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Pop Warner changes practice rules for safety
June 13th, 2012
08:01 AM ET

Pop Warner changes practice rules for safety

Pop Warner, the first national youth sport organization to implement concussion rules, is changing its rules regarding football practices.

The first rule change limits the amount of contact drills, such as one-on-one blocking, tackling and scrimmaging to 40 minutes per practice, or no more than a third of the total weekly practice time. Pop Warner already caps practice at 2 hours a day, 3 days a week during the regular season.

The second rule change prohibits full-speed head-on blocking or tackling with players more than 3 yards apart. Full speed drills may occur only when players approach each other from the angle, but not straight into each other.

“The purpose of this change in the rules is to limit the exposure in practice, which makes up the majority of head impact," said Dr. Julian Bailes, chairman of the Pop Warner Medical Advisory Board.

Head-to-head tackling such as spearing, face tackling and butt blocking already are prohibited in Pop Warner.

According to a study, published earlier this year, youth football players hit harder and more frequently in practice.

“We thought it was important to address this as we’ve become more aware of concussions and continuing new research goes on,” said Jon Butler, executive director of Pop Warner.

According to Bailes, who also is co-director of the NorthShore Neurological Institute, “Youth players can generate high velocity hits as high as much bigger players like high school and college athletes.”

But it’s not just hard hits that worry Bailes - it's repeated hits. “The ultimate risk of ending your career or having life long brain injury is based on exposure. They why not eliminate all those hits early in life? Why not just take it out?’

Bailes is hopeful that these new rules can help with that. "Making these rules changes, we’re hoping to reduce the number of head blows by half.”

Studies have found that repeated hits to the head can not only lead to susceptibility to concussions, but post-concussive syndrome, and even Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, a degenerative disease with Alzheimer’s-like symptoms, including memory loss, dementia and aggression.

Former Chicago Bears Dave Duerson and Philadelphia Eagles Andre Waters were both found to have CTE, which can only be diagnosed after death.

Butler doesn’t believe that the rule changes will really impact many coaches.

“These rules are aimed at very small minority. People coach the way they were coached, so there maybe a few coaches out there who coach with more contact. But it’s a time of change for football.”

Pop Warner Coach Mark Meuller of Chicago agrees. “The problem with some coaches now, is that back in the day, when some coaches were learning, they went out and just tried to knock each other down. And that’s how they coach.”

Mueller added, “This will change football and it should.”

Bailes acknowledges that not everyone may welcome the changes, but believes it's in football’s best interest. “It’s a contact sport, but we think it’s the step in the right direction. It’s evolutionary.”

He added, “I hope it begins to evolve the style of play and practice so that we remove brain trauma exposure from practice as much as we can. And we can begin to lessen the tendency for these players as they get older, to lead with their head, and hit other players with their head.”


soundoff (45 Responses)
  1. dan

    i played pop warner from 4th-8th grade, then high school ball. even as a kid, we hit a lot in practice! am quite worried for my health.

    June 13, 2012 at 12:14 | Report abuse | Reply
    • OD

      Football is all about hitting and hurting. Where's the skill in that?

      June 13, 2012 at 19:27 | Report abuse |
    • Matt

      @OD, That's like saying soccer is about kicking a ball, where is the skill in that? Or how about basketball is about putting a ball through a hoop, where is the skill in that? Or what about baseball is about hitting a ball with a stick, where is the skill in that? Kind of ridiculous to say don't you think?

      June 13, 2012 at 21:12 | Report abuse |
    • Jackson

      Out with the old and in with the new. Taking a pro-active approach to early age bodily injury and concussions is becoming more and more of a concern, so there is now a new football league. Shellls and Flags football league is based out of Seattle, WA. This new football league was founded by former collegiate football player Kynlyn Jackson, former NFL player Clarence Moore, former Collegiate football player Ramen Green, and High School football coach Johnny Gomez. The program is in its beginning stages, but plan to grow at rapids speeds due to its safety-first approach. Visit shellsandflags.com to learn more.

      June 14, 2012 at 01:12 | Report abuse |
    • OD

      @Matt, have you tried hitting a baseball with a stick at 90 mph? Its one of the hardest things to do in sports! Dribbling a ball and aim it on a metal circle is kinda hard to do as well. Dribbling a ball with your feet and kicking it is also kinda difficult. Football as long as you have speed and muscle you'll do good pretty in this sport, since you have to muscle your way into the in-zone the majority of the time. It's more of a caveman sport I think, still love watching it on TV though very entertaining.

      June 14, 2012 at 12:41 | Report abuse |
  2. oldlillllly

    I'm glad new rules for bashing helmets are being made. Most kids that went on to college/pros played in Pop Warner.

    June 13, 2012 at 13:00 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bobby Millwright

      Most? That's not even close to being true...many kids play in local recreation leagues and CYO leagues. Yes, Pop Warner is popular, but I would not say MOST.

      I am glad to see Pop Warner taking the lead on this and hopefully other leagues will follow suit.

      June 13, 2012 at 13:13 | Report abuse |
  3. Coach

    I have been a Football Coach for many years, I am also and EMT. This may seem a little off but in an effort to protect the kids they may have exposed them to unintended dangers. Hitting is a part of the GAME...head on tackleing and blocking is imminent in a game situation, to eliminate that practice of CONTACT in this manner will only serve to have a child be unprepared on Saturday! What is needed is an EMPHASIS of teaching proper tech to the Coaches first then madating that be taught to the players. Sadly Pop Warner has turned into a big buercratic mess...making demands and policy but not looking at reality when it comes to implementation. As a Coach I am sure that I can find film evidence from over the years in which in every game multiple times players are put into situations were they have to tackle a running back face to face that has 10 to 15 yards of steam on them, or block a linebacker after having to run 7 to 10 yards as the play developes...with these new restrictive rules players will not have the needed experience or training to take on this type of play! Additionally form a professional stand point as a seasoned EMT most head injuries that I have dealt with in sports come from side impact hits around the jaw line or near an ear hole seldom have I responded were the front impact was the cause unless the frontal top portion above the hairline was impacted "SPEARED" I know concussion are very troubling but this has to be looked at in the correct terms...POP WARNER I am sorry but I would venture to say you will see more head related innjuries this season.

    June 13, 2012 at 13:25 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Matt

      The reality is repeated hits cause damage. Over time they do so much damage and it won't be known about until it is too late. I believe the overall good of not doing these things in practice will be better than pretending head on hits, etc. are not doing damage.

      June 13, 2012 at 21:15 | Report abuse |
    • David

      2:03pm, 07.May.09I'm actually a litlte embarrassed that I spaced the Greenman book. I knew it was coming out and that it fit, and then. . . Have you read that Amplified collection yet? Worthy of my attention?{}

      September 11, 2012 at 18:18 | Report abuse |
  4. Anthony Cameron

    The wussification of America continues. It's FOOTBALL, not needlepoint.

    June 13, 2012 at 13:35 | Report abuse | Reply
    • captain nemo

      >The wussification of America continues. It's FOOTBALL, not needlepoint.

      Tell that to the thousands of ex-NFL players who are now suing over their long-ignored-by-the-NFL consussion-related brain trauma.

      NFL players already have a significantly lowered life expectancy, are crippled for life after their career, and are now being shown to suffer from concussion-caused brain injury. And you wnat to see all this continue?

      June 13, 2012 at 14:30 | Report abuse |
  5. Coach D

    Practice IS where most clocks are cleaned...

    June 13, 2012 at 14:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Oscar

    I agree that hitting is part of the Game. Its going to take a lot more to prevent these types of concussions. One of the main objectives of football is hitting as hard as you can to stop your opponent from advancing. To reduce the impact on hits is to change the Game of Football forever. The only solution I see is to not have your kids play the game.

    June 13, 2012 at 14:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Destry

    Next thing you know theyll have em wearing pink tutus and no contact football.

    June 13, 2012 at 14:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. btldriver

    Soon future rule changes will read:
    In an effort to stop players from hurting each other the follow rule changes are in effect. Players will no longer be able to run but must walk. Players are forbidden to tackle each other but must lightly push players out of the way. Based on these new rule changes on field changes are as follows–3 offensive players: Quaterback, Center and walkingback or receiver and 2 defensive players: noseguard and safety.
    As was said above–teach the boys proper techniques and let them play.

    June 13, 2012 at 14:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Cameron Barnes

    I am worried that restricting practice exclude situations that players will experience in games will leave them unprepared to handle those situations safely. Beware the I intended consequence of increased injuries from head to head collisions between players in the open field.

    June 13, 2012 at 14:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. OvernOut

    I hope there are lots of future neurologists-in-training in med schools just now, they'd be smart to go into sports medicine, I'd wager. Our daughter has to see her neurologist at least twice per year, we have to set up appointments six months in advance. If all these football kids' parents demand appointments, too, it's going to be very crowded in the waiting room, less time for questions about treatment or meds. We've already been passed off onto a physician's assitant–albeit a very, very good one. Whether your kid has epilepsy, MS or long-term concussion injury, you want the best for your kid's brain, it's not like it can be replaced. I hope that the emphasis on the brains of kids who play sports will open up new research for all brain abnormalities, so there is hope for all.

    June 13, 2012 at 15:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Athletic Trainer

      You most certainly have to protect your brain... You only got one!

      June 13, 2012 at 16:09 | Report abuse |
    • Adriana

      Personally I think it should go into the trash. Because I am sick of this. Especially when ceerbeitils and politicians go on about it. Good God, these are people who live in huge houses, has private jets and yachts, entourage of cars and they say the average citizen is to blame for their little global warming? It is all absurd especially if you truly look into it. Some of them know they lost and because of this now want to make it a crime to deny global warming. Look it up. It is all there. And it is all absurd. There is a reason why global warming enthusiasts never debate a real scientist but instead talk to people who either believe it or know nothing of Earth Science 101.

      September 13, 2012 at 23:09 | Report abuse |
  11. Athletic Trainer

    I am in disbelief of the comments on here. From what I see the posts on here show pure ignorance from coaches and others. I am an athletic trainer at a high school and I see it every day of football season. I see kids tackling, blocking, and hitting with WRONG technique. Most all of them will tell you that they learned it in a youth league like Pop Warner. These young kids are learning wrong technique and their bodies are remembering the wrong methods through muscle memory. While I agree that the rule changes for Pop Warner are a bit stiff with the 3 foot zone I also recongnize that the impact forces, even for young kids (who most of the time have ill-fitting equipment) are very high. SOMETHING needed to be done and I commend Pop Warner for taking a stand and making changes. The changes will not be sport altering. The game of football will forever be a great game to play and watch, it will just be a bit safer for young kids to learn now!

    June 13, 2012 at 16:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Eric

    Kids shouldnt be playing tackle football until age 14 anyway. Playing at such a young age doesnt make you any better or help you in high school. The kids that dominate in in Pop Warner turn out to stink in high school because they were shaving in the 6th grade and finished growing in 8th grade.

    June 13, 2012 at 18:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. OD

    Is their a right technique when playing football? Natural instincts in football is to hurt the opponent so he can no longer run with the ball. You're rewarded if you succeed just look at the reaction of NFL fans. It's fun to watch but I won't want my kids playing such a game.

    June 13, 2012 at 19:25 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Footballer

      If you feels so bad about you can just stop watching the sport, it does take skills, to throw the ball with precision, catch the ball under pressure and running fast and be light on your feet to make big plays

      June 30, 2012 at 16:45 | Report abuse |
  14. lindaluttrell

    Heads are gonna bang...it's football! With all the technological advancements today, you'd think better helmets could be engineered. I don't want players brain damaged, but I love my game! Hello! Technology...anyone???

    June 13, 2012 at 20:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • HockeyGuy

      It's impossible to create a helmet that can prevent a concussion. Most football kids have very good helmets, but they are still getting concussions because of the drills their coaches run.

      July 2, 2012 at 21:37 | Report abuse |
  15. jcvet33

    What's next castrate all males.I was a pop warner all american back in the early 70's with horrible helments and a lot meaner kids an I never saw anyone hurt except the one"s I hit and they were finr , just babies.

    June 13, 2012 at 21:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Memoe

    Seems strange today that as a Mennonite kid that played ball in high school and college the players seem small and sorta, "well weak". City kids!

    June 13, 2012 at 22:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Memoe

    Funny how city kids can't pick-up a little forty pound bale of hay! Chuckles!!! You should see them attempt to move an eighty pound bale of Alfalfa. Funny Stuff!!! Hilarious!

    June 13, 2012 at 22:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Memoe

    Liberals tell you their intelligence but then don't know how to do anything of import. Really weird.

    June 13, 2012 at 23:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Memoe

    \Liberal kids pee their beds every night! Sick groose!!! I make them clean it up and air everything outside.....Liberals are nasty people!!!!

    June 13, 2012 at 23:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Memoe

    My Lands, why do liberals urinate in their own beds and then expect everyone else to smell the odor. The next time it happens they will air their Landry! I will make them pull their mattresses outside and they can beat it with a stick. Good Lord!

    June 14, 2012 at 00:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • sam stone

      What has this got to do with politics?

      June 14, 2012 at 09:27 | Report abuse |
    • OD

      Boy you have issues.

      June 14, 2012 at 12:35 | Report abuse |
  21. wasserball

    Will there be a Pop Warner official out there at practices to monitor the rules? I know the question is a little silly, maybe they can be made a little more general than so specific, like no practice at all during the season excepting conditioning.

    1. 40 minutes per practice, contact drills, such as one-on-one blocking, tackling and scrimmaging
    2. no more than a third of the total weekly practice time.
    2 hours a day, 3 days a week during the regular season
    3. No full-speed head-on blocking or tackling with players more than 3 yards apart.
    4. Full speed drills may occur only when players approach each other from the angle, but not straight into each other.

    June 14, 2012 at 09:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. jamg1

    With rules like this no wonder why the talent in youth sports continues to decline year after year

    June 14, 2012 at 14:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. thermopraxis

    There is something else that can be done now and your help is needed to spread the word about it. Thermopraxis has created a revolutionary in-helmet device that can be used to drastically reduce the devastating consequences of concussions using therapeutic hypothermia (cooling). The sooner this product reaches the market, the sooner these types of injuries can be reduced in helmet-wearing athletes. For more information, please see the Concussion Crisis Solution Campaign on YouTube and http://www.thermopraxis.com.

    June 27, 2012 at 10:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Professor

    I played, my Dad was an all American running back, my kids play. Concussions are rare but with 60 kids out there every day practicing you are going to get one every week at least. The key is full recovery before playing again. I don't see how any of these rules except the 3 foot rule will decrease concussions. The problem with this rule is it changes the game. If the rule only applies in practice we will have to see how much this rule change affects actual game play because, as has been noted, it could cause a lot more in-game concussions.

    Why can't you shrink wrap some foam padding to the outside of the helmet- 1/4 inch of foam on 1/4 foam is a LOT different than crashing two battle axes and this does not change the game at all nor require completely new equipment.

    July 5, 2012 at 18:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Youth Football Leagues

    Very interesting topic, thanks for posting.

    Youth Football Leagues

    July 9, 2012 at 08:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Volleyball Leagues

    I am very happy to see this post because it really a nice post .Thanks

    Volleyball Leagues

    July 10, 2012 at 01:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. HusseinEden

    The goalkeepers, for the most part, play out of the back.Goalkeeper distribute long from her hands or a goal kick.Thepossession of the ball every play and are able to build from the back, through the midfield, before going forward.

    August 28, 2012 at 01:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. HusseinEden

    The http://bultip.com Goalkeepers, for the most part, play out of the back.Goalkeeper distribute long from her hands or a goal kick.Thepossession of the ball every play and are able to build from the back, through the midfield, before going forward.

    August 28, 2012 at 01:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Pauljohn

    I have been a John Denver fan for over thirty-five years. I was very happy that soonmee had finally decided to honor John by writing a play, based on some of his more well-known songs. However, I really was afraid that the arrangement of John's songs would be changed so dramatically that they would be close to unrecognizable. Nothing could have been further from the truth. The arrangements remained true to how John had written them. The story written around those songs was very emotional. This production gave me a new perspective on the songs that I have cherished for all of these years. Hopefully, this production will be well received by audiences and it will become popular enough for a run on Broadway and/or a national tour. Thanks for a wonderful experience!

    September 11, 2012 at 14:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Shannon

    My 6 year old just got done playing his last game of the season for Willamette Valley Pop Warner Football (Oregon). Once again there were blatant occurrences of face-masking that actually twisted at least 2 children's heads. Unlike the other games of the season this "Bowl" had referees. They decided they didn't want to call penalties any more because "it was taking too long." When I confronted our head coach, Paul Kasperek, who is also the president of the league he asked me what I expected they do about it. I suggested they at least make the player sit out for a given amount of time to illustrate the seriousness. He told me "it happens all throughout the league," and "if we were to penalize every player when it happened we wouldn't be able to play." So it is really that prevalent throughout this league? If the NFL treats their own grown players as this being a serious injury potential, what about our children? And what kinds of skills are we teaching them, let alone sportsmanship. At my son's level (Tiny Mites) they teach the fundamentals. And this is what they are teaching them. No wonder "it happens at every throughout the league at every level." This week alone there have been national reports of injury issues in your league's games. I find it shocking and disappointing that your Safety Policies, etc. only address concussions. The NFL fines players, adds yardage, and/or takes away a team's time outs for face-masking. Any football fan, let alone coach, can regale numerous neck and/or head injuries that are related to this. The least we can do to teach our children by giving them a good old fashioned time out.

    November 2, 2012 at 17:16 | Report abuse | Reply
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    Howdy, i read your weblog from time to time and i own a similar one and i was just curious if you get a lot of spam comments? If so how do you prevent it, any plugin or something you can recommend? I get so a lot lately it is driving me insane so any help is extremely a lot appreciated. seo http://fiverr.com/twnseobacklink

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