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We’ve heard a lot about the effect of concussions and other health and injury issues in front of the National Football League. The concerns over sports safety now have reached the White House recently, where President Obama brought in representatives from professional sports leagues, coaches, parents, youth sports players and researchers to discuss the issue of youth sports concussions.
At the White House Healthy Kids & Safe Sports Concussion Summit, groups such as the NFL, National Institutes of Health and the Pop Warner Little Scholars pledged money and other support to help in the research for safer materials to give young athletes better protection in their respective sports.
The genesis for much of this came in a report last fall from the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council, calling for a national system of tracking sports concussions—including how often young athletes suffer concussions and in what sports.
Anyone who is involved in youth sports wants to see the safety of the athletes be front and center. And the issue of safety has some a long way in the last few years, with soccer and lacrosse players now wearing improved protective headgear and youth football players now being taught to tackle with their heads up, the goal being to protect from head and spinal injuries.
Still, the issue of youth concussions is top of mind for a lot of parents who want to keep their kids safe. A report in the Wall Street Journal in January shows youth participation in the four most popular team sports—basketball, soccer, baseball and football—fell by roughly four percent from 2008 and 2012. In the same article, the National Federation of State High School Associations shows football participation dropped 2.3 percent in the 2012 season from 2008.
The causes of declines in youth sports aren’t clear. Experts cite everything from increasing costs to excessive pressure on kids in youth sports to cuts in school physical-education programs along with the safety concerns. The long-term issue is the health of children who become more sedentary, while the short term concern for cities and organizations who are the hosts for youth sports is keeping events going, and going strong, in your home town.
Keeping kids healthy while keeping them safe through sports is good for host organizations as well as for the next generation. Seeing top organizations start to invest in the safety issues is the next step in making sure youth sports continue to flourish.