CHICAGO (CBS) — Heading into another football-filled weekend, head injuries are a key contributor to the continued decline of youth football. However, Pop Warner participation is on the rise in Elmhurst thanks in part to helmet technology that helps cut down on concussions.
“Fear has driven many kids out of football,” said Elmhurst Bears board member Jason Judycki. “We wanted a way to drive more kids back into the sport that we all love.”
As a first year Pop Warner program, the Elmhurst Bears are putting safety first by having their pint-sized players wear Riddell’s Insite technology helmets.
Each helmet is equipped with sensors that transmit the type of hits they’re making and alert any possible head injury.
“What we’re able to do now is know where they’re taking the impact,” said Judycki. “If they’re taking the impacts on the top of their head, most likely they’re leading with the top of their head. And they’re doing it wrong.”
“They have the light, middle and the high velocity of the collisions,” said Elmhurst Bears Jr. Pee Wee Head Coach Matt Doherty. “If you have anything in the middle, that’s something concerning. You want to talk to the kid about his technique.”
“That data is all analyzed post-practice, post-game, so we can understand A: How many impacts each player those impacts and where they took those impacts,” said Judycki. “One of our hard hitting linebackers and running back on our smallest team, he’s a fantastic player but has a tendency to lead with his head. And we’ve been able to now reduce the amount of impacts he’s taken and the locations of impacts because we were aware of it in the beginning. And we worked on it, and the coaches worked on it, and we stay on top of him. Mom knows about it. If mom’s not happy, no one is happy. When mom is yelling, ‘Keep your head up, keep your head up., keep your head out of the play,’ it’s a game changer.”
While these high tech helmets are helpful they won’t completely eliminate concussions from the inherently violent sport of tackle football.
“This is a tool to help them do a better job as coaches, but it starts and ends with the coaching,” Judycki said.
The Riddell Insite Technology helmets are a great tool, but they’re not cheap. They run about $200 a helmet.