The American Academy of Pediatrics outlined a series of guidelines which are meant to improve the safety of children when playing in youth football leagues like Pop Warner or USA Football.
The recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics say that young athletes should be taught correct tackling techniques and how to safely absorb tackles. Coaches and officials should prohibit illegal head-first hits and have a zero-tolerance policy towards them.
Paediatricians encourage the expansion of flag football leagues (non-tackling football) for children who want to go on a safer route. Moreover, athletic trainers should keep an eye on the players’ safety during practices and games. To help prevent injuries, football players should also be taught neck-strengthening exercises.
Gregory Landry, a professor of paediatrics at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison, said that the injury rate for youth football is a lot lower than the rate injury in high school and college football.
Physicians are mostly concerned about the head and neck injuries that may occur in children during football practices or games.
Blows to the head can have severe long-term effects such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) – a progressive degenerative disease of the brain – and dementia.
Many parents refuse to allow their children to play football due to the violent nature of the sport and because they are worried about potential dangers that may affect the developing brains of young football players.
After reviewing the medical literature on injury risk, the American Academy of Pediatrics found that the youth football had low injury rates, and injuries usually involved strains, bruises, fractures to the legs and arms, and sprains. According to Landry, head and neck injuries are very rare in youth football.
“There is no such thing as zero risk,” Landry said.
However, he encourages parents to let their children play in a team sport, because it will help kids learn how to work and socialise with other members of the team. The benefits always have to be weighed against the risks, Landry added.
The findings were presented October 25 at the annual national meeting of the American Academy of Pediatrics in Washington, D.C.
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