Tackling and tobacco: a look at the new AAP guidelines

The American Academy of Pediatrics has released today a series of policy statements that alter and augment current recommended guidelines. The AAP proposes new measures on football and tobacco to better protect today’s youth.

There are over a million high school football players in the United States. Seven of those kids died this year in sports related accidents. Increasing, many pundits are wondering if youth football, as well as professional football, will soon go the way of boxing. In other words, if the amount of injuries sustained by football players will eventually lead the sport to lose its popularity.

In the AAP’s official statement, they write:

“American football remains one of the most popular sports for young athletes. The injuries sustained during football, especially those to the head and neck, have been a topic of intense interest recently in both the public media and medical literature. The recognition of these injuries and the potential for longterm sequelae have led some physicians to call for a reduction in the number of contact practices, a postponement of tackling until a certain age, and even a ban on high school football.”

The AAP recommends a host of new practices to ensure young football players are as safe as possible. It urges officials and coaches to enforce no head-first tackles. Proper tackling techniques ought to be taught to players as early as possible.

“We need to change the culture from, ‘Wow, that was a great hit,'” said Mary Beth Horodyski, vice-president of the National Athletic Trainers’ Association. “We need to recognize when it’s not a ‘great’ hit, but a borderline-illegal one.”

Additionally, players need to be informed of the potential risks that playing football might involve. Finally, non-tackling leagues ought to be expanded and promoted.

The other issue the AAP discussed with teen smoking.

Smoking is a major public health concern and the rise of e-cigarettes is of little comfort. Indeed, sale of electronic cigarettes is not nearly as regulated as the sale of other tobacco products. The AAP urges lawmakers to increase FDA oversight of e-cigarette sales. In addition, it wishes to increase the age of buying any smoking products from 18 to 21.

“Tobacco use continues to be a major health threat to children, adolescents and adults. The developing brains of children and teens are particularly vulnerable to nicotine, which is why the growing popularity of e-cigarettes among adolescents is so alarming and dangerous to their long-term health,” said Dr. Karen M. Wilson, chair of the AAP Section on Tobacco Control and section head of Pediatric Hospital Medicine at Children’s Hospital Colorado.

A CDC study published in 2014 shows that young adults are using e-cigarettes more than any other tobacco product. The research warns the device could be a ‘gateway’ to the use of normal cigarettes.

“There’s a lot we don’t know about e-cigarettes,” said Dr. Claire McCarthy, a primary care pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital and an assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. “We need to do more research before we can say for sure that e-cigarettes can be useful for people trying to kick the smoking habit. And we don’t have a lot of good information about the effect of e-cigarettes on youth, because they haven’t been around very long.”

The AAP hopes that their recommendations in both of these areas will help ensure happy and healthy lives for the young people of this nation.

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