The American Academy of Pediatrics has changed its recommended guidelines for football.
There are more than 1.1 million high school football players, in the U.S., according to the AAP. Just this year, seven athletes have been killed in football related accidents in the U.S.
The AAP now recommends the following practices for youth football:
- Officials and coaches must enforce the rules of proper tackling, including zero tolerance for illegal, head-first hits;
- Players must decide whether the benefits of playing outweigh the risks of possible injury;
- Non-tackling leagues should be expanded so athletes can choose to participate without the injury risks associated with tackling;
- Skilled athletic trainers should be available on the sidelines, as evidence shows they can reduce the number of injuries for players.
Coach Kerry Martin of Marion High School in Southern Illinois said he believes the game is safer than ever.
"We're doing a lot of things," Martin said. It's constantly on our mind and it's a constant concern of us as a staff to make sure our kids are as safe as possible and [to] still play the game at the highest level."
Martin has been head coach in Marion for 26-years. He said in any sport, injuries are bound to happen but he focuses on taking every precaution possible.
Even before the new guidelines, Marion's team had a trainer on the field during practices at games. Martin said he also works to limit the number of hits players take during practices by focusing on strategy and passing plays.
"I think the concussion issue has changed the way we practice with less contact, the helmets are better than they've ever been, we have a trainer on staff that's watching over our kids, we have coaches that are trying to be more cognizant of those types of hits that can lead to those injures," Martin said.
"I've never seen and I'm glad we have it, but I've never seen so many precautions taken, so much information out there," Martin said. "Losing one kid is tragic but losing seven, it's a crazy number."
The AAP also suggests that proper tackling technique be taught to players as early as possible to prevent injuries in the future -- Even if the players are in a non-tackling league.
The new policy is based on research into head and neck injuries during the game, according to the AAP.
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