TODAY | June 13, 2012
>> new guidelines aimed at making football safer for hundreds of thousands of young athletes in the country. nbc's nancy snyderman is the chief medical editor for our company.
>> in terms of football this is going to be a game changer. it has to be with pop warner football , the oldest youth football organization. they are literally changing the rule book . they are addressing the kind of contact allowed in the game and particularly in practice. not only to avoid safe play but to avoid dangerous concussions. there are nearly 4 million sports related concussions in the united states this year and football counts for more than half of those. new research show more head injuries during practice than a game. that's why there's a concussion initiative. most pop warner kids practice nine hours a week. new guidelines will have only a third of that in head to head contact. no direct hits and contact in a three-foot zone. the group's executive director says safety comes first now but admits things weren't always that way.
>> i think particularly with concussions so much of it was a lack of awareness. you got dinged, get back in the game.
>> for this family, pop warner is a big part of life. 8-year-old anthony plays football. sister mattie is a pop warner cheerleader, dad matt a coach and his wife roberta a spirit squad leader. they joined in part because of the safety philosophy. when in doubt, sit it out, and says the new regulations are even more reassuring.
>> it's a sense of comfort knowing that he's not going to get hit all the time.
>> he never got a scan?
>> dr. julian bales say kids' brains are more susceptible.
>> a second or third concussion, really can have detrimental effects and a degradation in their function.
>> you weren't knocked out, were you?
>> that's why doctors are keeping close eyes on kids like dominic holster, he's had three concussions and now wears a special helmet on the field and gets regular checkups. more than 280,000 kids participate in pop warner nationwide. these regulations are going to impact a lot of players. the bottom line, ann, we have to protect their young brains because they are more vulnerable.
>> very important story. it is