Earlier today, the NFL, NFLPA and various sports entities and equipment manufacturers announced plans to create a youth football safety and helmet replacement program for youth in underserved communities. Through the program, the various sponsoring parties will remove helmets that are 10 years old or older and replace them with new helmets at no cost to the beneficiary leagues. Additionally, they will provide coaches with the latest educational information to help keep young athletes safe and healthy.
There has been a ton of discussion about concussions and player safety in recent weeks. The discussion developed a bit in the last two or three years, but it really escalated recently in light of the numerous retired player lawsuits and the recent death of Junior Seau.
Of all the people to make a solid point in this, I was impressed with some comments from Merril Hoge. Normally I'm not a fan of his analysis, but given his history with concussions. He suffered multiple concussions and ended up winning a lawsuit against Bears team doctors based on their treatment of those concussions. In his commentary on the issue of concussions, his argument centered on proper treatment. As he pointed out, the NFL is an inherently dangerous sport and people are going to get hurt. He stated that the real key to dealing with this was better training in proper fundamentals and better handling of injuries once they have happened.
I never played organized football, so my opinion on the subject can be taken with a significant grain of salt. However, I do believe that along with better care for players is the need for a culture change of sorts. Given how easily players can be cut from a roster, it is understandable that a player would not want to reveal they have a concussion and potentially miss playing time. A Patrick Willis type of player might not be as concerned about losing his job right now, but for many NFL players, they maintain a tenuous hold on their roster spot. Why risk losing the job by admitting you're hurt?
I don't know how that culture can be changed, outside of further injury guarantees in contracts, particularly as they relate to concussions. Beyond that it would appear to simply be a process that will take time to evolve.
49ers Support Newly-Launched Youth Football
Safety and Helmet Replacement Partnership
Partnership between NFL, NFL Players Association, USA Football, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Athletic Equipment Reconditioners Association (NAERA), NCAA, National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE), Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA), Rawlings, Riddell, Schutt, and Xenith is supported by U.S Consumer Product Safety Commission
As part of a joint commitment to player safety, a group of sports entities and equipment manufacturers has entered into an unprecedented partnership to create a youth football safety and helmet replacement program for youth in underserved communities. The initiative will remove helmets that are 10 years old or older and replace them with new helmets at no cost to the beneficiary leagues and will provide coaches with the latest educational information to help keep their young athletes safer and healthier.
The San Francisco 49ers are one of six NFL teams chosen to participate in the launch of the program, and through their Youth Football Program, have been tireless in their efforts to teach kids the importance of respect, teamwork, goal-setting and how to live a healthy lifestyle in a fun, safe and educational environment. The local initiatives of the 49ers Youth Football Programinclude Play Football Month, 49ers/USA Football Coaching School, and the 49ers/USA Football State Forum.
"We are always looking for ways to incorporate player safety and proper equipment information into our 49ers Youth Football programs," said Jared Muela, 49ers Youth Football Coordinator. "Through the years, we have focused on proper helmet fitting at our annual 49ers/USA Football Coaching Schools, as well as our State Forums. Being able to now take that a step further and not only get old and outdated helmets off of the youth football fields in the Bay Area, but give teams brand new helmets to replace them with is going to really bring it full circle. We are excited to be one of the first teams in the league to offer this grant to the youth in our area."
In its first year, the program is being piloted in four markets: the California Bay Area, Gulf Coast region, Northern Ohio, and the tri-state region around New York City. The NFL, NFLPA, NCAA and NOCSAE have committed a combined total of approximately $1 million to the program in its first year. The pilot program is designed to provide valuable information on the state of youth football helmets, including the number of helmets 10 years old or older in use. As of 2012, NAERA members will no longer recondition or recertify any helmet that is 10 years of age or older. NOCSAE will collect the helmets when removed and use them for ongoing research programs.
USA Football, the sport's national governing body and the Official Youth Football Development Partner of the NFL and NFLPA, will lead the execution of the program. Other partners in the initiative are the NFL, NFL Players Association, CDC, NAERA, NCAA, NOCSAE and the SGMA. Equipment manufacturers Rawlings, Riddell, Schutt, and Xenith are providing discounted helmets. To learn more or apply for helmets, visit www.usafootball.com/
The effort, initiated by CPSC Chairman INEZ TENENBAUM, is expected to educate thousands of youth football coaches on vital health and safety issues and provide nearly 13,000 new helmets to youth football players in low-income communities in 2012. Helmets will be distributed beginning in July.
"We are pleased to be part of this initiative, which will give children in underserved communities access to new helmets, and to reach coaches and parents with educational information to help protect young athletes from head injuries," said NFL Commissioner ROGER GOODELL. "This program is part of our focus on player safety at all levels of the game. We are proud to join with these well-respected organizations to make the Helmet Replacement Program a reality."
"The time has come to accelerate the culture change needed to improve the health and safety of youth football players," said CPSC Chairman Tenenbaum. "Even with our push for improved safety equipment, it is vital that parents, coaches and players understand that there is no such thing as a concussion-proof helmet. The best answer is safer and smarter play, which is why this game-changing program is aimed at reducing hits to the head and trauma to the brain. I want to thank everyone involved in this initiative for joining together in a common commitment to youth player safety."
Helmets do not prevent concussions. Therefore, the program includes a strong educational campaign that features important safety information from the CDC, the CPSC and USA Football, including materials on concussion awareness, proper helmet fitting, and fundamentally sound football instruction with USA Football's Tackle Progression Model and Levels of Contact module. In addition, leagues that receive helmets through this program will be required to have their coaches complete USA Football's Level 1 coaching course. Elements of the education component are as follows:
- "Start with Safety": Concussion awareness and response information, featuring links to CDC content and resources
- "Perfect Fitting": Helmet fitting information, including links to manufacturer-specific fitting resources
- "Tackle Safety": USA Football's Tackle Progression Model and Levels of Contact information and videos
- "Helmet Condition": Reconditioning and replacement information