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Player Safety Informaiton



On fields across America, Pop Warner is making our game safer and better, while retaining what makes the sport of football so great for young people. And we’re doing the same for our young athletes in cheer and dance.

We've instituted the nation's most advanced safety measures, including limiting contact to 25% of practice time, eliminating kickoffs and the three-point stance for our youngest divisions, banning full-speed, head-on tackling and blocking drills and mandating that any player who suffers a suspected head injury receive medical clearance from a medical professional trained in concussion evaluation and management before returning to play.

In addition, all Pop Warner coaches are given the tools they need to teach the game the right way. USA Football’s Heads Up Football training is mandatory for all Pop Warner coaches. Similarly, we require our cheer coaches take the YCADA training. And we’re guided by an independent Medical Advisory Committee of neurosurgeons, sports medicine professionals, pediatricians and researchers who are driven by medical science and professional expertise.

Football, cheer and dance offer so much to young person, from a fun, physically active lifestyle and a sense of teamwork to valuable life lessons like perseverance and sacrifice. To make it possible for them to enjoy those experiences we will never stop working to make them safer.

In the sections below, you will find helpful information for a variety of subjects including concussion awareness, hydration, training techniques, injury prevention, risk management and proper equipment. Meanwhile, click on the "Player Safety" drop-down links for important information regarding Concussion Awareness, Hydration, and Conditioning. 

If you have any questions or information, you’d like to see please contact us at, [email protected]



Pop Warner is just as committed to helping athletes develop healthy habits as we are to instilling the values of scholarship and sportsmanship. Coaches and parents can make 3 simple calls that will help players perform their best, on-and-off the field:

Move More, Drink Right, and Snack Smart.



Tips from Dr. Julian Bailes, M.D., Chair of the Pop Warner Medical Advisory Committee, Co-Director of the NorthShore Neurological Institute and former NCAA and NFL physician

Proper nutrition for growing athletes is important for fueling the body and mind, so muscles recover quickly and the brain is able to do the same, while also making good decisions on and off the field.

As a physician and chairman of the Pop Warner Medical Advisory Committee, Dr. Bailes has several tips for families looking to incorporate the “Eat Smart and Play Safe” mentality into their daily lives.

  • Consider giving your little athlete a multivitamin made for children. Supplementation, such as a daily vitamin, is a safe and effective way to ensure kids get the proper nutrients their bodies need to grow and take on the physical challenges of sports. Common supplements include vitamin D, vitamin C and calcium. Check with your child’s pediatrician before beginning a supplementation regimen.
  • The brain is one of the most vital organs in a child’s body. When playing youth sports, brain health must always be top-of-mind. A diet rich in omega-3 fatty acid DHA is important in supporting brain development in children and young adults, and may also improve memory and cognitive function. Likewise, DHA can be a key factor in sports safety, because it has several neuroprotective effects in the brain. DHA is found in algae and fish, and children should consume at least 200 mg of DHA a day in fatty fish, fortified foods and beverages or with a daily DHA supplement. Remember to check with your healthcare provider before making changes to your diet.
  • Vitamin D, along with calcium, is essential for healthy bone development in children and adolescents. It also plays a role in maintaining normal mineral metabolism. Adolescents are the most susceptible to developing vitamin D deficiency, so ensure they eat plenty of vitamin-D-rich foods such as oily fish, egg yolks and mushrooms, and get at least 15 minutes a day of sunlight. Vitamin D is also available in an easy-to-take supplement. I recommend school-age children and adolescents take a supplement with about 600 IU daily.
  • Remain physically and mentally active in new and challenging ways. This includes activities like joining a sports team or club, or just dedicating time to play with friends in the neighborhood. Pop Warner Little Scholars presents a wonderful opportunity for athletes to engage their minds both on and off the field.
  • Stay hydrated. Even on chilly fall and spring training days, drinking plenty of water throughout a sports practice, game or workout is incredibly important. Pack an extra water bottle in your child’s sports bag and have supplies ready in the car to ensure they are getting enough fluid.
  • Always wear a helmet and proper safety gear. Whether you are going on a family bike outing or your child is playing youth sports, appropriate safety gear is essential. Be a role model for your children and always practice safety methods like buckling your seat belt, putting on sunscreen and doing a gear check before starting any sports activities.

About the Eat Smart, Play Safe Campaign:

The Eat Smart, Play Safe program is an educational campaign focused on promoting healthy nutrition and sports safety for active kids, on and off the field. DSM Nutritional Products and Pop Warner have partnered to bring valuable nutrition and safety information to young athletes, parents and coaches.

This program targets building awareness for families about the important nutrients children should have in their everyday diets, for example, the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA, vitamins D and E, calcium and iron.

Eating Healthy


Advice from Elizabeth Somer, M.A., R.D., and author of “Eat Your Way to Happiness” and “Food & Mood”

Feeding your children right might seem to be one of life's greatest challenges, but the trick is to prepare and offer a wide variety of nutritious foods and let the child help decide how much of what is on their plate.

  • Adopt the philosophy that it is your job to supply your child with a wide variety of nutritious foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat milk products and protein-rich meats or beans. It is your child's responsibility to help choose what and how much of those foods he or she eats. This eliminates the food wars and takes the pressure off both the parent and the child.
  • Model the behavior you want to nurture in your child. You must eat and love vegetables if you want your child to do the same.
  • Stock the kitchen with nutritious foods and limit or remove the candy, potato chips, soda and low-quality items. Left with only nutritious foods, your child is more likely to eat a nutritious diet.
  • Your child doesn't need to eat perfectly at every meal. It's the overall quality of the diet that is most important and, in that case, even finicky eaters can succeed. That is, as long as they are choosing from only nutritious foods.

Elizabeth Somer offers up these tips to parents of picky eaters:

  • If your battles are getting a finicky eater to sit at the table for a major meal, throw out the three-square-meal plan and instead offer your child nutritious mini-meals and snacks throughout the day that include fresh fruit, cheese cubes, fat-free crackers, low-fat yogurt, soup (try adding extra vegetables to canned soup) or low-sugar cereals.
  • Get kids involved in the purchasing and preparation of food. A reluctant eater is much more likely to eat something he prepared himself.
  • If your child won't eat vegetables, try fruit. They are both from the same food group. If your child won't eat either vegetables or fruit, you have two options: 1) add vegetables to familiar foods, such as adding finely chopped vegetables to spaghetti sauce or hiding dried fruit in muffins. 2) Ask your pediatrician about the best multivitamin and mineral supplement for your child.
  • Give your child a choice. Rather than ask "What do you want to eat?" ask, "Do you want a banana or orange slices with your sandwich?"

To fill in the gaps when your child doesn’t eat perfectly, a multivitamin and mineral supplement may be offered. If your child doesn’t eat fatty fish, such as salmon, at least twice a week, then supplement that multi with a DHA supplement, an omega-3 fatty acid essential for brain development and brain health. A calcium-vitamin D supplement may be necessary if your child doesn’t consume daily at least two glasses of calcium-rich milk or soymilk and lots of magnesium-rich whole grains, nuts, dark green leaves and legumes.

About the Eat Smart, Play Safe Campaign:

The Eat Smart, Play Safe program is an educational campaign focused on promoting healthy nutrition and sports safety for active kids, on and off the field. DSM Nutritional Products and Pop Warner have partnered to bring valuable nutrition and safety information to young athletes, parents and coaches.

This program targets building awareness for families about the important nutrients children should have in their everyday diets, for example, the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA, vitamins D and E, calcium and iron.



The Pop Warner Medical Advisory Committee was formed in 2010 to ensure Pop Warner remains proactive on medical issues affecting football and cheerleading.

The Committee is focused on prevention and proper identification and treatment of concussions, hydration awareness, proper nutrition guidelines, and general health and safety issues.

Led by physicians and researchers with expertise in neuromedicine and sports safety, the Pop Warner Advisory Committee meets annually to discuss new research, advise on policy and rule changes and provide expert advice to the Pop Warner organization to benefit the health & safety of our members on an ongoing basis.

Current members include:

  • Julian Bailes (CHAIRMAN), MD, Chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery and Co-Director of the NorthShore Neurological Institute.
  • Michael Bergeron, Ph.D., FACSM is the President and CEO of Youth Sports of the Americas.
  • R. Dawn Comstock, Ph.D., Professor of Epidemiology, Colorado School of Public Health.
  • Arthur Day, MD, Professor and Residency Program Director, Department of Neurological Surgery, Misher Neurologic Institute, University of Texas Houston College of Medicine.
  • Stefan Duma, Ph.D., Harry C. Wyatt Professor and Department Head, Virginia Tech - Wake Forest University School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences.
  • Stanley A. Herring, MD, Clinical Professor University of Washington, Director UW Medicine Sports Health and Safety Institute and Consultant Seattle Seahawks.
  • Barry Jordan, MD, Assistant Medical Director, Burke Rehabilitation Hospital.
  • Cynthia LaBella, MD, Medical director, Institute for Sports Medicine, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.
  • Lawrence Lemak, MD, founder of Lemak Sports Medicine, The Alabama Sports Foundation and the National Center for Sports Safety. He is the Chief Medical Officer for Major League Soccer and Chairman of the Board of Youth Sports of the Americas.
  • Michael D. Lewis, MD, MPH, MBA, FACPM, FACN, Colonel (Retired), U.S. Army, is the Founder of the Brain Health Education and Research Institute and BrainCARE, an integrative concussion management practice.
  • Tony L. Strickland, M.S., Ph.D., founder and Chairman of the Sports Concussion Institute, and Program Director of the Memory Disorders and Concussion Management Clinics.



According to the National Athletic Trainers' Association (NATA), Research shows that relying on thirst may cause athletes to underestimate fluid needs and replace on average only about 50% of the fluid lost in sweat. Therefore, the NATA recommends athletes drink on a schedule based on their individual sweat rate, regardless of thirst, to ensure that they are replacing sweat losses.

NATA recently convened an Inter-Association Task Force comprised of 18 sports medicine groups and injury prevention and health professional organizations to release an Exertional Heat Illnesses Consensus Statement.  The Consensus Statement, which applies to activity at all levels of intensity, states:

 There is scientific research to support the idea that thirst is not an optimal way to determine when and how much an athlete should drink. By the time an athlete is thirsty, they are already somewhat dehydrated and in most cases will not drink enough to fully replace the fluids lost in sweat.

TO BE SAFE, KNOW YOUR SWEAT RATE: Rather than relying on thirst or simply drinking as much as you can tolerate (which can also be dangerous), knowing how much you sweat is the best way to determine hydration needs. To figure out how much you sweat, weigh yourself before and after exercise. The weight you lost in ounces represents fluid and that amount is how much should be consumed (in total) before, during and after exercise to adequately replace sweat and keep the body balanced.

REPLACE FLUIDS & ELECTROLYTES LOST: Optimal hydration is the replacement of fluids and electrolytes based on individual needs.  Drinking a sports drink helps replace the key electrolytes lost in sweat.

For more information, please visit the National Athletic Trainers' Association website.

10 Ways to Help Athletes Stay Safe in Intense Heat

  1. ALLOW FOR ACCLIMATION – While it can take 10-14 days for an athlete’s body to adapt to the heat, acclimation should start two weeks before team practices begin. An athlete should start with 15-20 minutes of continuous exercise outside in the heat, and add 5-10 minutes each day.1

  2. ADOPT REHYDRATION STRATEGY - Hydration helps reduce an athlete’s risk of heat illness and can help the athlete maintain a high level of performance. Proactive steps athletes can take to avoid dehydration include:
    • Weigh in and out before and after activity
    • Drink enough fluid to minimize weight loss - for each pound (16 oz.) that is lost, he or she may need to consume 20 ounces after athletic activity to fully rehydrate.
    • Check urine. If it’s like pale lemonade, that’s a sign of good hydration.

  3. DRINK UP – Athletes should drink enough fluid to prevent dehydration without over-drinking. Flavored, cold, lightly salted sports drinks like Gatorade are important because sodium helps maintain the physiological desire to drink and helps retain the fluid consumed.

  4. BUDDY UP AND KNOW THE SIGNS – Encourage athletes to buddy up with a teammate and watch out for each other when it’s hot and humid. They should know the signs and symptoms of heat illness which can include:
    • Nausea
    • Headache
    • Weakness
    • Fainting
    • Poor concentration
    • Personality change
    • Flushed skin
    • Light headedness
    • Loss of muscle coordination
    • Fatigue
    • Vomiting

  5. COOL THE BODY – If experiencing heat illness, an athlete should take steps to cool the body, including lying in a cool place with legs elevated, applying cool, wet towels to the body and drinking cool fluids.

  6. BE FLEXIBLE - An important step in avoiding heat illness is adjusting practice or game length and intensity to the environmental conditions. If possible, athletes should avoid strenuous and high intensity activities during the warmest time of day (10 am – 4 pm).

  7. DRESS FOR THE WEATHER – Keeping cool in hot weather means being mindful of appropriate clothing and equipment that can help evaporate heat from the body:
    • Wear light-colored clothing
    • Wear t-shirts and shorts, not pads
    • Remove helmets when not active
    • Avoid wearing excess clothing
    • Change sweat–soaked clothing frequently

  8. FIND TIME FOR RECOVERY – Rest and recovery are an essential part of avoiding heat illness. Athletes should work in times for breaks when active throughout the day, attempt to get six to eight hours of sleep a night and sleep in a cool environment, if possible.

  9. MAINTAIN A HEALTHY DIET – Athletes need to think about fueling before, during and after physical activity. He or she should be fully hydrated with fluids and fueled with foods that contain electrolytes to maintain fluid levels. Fluids lost through sweat and breathing should be replaced by fluid consumption including during workouts, practices and games (physical activity).

  10. HAVE AN EMERGENCY PLAN - Have a plan to contact medical professionals in an emergency. Also keep a “cool pool” or ice bath nearby so medical personnel can choose to immerse athletes suffering from heat stroke if necessary.