The American Council is near to completing its peer-reviewed findings on concussions in athletes young and old and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is also issuing new recommendations to improve the safety of all players while on the field.
The reason is simple. There are over a million high school football players alone and around 250,000 youth football players. Many of them aspire to a career in sports and that means a lifetime of hits.
The Council is concerned about professional players and the youngest athletes, which means better safety equipment at higher levels and in some cases discussing outright bans on heading in youth soccer, the same way young baseball players are not supposed to throw a curveball. The AAP has some recommendations that are unworkable, like a professional trainer with concussion experience on the sidelines and asking players to self-evaluate if the risk is worth the playing time, but delaying the introduction of tackling until a later age makes sense. While the AAP believes this might lead to even higher rates of injury when tackling is later introduced (players players are faster, stronger and bigger by then), baseball has not had more curveball injuries by delaying the ages when young athletes throw them. Soccer players would not incur more head injuries later if the youngest players were told not to do them.
And while head injuries are a serious concern, they are not the most common; the knee and ankle are. So too much cost and effort to prevent a rare injury overall might make the cost of participation onerous across socio-economic groups.
Everyone agrees that we should not discourage any young athlete from being involved in sports but the AAP is to be applauded for joining ACSH in issuing guidelines that can make organized athletes safer for all participants.