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How Safe is Football in Our Local Schools?

Authored Allan Siegel

The kids are heading back to school, and that means that football season is back in action. Parents are already suiting up their kids with pads, helmets, and jerseys, so they can hit the fields. However, many of these parents will have more watchful eyes this season. The greater understanding we now have of traumatic brain injuries, concussions, and other sports injuries has created a heightened awareness of the potential injuries that school aged children face.

Many school districts are beginning to hire trainers for the sole purpose of evaluating children's injuries. Other districts are also incorporating a more preventative approach, by taking a lead from the NFL. The NFL only permits 14 padded practices throughout the regular season and only one during the playoff season. Padded practices are the only practices in which full contact is permitted.

Texas and Arizona have created guidelines to limit padded practices for high school teams to once per week. Texas is also working on a bill to implement a program that would conduct preseason neurocognitive baseline testing, post-injury neurocognitive testing, and defined return-to-play protocols. Locally, the Pop Warner league has limited padded practices to once a week, but advocates are still needed to get these changes implemented in other leagues. The tools are out there to help make football a safer sport, but we need to take action as advocates to get these tools in our schools.