LOS ANGELES (December 2, 2013) – With national concern on the rise over the dangers of brain injuries in football and youth sports more generally, the LA84 Foundation has adopted new safety guidelines based on collaboration with medical experts and youth football administrators. The Foundation, which has provided $600,000 in grants to 58 youth football programs across Southern California since 2010, will now give preference to grant proposals from organizations that adhere to these standards.
The new guidelines will favor organizations that delay tackle football until eight years of age, while offering flag football for younger children. All tackle coaches will be expected to receive training in tackling techniques designed to reduce head trauma. Grant recipients also will agree to limit contact drills during practices, particularly player-on-player full-contact drills. Dangerous training practices, such as full speed head-on blocking or tackling drills, are expressly prohibited.
The guidelines also call on football programs to provide trained safety monitors to help identify concussions and other injuries immediately during practices, and ensure that medics are present at all games.
In creating these guidelines, the Foundation sought the direction of leading scholars in the field, along with sports officials and administrators who have a firsthand vantage point in the debate. The research recognizes that far more concussions occur than are diagnosed among youth sports participants, and that children’s brains are more vulnerable to injury than those of adults.
“Our organization is concerned with the safety of young athletes,” said Anita L. DeFrantz, President of the LA84 Foundation. “We are pleased to lead in this area and collaborate with others to work on effective solutions to the serious and growing problem of brain trauma in sports.”
“Football has the highest reported concussion rate of any high school sport, and the act of tackling is responsible for more than 80% of injuries in the sport,” said Dr. Robert Cantu, a leading expert on concussions in contact sports, during his keynote speech at an LA84 Foundation conference on youth football earlier this year. “We want kids to play these sports, but we definitely want them to be played in a safer manner than they are today.”
Programs that demonstrate compliance with the LA84 Foundation’s new guidelines will be eligible to receive funding to train coaches in safer-tackling techniques, hire qualified medical personnel for games and to purchase tackling dummies and other equipment that can be used in practice as an alternative to player-on-player contact.
While the LA84 Foundation recognizes the need for greater research and data on head trauma in youth sports, the organization believes that strong guidelines are needed now to protect young athletes. “Changing the youth football culture may take time, but as a leading advocate for and supporter of youth sports, the LA84 Foundation is taking important steps to endorse best practices that protect the safety of young athletes,” DeFrantz said. “We are thankful for the cooperation of youth football organizations that share our commitment to finding ways to protect children when they participate in the sport.”
“The recent revelations about the brain injuries and memory problems of former NFL players like Tony Dorsett and Brett Favre serve as a fresh reminder that football presents many risks,” said Patrick Escobar, LA84 Foundation Vice President of Grants and Programs. “In order to make youth football safer, we need to keep our line of communication open with programs that want to improve their standards. We believe that our grant guidelines will allow us to remain involved with these football programs while influencing the way that they operate over time.”
In addition to implementing the grant guidelines, the LA84 Foundation will work for improvements in two important areas— referee enforcement of rules designed to protect player safety, and education of parents and coaches on the importance of standards that protect the long-term health of their players.
“We believe that educating and monitoring referees in youth football organizations will be critical to improving player safety,” said Escobar. “It’s important that they know and enforce standards that are tailored for each age level.”
Go to the LA84 website to read the 2013 LA84 Foundation Youth Football Grant Guidelines.
About the LA84 Foundation
The LA84 Foundation was established to manage Southern California’s share of the surplus from the successful 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. The Foundation received an endowment of $93 million. Since it began operations in 1985, it has invested $214 million in sports programs serving more than 3 million youth in the eight Southern California counties of Los Angeles, Imperial, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Santa Barbara and Ventura. It is headquartered in the historic Britt House near Downtown Los Angeles where it houses the world’s premier sports library and meeting facilities. The Foundation provides grants to youth sports organizations, manages programs, including a coaching education program, and convenes numerous forums for the exploration of the most pressing issues in sport. For more information, please visit www.la84.org.