While the sports world focuses on Fox for the Super Bowl, CNN trains its cameras on Westport PAL football.
This Sunday’s SGMD show (7:30 a.m.) features host Dr. Sanjay Gupta examining youth football, concussions and tackling.
The segment begins by noting that for many years, Westport PAL president and coach Carmen Roda did a traditional “bull in the ring” tackling drill with 5th graders. It was “head to head, hammer to hammer,” he says.
After his players had 20 concussions during the 2009 season, Roda switched emphasis, from aggression to technique. “Bull in the ring” was out.
“The game 20 years ago is not the game today, so why not teach it differently?” Roda says on Gupta’s show.
Westport PAL has introduced a preseason concussion education class for all coaches, players and parents. They’ve also reduced the amount of tackling during practice.
In years past, Roda says on CNN, when a player got “what we used to call a ‘stinger’ or a ‘ding,’ we would simply ask ‘Are you okay?’ and send him back in if he said yes.
“Now if we see a kid with a big hit, we’re checking on them to see if they’re OK, and we’re asking different kinds of questions to get the answers.”
Roda tells Gupta that parents and coaches initially resisted the new rules. There were concerns about “weakening” the game.
But the Westport Wreckers made it to the league championship — and had 50% fewer concussions. That quieted many concerns.
The eyes of the world — well, those who watch Sanjay Gupta at 7:30 a.m. — will be on Westport on Super Bowl Sunday.
Take that, Ben Roethlisberger!