JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Many people blame concussions in youth football leagues for players' future health problems in college and the NFL.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 70 percent of sports-related concussions were among ten to 19-year-olds. For boys in this category, this injury occurred most often in football.
But no one keeps track of the numbers for the younger pee wee football level. The Arkansas Activities Association cannot tell you how many athletes suffer concussions in the state.
However, Jonesboro Youth Sports Coordinator Mark Malugen said no one keeps track because it does not happen that often.
"If there were more concussions and stuff going on at a younger age, they would be. And I think the threat of people trying to stop youth football would be a lot bigger thing as well," Malugen said.
Instead it boils down to two questions. For NFL and college players, "Is it worth it?," and for pee wee players, "Do you want to play and have fun?"
"They [college and NFL players] know the risk. And when you know the risk then it's on you. It's you deciding to take that risk and is it worth it," Malugen said. "For youth players, you're not gonna have those health issues, problems, that you get in NFL players. There's just no comparison."
Malugen said college and NFL players also workout year-round and practice seven days a week.
"It's more of a job. When your profession becomes more of a job, then you are more exposed or liable to those things happening," Malugen said. "Youth football, they practice twice a week and they only play probably six to eight games in total during the season."
Weight also makes a difference in college and the NFL, but not so much in the pee wee leagues.
"If you take a third grader with another third grader, say you have one that's 70 pounds versus one that's 50 pounds. Usually, the bigger at that age, they're a little clumsier, they're a little bit slower. The 50-pound child usually has an advantage because he's usually quicker, faster so he doesn't get hit real solid," Malugen said.
Malugen's Wolf Cub League tackle program runs about 300 players grades three to six. Malugen said he sees about one concussion a season.
"Because of a child being slammed to the ground or a direct hit with another helmet. But in this area, we don't see a lot of concussions," Malugen said.
Malugen believes the small numbers stem from proper preparation.
"Teach kids how to take hits properly and also make sure the kids that are doing the hitting know how to hit. Try to get children to not use their heads to develop head injuries. Offer our kids a safe environment," Malugen said.
The league also offers clinics to coaches and referees to improve safety even more on the field.
Malugen said they are actually trying to grow their Wolf Cub League's tackle program in Jonesboro. For more information, visit the league's website.