Concussion Policies Lower Youth Participation

Andrew Vojt

As growing concerns over concussions loom over the sports world, parents have been more hesitant to sign their kids up for sports leagues. Especially in football leagues where young kids are putting themselves at risk for serious injury, the necessity for increased awareness about concussions is large.

The NFL is currently in the midst of a ferocious lawsuit between former players over the amount of the settlement that will cover the costs of living for these players. Despite newly implemented legislation in the NFL with regards to concussions, former players who have suffered the residual effects of a long football career aim to secure more money to compensate for their poor health. The two sides actually reached an agreement of $765 million in August of 2013, but it was rejected by judge Anita Brody. Brody stated in her ruling that she was “concerned with a lack of documentation regarding the fairness of the final monetary figure, and whether the players involved would be diagnosed and paid properly based on their claims” (SI.com). This refers to the argument that public

perception of concussion problems is larger than the NFL thinks. In light of its

problems, the League enacted new rules for this past football season.

In part, these new rules aim to prevent players from returning to the field before  making a full recovery. Players will additionally face steep fines should they hit an opposing player above the neck. The rules have already started to take effect; the NFL reported in January that concussions dropped 13

percent this season.

Even the lowest rung of football has felt the effects of the NFL’s efforts to reduce head injuries amongst its players. From 2010-2012, Pop Warner lost 23,612 players – a 9.5 percent drop – according to ESPN’s “Outside the Lines.” While there are many variables that play into this issue, it is apparent that youth participation has at least been marginally affected by the NFL’s revamped concussion policies. A Wall Street Journal poll conducted in January stated that 40 percent of parents would encourage their children to play a sport other than football.

The NFL isn’t the only sport supporting a crackdown on concussion league policies. The MLB is moving forward in player safety  as well, outlawing home-plate collisions for the upcoming season. The move was supported by past, present and future catchers of the game, many of whom have suffered

career-ending injuries as a result of these collisions. Additionally, executives approved the use of protective caps for pitchers. The move came after pitchers such as J.A. Happ and Alex Cobb missed significant time after being hit in the head with a batted ball.

The proposed changes align with reduced participation in both Little League baseball and softball programs across the country. It is unclear whether the decline is due to concussions, but as the trickle down from the NFL affects youth football players, it may only be a matter of time before youth baseball leagues will also react to the risk of injury.

Regardless of the affects it has on participation, youth awareness of concussions will continue to increase throughout the United States. Lawmakers have actually moved to enact bills that enforce regulations upon players who have suffered

concussions in games.

While legislation serves to move forward in player safety, it is essential that coaches and players begin to gain a greater knowledge of the dark side of their sport in order to reduce risk of serious

injury in young athletes.

Contact Andrew Vojt at [email protected]