ATLANTA - Pop Warner football, the most widely known youth football program across the nation, announced late Tuesday a set of rule changes in light of new research data regarding concussions among football players.
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The changes will eliminate head-on blocking and tackling drills when players are lined up more than three yards apart. The move emphasizes no head-to-head contact between players.
The new rules, as posted on the Pop Warner website include:
No full speed head-on blocking or tackling drills in which the players line up more than 3 yards apart are permitted. (Having two linemen in stances immediately across the line of scrimmage from each other and having full-speed drills where the players approach each other at an angle, but not straight ahead in to each other are both permitted.)
However, there should be no intentional head-to-head contact!
The amount of contact at each practice will be reduced to a maximum of 1/3 of practice time (either 40 minutes total of each practice or 1/3 of total weekly practice time). In this context, "contact" means any drill or scrimmage in which drills; down line vs. down line full-speed drills; and scrimmages.
In addition, the site focuses on existing rules and guidelines on safe blocking and tackling techniques.
In addition to other specific prohibitions in the National Federation and NCAA rulebooks, no butt blocking, chop blocking, face tackling or spearing techniques shall be permitted.
The Pop Warner staff said they are working toward making the sport as safe as possible and said they plan on including additional safety information on their website prior to the beginning of the upcoming season.
At least two metro Atlanta football leagues say they're looking at similar changes.
The Dekalb Yellow Jackets in Lithonia say players should expect more emphasis on avoiding concussion when practices begin next month.
Football director Anthony Hipp's son suffered a concussion playing high school football.
"When I saw that, it put everything in a new light," said Hipp. "Now I'm on the other end. That's my son laying on the ground."
The president of the Cobb Football League says he'll reccomend the same changes Pop Warner has made for the upcoming season.
"Youth football today has become very competitive and in some organizations a 'win at all cost' sport," said Nick Kavadellas. "The CFL has moved away from that approach."
Pop Warner only has two affiliated programs in the state of Georgia, one in the Augusta area and one in the Albany area. However, the changes outlined by Pop Warner are expected to occur more widely throughout other youth football programs across the nation.