Protecting football players from head injury

September 5, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
When the young athletes with the Knights Youth Football League in Fresno take the field this fall, they'll be sporting new hi-tech helmets, because the coaches wanted to better protect them from head injury.

"We got new gel helmets and they're a lot different than the helmets back in the day that were just foam and plastic," Coach Melvin Fulcher said. "You've got three different layers of protection here."

And just a few weeks into the season the players say they can already feel the difference.

"Better protection," Marcus Fulcher said. "Last year when you hit, it always made that ringing sound and it hurts, and now when you hit, it doesn't."

But that's not the only change you'll see this year. Pop Warner Football is also changing how players practice, by limiting the amount of contact drills like one-on-one blocking, tackling and scrimmaging, to just 40 minutes per practice.

Coach Melvin Fulcher said, "We teach kids now to hit with your body up, back then we'd hit with our heads, you'd get headaches and you thought that was a sign of doing something good, well now we have to do drills where there is not helmet to helmet contact because that's what's leading to these concussions."

Players will also be prohibited from full-speed, head-on blocking or tackling from more than three yards apart. This after a study found repeated hits to the head can not only lead to susceptibility to concussions, but post-concussive syndrome, and even a degenerative disease with Alzheimer's like symptoms including memory loss, dementia and aggression.

Knights Football President Alex Lopez said, "Our number one concern is the safety of our players, it's very important for us."

Parents we talked with supported the new precautions.

Jennifer Vargas said, "I think the more attention it gets, the more prepared we can be as a society to make sure we have the right type of equipment we have for our children to protect their heads so I think this is good, that we're becoming more aware as a society of the dangers."


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