced brain trauma, less hitting is always preferable to more. Always.

    Only here’s the thing: Pop Warner did not announce plans to become a flag-only association. Red-blooded American boys will continue smashing into each other with premeditated, socially-encouraged malice, absorbing and delivering blows that sometimes register as much physical force as the hits produced in college football. Heads will snap. Brain tissues will still slam against the insides of skulls, stretching and shearing. Electrochemical balances and metabolisms will still be disrupted. Children will still suffer brain damage.”

  12. A Concerned Mom June 21, 2012 / 18:16

    Pop Warner announcement motivates a call for athletic trainers (personally, think collision sports should require some type of access to an athletic trainer … the risks are just too high).


    “We applaud the Pop Warner youth football league for protecting the brains of young athletes by limiting full-speed collisions and other contact during practices …

    While it is not realistic that the tens of thousands of youth teams and leagues employ an athletic trainer to cover every practice and game, it is realistic that municipal and private sports facilities do. If every swimming pool can have a lifeguard, every sports facility can have an athletic trainer to keep our children safely in the game.

    President, National Athletic Trainers’ Association
    New York, June 15, 2012”

  13. A Concerned Mom June 22, 2012 / 12:17


    “My football career began at age 11 playing Pee Wee Pop Warner for the West Stockton Bear Cubs. During my 3rd year of Pop Warner, I was knocked unconscious in a meaningless “Bull In The Ring” drill and was hospitalized. I went on to to play for the undefeated and nationally ranked Amos Alonzo Stagg High in Stockton, CA in 1975, and attended the University of Colorado on a football scholarship in 1976.

    “I have been asked many times over the years how many concussions I suffered. I used to count the ones I was unconscious on or couldn’t remember games from (~6). They now classify a concussion as hitting hard enough to see
    stars. I had 1,000s over the years. 
It is the responsibility of all parents and coaches of young players to ensure they are coached properly. It should be a requirement of coaches and trainers to pass a protocol certification training session before being allowed to coach or clear a player to return to play. Parents need to be informed about the dangers of head injuries. TBI affects the entire family. I know. It’s still impacting mine.

    As I testified at my Worker’s Compensation hearing against the 49ers in 1986, “A traumatic brain injury is like throwing a rock in a pond. The ripple effect as to the number of people impacted is huge.”

    George Visger
    San Francisco 49ers 1980 and 1981

    Survivor of 9 NFL-caused Emergency VP Shunt Brain Surgeries

    Recipient of ZERO NFL Benefits”

  14. A Concerned Mom June 22, 2012 / 18:32

    Doesn’t Pop Warner have weight classifications for safety purposes? Doesn’t seem as though all independent leagues see the need to maintain such classifications. Wonder if the independent leagues will follow Pop Warner’s limits on full contact practices?


    “In CAYFA, players were aligned on teams based on a weight and age formula.

    Way says she favors grade level assignments because, “Keeping the players together as they go through the school system is better.””

    But, at least they’ll be wearing new helmets (hope the know it’s important to fit them properly and that they don’t put too much faith into “energy managing materials” and fail to focus on other safety measures):

    “Importantly for players and their moms and dads is that youths who participate this season will be outfitted with top of the line Riddell helmets specially designed to help prevent the concussions that in recent years have morphed into a major player safety topic.

    Manufacturers say the helmets are constructed with energy managing materials and a face mask attachment system that disperses energy from frontal impacts.

    “We were able to buy 100 new ones at a cost of more than $7,000,” said Way.”

  15. A Concerned Mom June 22, 2012 / 20:40

    Dr. Bailes on youtube … the greatest game … needs to evolve …

  16. A Concerned Mom June 23, 2012 / 13:05

    Possible probation or lifetime ban on coaches who break the rules. Video at link shows cute little 5-year-old suited up for Pop Warner football.


    “Lake Brantley High School quarterback Damon Haecker, one of the top QBs in Central Florida, got his start playing Pop Warner. Now, his 5-year-old brother, Aidan, is ready to suit up for the first time this season.

    “I think it will help,’’ Haecker said of the rules. “Developing him and teaching him how to tackle better and not head-to-head contact.’’”

    “Officials at Pop Warner’s national office in Langhorne, Pa., said they have no statistics on concussions but acknowledged they are concerned. They said that if a coach breaks the rules, that coach could be put on probation or even face a lifetime ban on coaching.”

  17. A Concerned Mom June 24, 2012 / 07:13

    If parents allow a child to play pee wee football, they need to be aware that they play a major role in recognizing possible concussions as well as enforcing safety rules and any limitations on contact during practice (they should also check their child’s helmet before each practice/game to make sure it fits properly).


    ““Everybody’s got to be more aware of what’s going on,” said Joe Panniello, of Everett, president of Eastern Massachusetts Pop Warner. “Coaches, administrators, players, and parents all need to be more educated about concussions. I think Pop Warner is starting to get there.’’

    “Panniello and other officials interviewed said that parents will be key to enforcing the new rules. “We’re stressing to coaches that parents will be watching. They’re the ones who drop the kids off and pick them up at 8 o’clock,” he said.””

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