Source: huffingtonpost.com | Re-Post Duerson Fund 3/15/2017 –
In the fall of 2011, 13-year-old Donnovan Hill was paralyzed after making a tackle in the championship game of a Pop Warner youth football game in California. Looking to make a stop near the goal line, young Donnovan led with his helmet, using a tackling technique we still see multiple times on Saturdays and Sundays among the college and pro ranks. Donnovan spun around and lay face-down on the field.
In the words of his mom, Crystal Dixon, “It instantly got really quiet. Donnovan wasn’t moving. He looked up at me and said ‘Mom, I love you. That’s the only thing he said was ‘Mom, I love you.’ Like he was telling me that he was OK.”
But he wasn’t OK. While his brain function was seemingly left unaffected, the force of the hit left him paralyzed from the neck down.
At the time, the conversation about head injuries and the safety of football as it related to pro football was growing. Donnovan’s injury focused that same inquiry squarely on youth football, where about 3 million American youngsters played youth tackle football, some as young as five years-old. The tragic case of Donnovan Hill shined a searing light on Pop Warner football, raising difficult questions about coaching and safety in youth football.
ESPN’s Outside the Lines covered it with a segment that questioned whether the volunteer coaches of Pop Warner were sufficiently trained in teaching “safe” tackling techniques and whether the sport as a whole was safe: