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St. Louis youth football leagues tackling concussions

6:58 AM, Oct 25, 2012   |    comments
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By Ryan Dean

St. Louis (KSDK) -- The Gateway Football League, which has 4,500 kids playing football in the St. Louis area, is trying to change the culture on how it handles concussions.

The president of the league says it's a different brand of football from when dad and grandpa used to play. Tom Lansing says coaches are paying closer attention to what's underneath the helmet.

"We have put more emphasis on it than we ever did in the past," Lansing said.

Lansing says he's instructed his coaches to follow the law high school athletes have to abide by: if a player shows a sign of a concussion, he's taken out of the game and not allowed to return until cleared by a doctor.

"We've adapted a saying, if in doubt sit them out."

There's more to the culture change. The league is embracing a new method of tackling.

"Instead of hitting someone hard enough to knock them off their feet, it's more come in controlled, hit and lift and drive.  There's not that hard impact," Lansing said.

Lansing said he learned the tackling technique at a football seminar hosted by USA Football and the NFL. He says the method is taught by former UCLA Bruins defensive back, Bobby Hosea.

Coach Bobby Hosea's Train 'Em Up Academy

The language is also changing. Coaches are told to get away from the old football phrases, such as: "light 'em up" or "knock 'em off his feet."

The Pop Warner league in St. Louis has taken it a step further. The league limits the amount of time on contact drills in practice.

"We don't go full speed anymore, we go half speed or a little less than half speed and show them the basic techniques of tackling," said Lee Robinson, president of St. Louis Midwest Pop Warner.

Dr. Mark Halstead helped write the Missouri law on concussions. He says youth leagues are making progress on preventing head injuries.

"I think coaches are better at understanding concussions than we were five to 10 years ago. I think we have a long way to go and I don't think we can say across the board that coaches are great," Dr. Halstead said.

Dr. Halstead says more research also needs to be done on concussions in children, the age group physicians know the least about.

"We know the younger you are it often takes you longer to get better and often times they have more severe symptoms...but we don't know a lot," he said. 

KSDK

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