RICHMOND (WRIC)—With nearly half a million children hospitalized each year with traumatic brain injuries and football season in full swing, one local group is making concussion prevention its mission.
i9 Sports offers numerous athletic programs—from flag football to basketball to cheerleading—for kids ages 3 to 17. Now the organization is taking a big step in the fight against concussions by launching the Stop Youth Concussions Crusade.
"Our brains control everything that we do; we've got to protect our kids," said Jeff Kraft, the i9 Sports program director. "We have parents who have played at the high school, the collegiate, even the professional level who are suffering the results of playing a higher-contact tackle game of tackle football."
Because football is the sport in which concussions most frequently occur, i9 Sports now only lets its participants play flag football. This allows younger children to learn the rules of the game while taking the danger of tackling out of the equation.
"They're learning the fundamentals of the game—how to pass, how to catch, how to run the ball, how to be a good teammate, how to have a positive attitude and play the game the right way." Kraft said.
i9 Sports also has a strict "no heading" policy in soccer.
"For the kids ages 3 to 12, they just haven't developed the skill level or the ability level to be able to head the ball appropriately," Kraft said.
Lastly, i9 Sports' motto is "when in doubt, sit out." An athlete who is suspected of having a concussion or any type of head injury will be taken out of the game immediately and can't return to play without a doctor's note.
"Being able to offer this opportunity for kids to do that without cringing every time there's a play and hoping that player doesn't have to be carted off on a stretcher is something I think moms and dads embrace," Kraft said.
Between 1997 and 2007, emergency room visits for sports-related concussions among children ages 8 to 13 doubled. Of the 1.4 million traumatic brain injuries that occur each year, at least 75 percent are mild and/or concussions. For kids ages 5 to 18, football, bicycling, basketball, playground activities and soccer are the most common culprits of concussions.
Copyright 2013 by Young Broadcasting of Richmond
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