Institute seeks 'hit count' for kids to prevent brain issues - Ingles

Major League Baseball uses pitch counts to protect multi-million dollar arms. In Little League, pitch counts are part of the rules to protect young arms. A campaign launched Friday aims to introduce a "Hit Count" in youth football and other sports to safeguard young brains.

"These concepts really should be adopted not just for the elbow but for the brain," said Chris Nowinski, CEO of the Boston-based Sports Legacy Institute, founded in 2007 to promote brain health at all levels of sports.

The institute held a press conference at the Super Bowl XLVI media center, where earlier Friday, concussion issues in NFL were a prime topic at Commissioner Roger Goodell's press conference.

"This is not the NFL," says Colts C Jeff Saturday, who joined in the announcement. "We have to make sure that our kids understand that this isn't TV. There are 25 parents who are watching you, and we all love you if you win or lose."

Nowinski, a former Harvard football lineman, said the plan in the coming year is to conduct roundtables discussion with concussion experts, with youth sports organizations and with companies doing research on technological advances to record hits.

"The gameplan is to get this adopted hopefully by youth sports organizations by 2013," said Nowinski.

The aim is to eventually specify the numbers of hits to the head a youngster can take not only in football but other sports such as soccer and lacrosse. There would be hit counts per season and per year because so many children play multiple sports.

"Put a number on paper. How many times should a six-year-old be allowed to be hit in the head?" said Nowinski. "I don't know (which sports group is) going to put that first stake in the ground and put a number on paper. ... (But) the number should definitely be lower."

There are already sensors in football helmets, mouthguards and helmet ear pieces that can used to measure impacts. The NFL is currently testing the sensors with an eye toward using them to study the effects of hits to the head on pro players.

Would the expense of that rule it out for youth sports?

"The idea is that this can be accomplished with and without technology," said Nowinski. "Not every hit can be counted in a football game by looking. So we do know multiple companies that have products in development that will be able to actually count hits.''

And who knows where technology will go.

"Part of the reason I'm talking about this now is so that they can develop those technologies that are able to give that information to parents in real time on the sideline," said Nowinski. "So that when you pick up your child from practice and your iPad app says, 'Wow, you took 100 blows to the head today. I want to talk to your coach about what he was doing.' "

Nowinski also said that based on the nature of certain football drills, for example, estimates could be made of how many hits to the head a player might take during a certain drill.

Nowinski noted that the new contract between the NFL and and the players union put limits this season on how many times pro teams could conduct full pads practices this season.

"If they can admit they don't need all those hits to the head, I think we can put that at the lower levels (of football)," he said.

As a member of the executive committee of the NFLPA, Saturday helped negotiate those limits. He also is the father of two sons and a daughter who play youth sports.

He said he told one of his sons that he couldn't play padded football until he was 11. He recounted what he tells his children about kids' sports.

"This is not your job," said Saturday. "Daddy's job is I go out and I put myself in a position that's probably not the smartest, but I have a high-risk, high-reward job.

"This is not a job for you. This is an enjoyment sport that I want you to learn and have fun and play with your friend. If you're ever scared and you don't want to do it, don't take a shot. Don't put your head in there and go make the tackle. Let it go. It's not a big deal."

This article was written by Gary Mihoces and appeared in USA Today.

Posted by Necesitamos Mas Football on 18:54. Filed under , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0

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