Nat'l youth football league changes rules to reduce concussions

Nat'l youth football league changes rules to reduce concussions

PORTLAND, Ore. - In just a matter of weeks thousands of kids will put on their pads and helmets for the start of football practice while at the same time the largest youth football league in the country is the first to make a big rule change to cut down on concussions.

Under Pop Warner's new rules, there cannot be any head-to-head contact and full speed, head-on blocking or tackling drills. Additionally, full speed tackling drills must all be done at an angle.

Local league officials like Marc Green and Mark Ballaris had to meet in June to figure out the new practice requirements to cut down on contact. The new rules are a lot different than in the past.

"When I was a kid and you were a kid you'd fall down and the coach would say, 'Get up, rub some dirt on it, run a lap.' Now you sit down and actually pay attention to the kid," Ballaris said.

He acknowledged there might be some pushback from parents who are used to the hard-nosed coach of the past. "But hopefully in the long run they'll see it for the better."

Teams will now devote only a third of their practice time to physical contact.

The Portland Steelers is a new Pop Warner team in a league with teams for kids from 5 to 15 years old. The Steelers went a step further and bought a more expensive helmet to protect the kids.

According to Pop Warner, more concussions happen in practice than during games. That makes sense considering the kids practice five days a week. Kids are also stronger, better conditioned and Pop Warner believes they need more protection from themselves.

The sudden change in rules for Pop Warner comes as more than 2,000 former NFL players are suing the professional league over concussions.