Hazards in the Huddle
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Dan Hedman, a certified Youth Fitness Specialist, certified USA football coach and owner of Faster Athlete Speed Training in Tulsa, said that using a high-quality helmet is one of the main measures players can use to prevent head injuries.
“First, make sure the helmet you are using is properly fitted and adequate for the job,” Coach Hedman said. “Just because a helmet is new doesn’t mean it’s a good helmet. The more money you invest in a helmet, the better head protection you will have.”
Even with good equipment, Dr. Glaser advises against five- and six-year-olds playing tackle football. The brain is young and underdeveloped. They should play flag football “for a few more years to learn the fundamentals. Sixth, seventh, and eighth grade might be a better time to start tackle football. At five and six, a concussion just isn’t worth it,” Dr. Glaser said.
Parents’ attitudes also can have a lot to do with keeping injury to a minimum. When kids walk onto the field, it is important to “go out there with a ‘let’s have fun’ attitude,” Jeremy said.
Children, and their parents, might do well to remember that at the end of the day, they’re playing football for fun. Children should not feel pressured into over-performing.
“It’s up to the parents to make sure it’s child-geared,” said Laurie, “and that [the kids] are the ones who initiate it. They should not be forced into any of it.”
As They Grow
Jarrett, like other boys entering middle school, are at the age where their sport, and expectations of their performance begin to undergo a transformation. As they get closer to their high school years, competitive spirit may push “fun” slightly to the side. The “let’s go out there and have fun” attitude, for many, may be replaced by a more competitive attitude. Along with their skill levels, their strength and speed will increase. These gains in ability often lead to increased intensity of competition, and an increased opportunity for injury.
At the same time that they have to work in a new and more competitive atmosphere, their bodies must support increased weight and load as they grow.