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Controversial rule change will ensure youth safety

Published: Monday, June 18, 2012

Updated: Monday, June 18, 2012 08:06

Pop Warner, the world’s largest youth football, cheerleading and dance organization in the world, according to the organization’s website, implemented a rule last week that has some banging their heads.

The recently implemented rule calls for lighter practices, by which head-on collisions between players are less likely — a move that is controversial, but long overdue.

The rule calls for less contact, ruling out contact for two-thirds of youth football practices to be exact. According to the New York Times, the rule may affect hundreds of thousands of youth football players — many of whom will eventually move on to play at collegiate and professional levels.

Some question what this rule will do to the integrity of the popular American sport and pastime.

However, with recent studies about the advanced brain damage resulting from the sport, it seems that putting the safety of the adolescent players is far more important than the semantics of the game.

According to the Times, the results of the research and safety threats will not go unnoticed by Pop Warner. In fact, Jon Butler, executive director the organization, noted that the research would continue to be a determining factor in rules regarding safety for the organization — and rightly so.

New research proves that the collisions suffered during youth, college and NFL practices can cause brain damage that has symptoms resembling Alzheimer’s disease. The media has recently focused on the adverse affects of hard hits to the head on professional football players.

As medical research becomes more prominent and advanced, it has become clear that collisions, particularly during the adolescent years, can be accompanied by some of the similar brain damaging effects as college and NFL players have experienced. For young developing brains, the stakes are even higher.

Pop Warner cites players as young as five years old participating in their organization. This is all the more reason for Pop Warner to be following in suit with the NFL and NCAA, calling for stricter regulations on heavy contact both on and off the game field.

With this knowledge, Pop Warner has made the correct move in protecting its players. Under the mission statement of Pop Warner, it is provided that one of the important goals of this organization is to “ensure a safe and positive playing environment for all participants.”

Sticking to this objective of a safe environment for the athletes is imperative for the success of the organization and its mission to promote athleticism and scholarship simultaneously in those who participate. Pop Warner’s executives are taking the research and results quite seriously, hence the new rule.

It is refreshing to see an organization putting the safety of their athletes first in spite of any controversy that may follow. 

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