Published May 4, 2016
By SARAH DOOLITTLE, Four Points News
Four Points Pop Warner Football and Cheer involves hundreds of young athletes and local families, and safety and concussion protocol is FPPW’s top priority.
“The coaches are all required… to go through a program called HEADS UP,” said Merchant Buchanan, director of marketing.
FPPW serves kids ages 5-11 and is a volunteer-led tackle football and cheer program. All coaches are volunteers, some parents of kids in the program and some who just love coaching football and cheer.
The HEADS UP to Youth Sports is a free online course offered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to train youth athletic coaches in concussion prevention, recognition and response.
FPPW also has a director of safety, who, “ensures that all the coaches are following all of the set protocols and all the guidelines,” according to Buchanan.
Specifically in football, coaches are teaching kids from a young age, “dos and don’ts, and how to teach safe hitting. And so from five years on we’re teaching kids how to play tackle football in a safe manner,” said Ross Britton, president of FPPW.
FPPW began in 2009 when the Four Points area’s population growth warranted it’s own branch of Pop Warner.
“That was the same year that Vandegrift started. So prior to the program starting, we met with Drew Sanders… and we were fortunate to get good synergy with the high school” in their training of students that would best prepare and feed students into the football programs at the middle schools and VHS, Britton said.
This year, Pop Warner implemented the same baseline testing program utilized by Leander ISD, which measures a player’s brain health before the season starts and can be used for comparison in the event of a concussion.
“That’s our opportunity to do that so if the unfortunate arises we can then make sure and take precautions so that we are ensured that the player is 100 percent ready to go after the injury,” said Buchanan.
“We have a current set protocol as far as reentry. So obviously they’re not even allowed to even step on the field again until they’ve had a doctor’s note,” said Britton. Still their protocol is constantly evolving to integrate new medical information and recommendations.
“We want to take even extra precautions as much as possible. Because whether it’s a head injury or a leg injury or any type of injury, you have to consider the long-term health” of players, he said.
Dr. Martin Molina, a local, family physician at Texas Family Physicians, works with FPPW as well as VHS in concussion management.
As for balancing the risk with the reward, “There’s an assumption of risk when we do so many different things,” emphasized Buchanan. “Each individual family has to come up with their own understanding of what they perceive as the benefit versus the potential risk of it.”
They have had families that chose to leave FPPW due to injuries or concerns about injuries, but it is FPPW’s policy to respect families’ choices.