PHOENIX — In response to growing concerns about concussions and head injuries in youth sports, Arizona Pop Warner Football and Cheer and Mayo Clinic have announced a groundbreaking collaboration that will provide intensive medical research about the effects of sports-related injuries. As part of the program, all participants ages 10 years and older in Arizona Pop Warner’s flag and tackle football programs, as well as all participants in the organization’s cheerleading programs, will be required to complete a comprehensive evaluation prior to play that will provide a baseline for future testing in the event of an injury. This baseline evaluation will provide immediate data when testing young athletes after an injury, helping physicians determine the nature and extent of the injury and helping to assess a timeline for return to competition.
David Dodick, M.D., a neurologist at Mayo Clinic in Arizona and an expert in concussion care and director of the Mayo Clinic Concussion Program, was invited to join President Barack Obama and other medical experts at the White House in late May. The effort between Arizona Pop Warner Football and Cheer and Mayo Clinic is one of the first of its kind since President Obama’s call-to-action on May 29 at the White House, assembling prominent athletic organizations, athletes and medical experts to join the Healthy Kids & Safe Sports Concussion Summit. The two organizations are working to get the concussion protocol executed before the start of the 2014 season.
“President Obama’s summit elevated concussion care and research to a national public health priority and Mayo Clinic is excited to partner with Arizona Pop Warner Football and Cheer to implement a protocol that will protect our young athletes participating in youth football and cheer, advance our knowledge through research and serve as a model for the nation,” Dr. Dodick says.
“This is a very serious issue and one that we want to address immediately,” says Paul Watkins, Arizona Pop Warner Football and Cheer Commissioner. “Youth football and cheer have so many wonderful benefits for kids, both on the field of play and in life. Our goal is to continue to provide these experiences and these benefits for our kids in the safest way possible. Between Arizona Pop Warner and Mayo Clinic, it is our duty to help drive the national conversation and spearhead research so that players and parents can feel confident about participating in youth football and cheer.”
The two organizations will officially launch the program at a statewide clinic for Arizona Pop Warner’s Football and Cheer coaches on July 26 in Phoenix. Dr. Dodick will present the program details to more than 250 Arizona Pop Warner Football and Cheer coaches and administrators who are expected to be in attendance.
The 2014 season of Arizona Pop Warner Football and Cheer is set to begin practice on August 1. The required baseline testing component of the program provided by Mayo Clinic is already available online, and all Arizona Pop Warner Football and Cheer participants will be required to complete the online test before being allowed to play.
If a participant has a suspected concussion during a game or practice, a sideline concussion tool will be used to identify whether a concussion has occurred. In the event of a concussion, current Arizona Pop Warner policies state that a player must receive a medical evaluation and approval to return before being allowed to play. In this program, all injured athletes may be eligible for rapid assessment following a concussion by a concussion specialist at Mayo Clinic.
With the baseline test data already on file, specialists at Mayo Clinic will be able to readily gauge the extent of current or recent injuries and make a determination as to whether and when an athlete will be allowed to return to play. Athletes will go through a detailed return-to-play protocol to ensure that each is safe to compete. Moreover, the data received will allow Mayo Clinic researchers to analyze injuries to identify factors that identify those at risk of repeated concussion and factors that predict a complete recovery.
“This is truly groundbreaking,” adds Watkins. Mayo Clinic is respected around the world for the quality of their patient care and research, and everyone at Arizona Pop Warner Football & Cheer, from players to parents to coaches, are incredibly grateful to have this resource for keeping our kids safe now and in the future.”
About Mayo Clinic
Recognizing 150 years of serving humanity in 2014, Mayo Clinic is a nonprofit worldwide leader in medical care, research and education for people from all walks of life. For more information, visit 150years.mayoclinic.org, http://www.mayoclinic.org and newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org.
About Arizona Pop Warner Football and Cheer
Pop Warner is the oldest national youth football and cheerleading organization in the world. Founded in 1929, Pop Warner Football and Cheer boasts more than 120 leagues and over 400,000 members in the United States. Arizona Pop Warner Football and Cheer is the only youth sports organization in the state that is a non-profit 501C(3) organization whose focus is making sure Arizona’s youth participants have the best possible environment in which to develop smart, responsible, healthy young men and women by giving them experiences that build their appreciation for and understanding of leadership, teamwork, and discipline. There are other youth football organizations, but there is only one Pop Warner. For more information, please visit http://www.ArizonaPopWarner.org.