Youth Football Participation Drops Due to Head Injury Awareness

ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” recently reported that Pop Warner, the nation’s largest youth football program saw a 9.5% drop in participation between 2010-12, counting 23,612 less players during the 2-year period.

The significant drop is thought to be the largest decline in the organization’s statistical history, although we have yet to see this year’s numbers.  Officials from Pop Warner and USA Football (a national governing body partially funded by the NFL) attribute the decrease “to the economy and young athletes specializing in a single sport,” rather than growing awareness of head injuries.

Pop Warner’s own chief medical officer, Dr. Julian Bailes, provided very different feedback, citing concern over head injuries as “the No.1 cause” for the slump in participation.

Dr. Bailes went on to say, “Unless we deal with these truths, we’re not going to get past the dropping popularity of the sport . . . I really think we need to limit the number of head impacts . . . I think that’s where the sport needs to go . . . Numbers are down, but it’s a wake-up call.”

Let’s also recall this past August, when more than 4,500 former NFL players were granted a $765 million settlement from the NFL after suing for concussion-related injuries, alleging that the NFL concealed the risks of long-term brain damage.

This year, Pop Warner announced a partnership with the NFL to endorse “Heads Up” football, a program designed to teach proper tackling techniques to minimize head contact.  Bailes believes that the youngest players are not as likely to suffer concussions as those playing at high school level and above, so the key to minimizing brain injuries begins with rule changes at the youth level.

I couldn’t be more pleased to hear this news, because it means that the awareness is getting out there, but not fast enough…

The day before we released this blog, Is it ADD or a Sports-Related Brain Injury this past September, a 16-year-old player died after suffering a helmet-to-helmet collision during a football game in NY.  A week after his death, the members of his team voted to cancel the remainder of their season, stating, “the game is no longer safe because the referees no longer throw flags.”

This young man was the 5th high school student to die after on-field injuries, yet another young man has followed since, for a total of 6 high school football deaths this year alone.

According to a recent study in the American Journal of Sports Medicine, an average of 12 high school and college players die annually.  Although the risk of fatality is 1 in every 100,000 high school players, these statistics don’t include the most common life-altering effects of brain injuries, such as ADD-like symptoms, chronic depression, drug and alcohol dependency, and increased aggression.

It’s VERY IMPORTANT that you understand how incredibly fragile and vulnerable the brain is, and this 6-minute video will really get that point across.   Maybe football, hockey and boxing are really bad ideas for it?

Warning: This video contains graphic images – specifically, a human brain from an autopsy.



Click on this link  to learn more about how we approach traumatic brain injury treatment at the Amen Clinics.  We want to help you understand your brain and heal, before a head injury affects the rest of your life — Call us today at 1-888-288-9834, or tell us more to schedule an appointment.

Daniel G. Amen, MD

Daniel G. Amen, MD

Founder at Amen Clinics
Dr. Amen is a physician, double board certified psychiatrist and ten-time New York Times bestselling author.
Daniel G. Amen, MD

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