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The Dangers of Pop Warner Football: How To Detect A Concussion

Updated on September 14, 2014

Football: Americas Sport

Some may say that football is the greatest sport of all times. Certainly it is a completive game. Others have high hopes for great payouts one day as a result of banging your head against the turf countless times. Children all over the globe dream of being an NFL star and so many parents continue to hold the same hope. But studies have shown that early head injuries increase the risk of future problems that may limit ones ability to ever make it to the NFL.

When it comes to children playing the sport, no one is getting paid but the competiveness remains. As a parent know your rights and how to keep your child safe when playing a contact sport. No amount of protection can help avoid accidents just know how to safeguard them. This is intended as information only, if you suspect that your child may have a concussion please seek medical attention.

My son tackling at 8 years old.
My son tackling at 8 years old.


Quite often the father that fails to make it big and carry on an NFL career then pushes his lost opportunities onto his offspring. So the kid becomes 7-years-old, which is perfect timing to learn the game and dad decides he is going to open his son or daughter up to experience similar activities of his great childhood. One thing he might have missed. The phenomenal adrenaline rush of playing the game and even some sideline action tends to take over. So that calm, cool, collective dad these kids once knew has morphed into a dad you are not allowed to let down. Competitiveness is a sure fire way to persuade children into becoming the family hero. But there are risks when a child goes on that field day in and day out and even on game day to show dad just how good he/she is. Frequently the kids become just as competitive as their parents and may want to play through injuries or hard helmet hits. Therefore, it is essential to know the signs of a head injury and how to get help and reduce the risk all together.

Knowing about head injuries in youth football players would you allow your child to play the game?

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Head Injuries And Traumatic Brain Injuries

The terminology is quite different today than in the past and as those terms ring in your ear they can be quite terrifying. Concussions are the age old badge of honors that were collected by so many for playing a good game. But when does the concussion lead to a more serious problem like a traumatic brain injury (TBI) or far worse Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE).

New practices demonstrated deems a player who is known to have a concussion inactive for 1 to 3 weeks depending on the severity of the injury. Though it is known that once a person receives a concussion they are more susceptible to future concussions. Therefore, our children who are playing at a very young age are at an increased risk of future complications. Concussions are possible to occur each and every game that a player pads up and runs on the field. But what happens when that player is 8 or 10 years old. Countless children have had multiple head injuries before they make it to college or if they are lucky the NFL.

Winning their rival trophy
Winning their rival trophy

NFL and Head Injuries

If anyone can remember one stand out player who committed suicide 2 years into retirement and was known to have Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease that is linked to repetitive head traumas common in football. Junior Seau, a 20 year veteran of the game who played for the San Diego Chargers, Miami Dolphins and finally at his career end the New England Patriots. Seau was a linebacker and one of the hardest hitters of the fame. He performed his job like no other. He was a solid player and heavily relied on by his team and fans. Like many he learned early on how terrible it felt to let anyone down. During his 20 years in the game he had a whole nation with eyes on him every Sunday. So what did he do, he went out and wreaked havoc on anyone who dared to get in his way.

However that left him with tremendous issues. Over time and as concussions increase the likelihood of developing a serious TBI or CTE is greater. There are many in the game that experienced this type of invisible injury. As the NFL switched their hitting practices in 2013 and removed the ability to hit an unprepared receiver or make direct hits to the helmet the hope is to reduce those injuries.

How To Recognize A Concussion

Head injuries are often that silent or invisible injury and concerns may not arise for months even years after the injury. Also, the lasting effects can be related to the severity of the injury. Pop Warner leagues have take the initiative to educate their coaching and volunteer staff about early concussion detection. Also, in the 2014 season the league has adopted a change in practice strategies. During practice players are only allowed to have direct contact during one third of practice time. It is known that many injuries occur in practice and as a result of this change the hope is to reduce further traumas. Therefore, children are less likely to have a concealed concussion. Some signs to look out for when a child had taken a fall or rough hit.

  • Memory problems
  • Confusion
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Brief loss of consciousness
  • Headache
  • Double or blurred vision

Often the first signs of a concussion are headaches, dizziness, blurred vision and confusion. Take extra precautions if the child looses consciousness, this should prompt immediate medical attention. As a parent at any time you feel your child may be experiencing a concussion do not hesitate to seek medical attention. It is better to be safe.

Football injury
Football injury

Is There A Way To Reduce Head Injuries Among Youth

Like any other sport there are dangers when playing football. At any time when on the field an injury is possible. However, there are a few things that can be done when teaching the game that can reduce the amount of head injuries incurred by a child. First and foremost, teach the children how to properly block, tackle and hit other players. Often the defensive players take a pounding, as their job is to take down the offense. So that means every play is a potential hit that is enforced on another player. Teaching them how to lower their head and hit in the shoulder area or wrap up the players feet can help to reduce that direct head-to-head contact. Frequently players get hurt from either inexperience or faulty teaching. Coaching staff in Pop Warner football is like every other parent except for they have volunteered to teach and mentor your child. Many of them have no formal training and just remember how to play football from their childhood. Remember in a large part of coaches childhoods hitting a player helmet-to-helmet was acceptable practice so learning that shift may not be natural.


Best Practice And Awareness

The best advice is if your child is going to play football know the game and know the risks. Take an online concussion awareness course. As a parent recognize when the coaching staff is caught up in competitiveness and minimizes safe practices. You have a voice and that can be brought to the league administration. Do no allow your child to be injured due to someone else’s failed NFL dream. In the end, football is a dangerous contact sport but there are countless sports that are equally as dangerous. Football is a great way to teach children teamwork and that hard work has its payoffs.

My son did take two seasons off since he was not growing as fast as other boys but he is ready to play again. As a team parent I witnessed many concussions and injuries. That is part of the game but having educated staff a possibly a team nurse can help to reduce prolonged or undetected injuries. Have fun playing football and help to reduce unnecessary injuries.


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    • mdscoggins profile image

      Michelle Scoggins 3 years ago from Fresno, CA

      Thanks Billybuc. I love the game but I must say some injuries can be avoided with knowledge.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I'm just grateful we are all coming to the realization of the dangers of this sport. Gone are the "good old days" of sucking it up and being we realize that sucking it up can mean some serious health issues, and that is huge progress. Well done in raising awareness here.