Tackling Sports Safety Head On

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Spencer Helgren, 16, (pictured above and below) a high school football player from Westwood High School in the Upper Peninsula, Mich., suffered a concussion playing football. Here, he puts on his new helmet for physicians Jeff Kutcher and J.T. Eckner (right), to see how it fits at Michigan Neurosport in Ann Arbor.

More than 3 million U.S. children and teens participate in organized youth football programs — and another 3 million in US Youth Soccer, the nation’s largest youth sports organization. Last year alone, nearly 300,000 youths, ages 5 to 15, participated in Pop Warner play, the nation’s largest youth football program.

Recent data linking football with heightened concussion risks have generated much debate about the overall safety of youth football, with more than 40 states officially passing legislation outlining mandated concussion safety procedures for young players since 2009.

And concussion concerns for kids aren’t just relegated to football, as studies have also drawn links between head injuries and soccer, too, with some studies revealing more incoming college soccer players had experienced concussions in high school or earlier than incoming college football players. 

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