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Head Injury Awareness On The Rise In Youth Football

WOODBURY, Minn. (WCCO) - Concussions from playing football have become a growing concern at all levels of play, but especially in younger players. Kids can join tackle football leagues as early as in the third grade.

Perhaps due to the game's enormous popularity, cases concerning life-changing head injuries from football, including some which have led to lawsuits against the NFL, have brought the issue closer than ever to the public's consciousness.

John Griffin, Woodbury's Athletic Association director of youth football, is well aware of the issue.

"It's way more heightened than I think it's ever been," Griffin said.

Parents like Kim Lanz are taking notice.

"They're just afraid of the concussions, and getting hurt and the long time effect of it," said Lanz.

John Griffin says he wants to put some of the concern in perspective.

"A professional football player is paid $3 million a year to hurdle himself like a human missile. And youth kids, the developmental program that we run, are taught proper technique," said Griffin.

In addition to technique, the Woodbury Athletic Association invested $30,000 on new, more protective helmets. Even local orthodontists stepped up to donate free, custom-fit mouth guards.

"To tell you how unbelievable that is, we've tried this for years with hockey and football, and we maybe get 15 kids that do. This year, over 115 kids did it," Griffin said.

As for the high school level, where several of the practices started on Monday, the practice of "baseline testing" is becoming more widespread. Trainers compile information on the players' basic functioning.

In the event a player gets a concussion, the baseline information can provide a better understanding of the injury's severity.

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