Pop Warner Announces It Will Eliminate Kickoffs

Pop Warner announced yesterday it will eliminate kickoffs.

The ban, which will take effect in the three youngest divisions when the season begins this fall, “is aimed at significantly reducing the amount of full-speed, head-on impact in games.”

Instead of kicking it off, the ball will be placed at the 35-yard line to start each half and after each score in all Tiny Mite (5-to-7-years-old), Mitey Mite (7-9) and Junior Pee Wee (8-10) games.

Following the season, Pop Warner will review the results of the move as it considers implementation in older divisions.

“We are constantly working to make the game safer and better for our young athletes, and we think this move is an important step in that direction,” said Jon Butler, Pop Warner’s executive director.

“Eliminating kickoffs at this level adds another layer of safety without changing the nature of this great game. We are excited to look at the results at the end of the year as we explore additional measures.”

Pop Warner announced a further reduction of contact time in practice across all divisions. After limiting player contact to only 33 percent of practice time in 2012, Pop Warner will now restrict contact to approximately 25 percent of practice time, beginning this season.

The moves are just the latest in Pop Warner changes aimed at “enhanced player safety.” Other initiatives:

  • “In 2010, Pop Warner implemented the first youth sport concussion policy requiring that any participant removed from practice, play or competition due to a head injury or suspected concussion may not return to Pop Warner activities evaluated – and receives written clearance – by a licensed medical professional trained in the evaluation and management of concussions, based on Washington State’s 2009 Lystedt Law.
  • To ensure that Pop Warner stays on the forefront of new health and safety issues and any medical developments that may affect our young athletes, Pop Warner formed an independent Medical Advisory Committee in 2010. Led by neurosurgeons, researchers and sports medicine professionals, the committee is focused on the prevention, proper identification and treatment of concussions; hydration awareness and proper nutrition guidelines; and general health and safety issues.
  • Pop Warner coaches are trained in USA Football’s Heads Up Football program, where safer approaches to tackling and blocking are emphasized. As a result, Pop Warner programs had 87% fewer overall injuries and 76% fewer concussions in practice than non-Pop Warner programs that do not do Heads Up Football training in 2014, according to a study by Datalys. Pop Warner programs also had 24% fewer overall injuries than non-Pop Warner programs that did do Heads Up Football training.
  • In 2012, Pop Warner banned full-speed head-on, blocking or tackling drills in which the players line up more than 3 yards apart.”
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