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Pop Warner Football and Youth Sports Safety
Sports are a big part of my family’s lives. Youth sports are an essential part of growing up for many reasons. Like most people that live and work in this area, my son will likely grow up playing Pop Warner Football. We hear a lot about the risk of youth sports these days, and for a good reason. New research has shed light on the long lasting effects of even moderate concussions in football among other sports.
More and more sports leagues like Pop Warner have begun to lead the way in research and guidelines for kids, parents, and coaches when it comes to the prevention and recognition of head injuries. In 2010, Pop Warner Sports established a Medical Advisory Committee with the intention of instituting proactive practices to the prevention of sports injuries, including concussion identification. The approach is simple and echoes the approach of the National Football League: “When in doubt, sit them out.”
Weighing the Benefits against the Risks
The benefits of kids playing youth sports has to be weighed in the balance. A sports team provides kids one of their first experiences with working together with others as a team toward a common goal. Active kids form healthy habits that last well into adulthood.
Here are just a few more things to consider:
- Kids involved in youth sports learn fundamental team building skills
- Physically active kids develop strength and endurance
- Physical activity in childhood helps set the stage for lifelong fitness
- Involvement in team sports helps kids learn to set goals and develop self-discipline
- Team sports teach children to cope in the face of adversity and develop skills in self-reliance
Keeping Kids Safe
Perhaps one of the biggest concerns in youth sports, football in particular, is the occurrence of concussions. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) developed a program to bring awareness to the risk of concussion in youth sports.
A concussion is a traumatic brain injury. The seriousness of a concussion can range from a mild blow to the head to a serious hit that results in unconsciousness.
Learn the signs of a concussion
If your child reports the following, seek medical attention:
- Headache or head pressure
- Dizziness, problems keeping their balance
- Complaints of nausea or vomiting
- Blurry vision, seeing double
- Sensitivity to light or sound
- Confusion, difficulty with concentration or memory
- Feeling sluggish or foggy, just not feeling right
Be watchful for the following signs in a child on the playing field:
- Forgets instructions or rules of the game
- Confuses assignment or position
- Seems unsure of opponent or game
- Acts clumsy or unbalanced, or dazed and confused
- Changes in mood or behavior
- Loss of consciousness, even if it is brief
If any of the following symptoms appear, seek immediate emergency medical treatment:
- Differences in pupil size (one appears larger than the other)
- Inability to be awakened, drowsiness
- Headache that gets worse
- Numbness, weakness, decreased coordination
- Slurred speech
- Difficulty recognizing familiar people or places
- Repeated nausea and/or vomiting
- Unusual behavior or increasing confusion and agitation
- Again, any loss of consciousness, however brief, should be addressed
Education is the key to preventing concussions and other serious sports injuries. Teach them from the time they are small to follow the rules of the game including wearing the right protective gear. Support the coaching staff and encourage children to follow their instructions.
Teach kids the symptoms they should report to a coach or a parent immediately. Make practicing good sportsmanship a requirement for continuing to play the sport.