New guidelines for youth football follow injuries, deaths

The American Academy of Pediatrics issued new guidelines Sunday aimed at improving the safety of youth football, played by more than a million American kids.

It comes as a Tennessee high school football player, Baylor Bramble, is in critical condition after suffering a head injury during a game Friday night and a high school in Chicago mourns the death 17-year-old Andre Smith.

The recommendations include zero tolerance for illegal head-first hits; having athletic trainers on sidelines of games; and offering non-tackle football games as an alternative, reports CBS News correspondent Dean Reynolds.

"There's too many head-to-head hits and leading with the head, known as spearing -- that's been against the rules since 1976 and for some reason referees and coaches have gotten away from enforcing that rule," said Dr. Greg Landry, co-author of the recommendations and member of AAP Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness.

Based on a review of scientific research on the relationship between tackling and football-related injuries, the AAP policy recommendation said head and neck injuries are usually more severe than injuries to the legs and back, and often a result of illegal tackling techniques.

High school football deaths are way down from where they were back in the 1960s and '70s, but in a sport that is by its nature violent, the question is whether it can ever be made truly safe.

Friends and family gathered over the weekend to remember Smith, who suffered a fatal injury playing football for his high school. The Bogan High School senior collapsed during a game Thursday against Chicago Vocational after taking a hit right at the end of the game. Though he was rushed to a local hospital, he died there the following morning.

Over the weekend, the Cook County medical examiner ruled the death "accidental," caused by "blunt force head injuries due to football."

"You understand the risks but it's a game, you know, it's a game," Smith's stepfather, Dwayne, said.

Smith is the seventh high school football player to die in the U.S. this year. Just days ago, Cam'ron Matthews of Texas died after collapsing on the sidelines. And last month, Evan Murray of New Jersey died from a lacerated spleen he suffered during a game.

To Andre Smith's teammates his brother, Erick, had this to say: "Just be aware, protect yourself and be cautious because something as simple as a football injury can end a whole life."

The Chicago Public Schools insists it follows all state safety regulations governing football games. Smith is the first high school football player to die in Illinois since 2012.