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NFL Touts Work With Youth-Football Safety

The National Football League released its first-ever Health and Safety report on Tuesday, and the league's swath of youth-safety and -fitness initiatives received more than five pages of coverage.

Not surprisingly, the report's main area of focus in the youth-safety realm revolves around concussions, which the league called "a serious public-health issue going well beyond the NFL."

The league promoted its advocacy work around pushing states to adopt youth-concussion laws, ideally mimicking Washington state's Zackery Lystedt Law. The NFL considers the Lystedt Law to be model youth-concussion legislation as it contains three main components: a student-athlete's parent or guardian must sign a concussion-information form before the student-athlete is allowed to participate in practice or games; any student-athlete who's suspected of having sustained a concussion must be immediately removed from play; and student-athletes who have been removed for a potential concussion can't come back until receiving clearance from a licensed health-care professional.

To date, 40 states and the District of Columbia have enacted youth-concussion laws, and Michigan appears not far behind. (Legislation has passed through the state House and Senate and now awaits Gov. Rick Snyder's signature.) Roughly 30 of those states passed their legislation within the last 18-24 months.

At the 2011 Congress of Neurological Surgeons, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell re-emphasized his goal for all 50 states to adopt youth-concussion laws "sooner rather than later." Back in January, the NFL and the National Collegiate Athletic Association sent out letters to governors of the 19 states that had yet to adopt youth-concussion laws, urging them to do so ASAP. (A handful of those states have since heeded that advice.)

"The NFL recognizes the importance of helping to improve safety in all sports, which is why it has been active in advocating for youth-concussion laws in every state," said Dr. John York, co-chairman of the San Francisco 49ers and chairman of the NFL owners committee on health and safety, in the report. "These laws better protect young athletes in all sports with respect to concussions and return to play."

That last point is worth stressing: States' youth-concussion laws apply to all sports, not just football.

Other Youth-Safety and -Fitness Initiatives

The NFL also describes its work with USA Football, the league's official youth-development partner, in the report. Earlier this year, the league joined together with USA Football to launch a pilot youth-helmet-replacement program in four cities, with a goal of replacing 13,000 helmets this school year.

Back in August, USA Football also launched its Heads Up Football Initiative to instruct youth-football players on proper tackling techniques.

The NFL's report calls attention to the youth-sports safety clinics that the league has been hosting over the past year—one took place during the week of the Super Bowl in February, while the Atlanta Falcons hosted a similar event in April—as another example of how the NFL is getting the safety message out to youth players.

But the NFL isn't just concerned with player safety, as the report is quick to note. Childhood obesity has become a major focus of the organization, too.

To combat the growing problem of youths' growing waistlines, the league created the NFL Play 60 initiative back in 2007 in an effort to encourage youths to stay active for at least 60 minutes per day. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children and adolescents engage in at least 60 minutes of daily physical activity.

Below, I've embedded the full report for you to peruse, and I've highlighted the relevant youth-safety portions (check the "Notes" tab):

One more NFL safety note: Arizona Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald and Riddell Sports, Inc., will be donating new football helmets to 1,000 kids in the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board football program this coming weekend, according to a release from the Cardinals.

"Ever since I first started playing football as a child at King Park in South Minneapolis, I have had a passion for the game," said Fitzgerald in a statement. "The longer I play, the more I understand the importance of using the right fundamentals and wearing the proper protective equipment. As a result of this donation, these kids will have access to the same technology used at football's elite level."

Want all the latest K-12 sports news? Follow @SchooledinSport on Twitter.

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