By Matt St. Jean SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) — The Journal of the American Medical Association’s alarming study regarding Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) shows if you play football through the professional level, there is an extremely high chance of a person developing the brain disease. Where does the dream of becoming a professional football start? In local communities where kids ages 5 – 13 participate in full contact football, but this is also where bad habits, which could lead to concussions and CTE, begin.
John Falgiatano is the Football Commissioner of the Central New York Pop Warner Executive Board and he oversees over 20 youth football organizations. Falgiatano says he fully supports the studies and science.
“The inclusion of science in our sport is extremely important.” Falgiatano says, “The better data, the better data collection you can get will only enhance the safety of the participants from the youth level all the way up to the professional level.”
With the data, Falgiatano says, comes crucial advancements in the equipment players use, most notably helmets.
“Any time you get that data you have the technology that follows it. The helmets today, are much more safe than the ones used in the 80s and 90s and are continuing to evolve, to create that cocoon around a kid’s head to make it a little safer.”
Falgiatano is responsible for delivering the latest information to each organization about youth safety and ensures coaches understand how they are able to structure practice. He says Pop Warner is taking the emphasis on limiting hitting for hitting’s sake and focusing more on implementing plays, conditioning of the players, and general non-contact form instruction, which is certainly an adjustment from when he played.
“When I was a kid and played, you’d do this drill called the Oklahoma drill, you get a running head start trying to level the guy across from you,” Falgiatano says, “Now Pop Warner’s standards are, you’re never more than three feet apart and if you are, you have to been at an angle for contact.”
Registration for Pop Warner in Central New York begins on August 1.