Pop Warner Lawsuit Raises Serious Questions About the Safety of Youth Football Helmets

A lawsuit against Pop Warner is raising some serious concerns over the safety of youth football helmets.

Sports safety advocate and litigation consultant Kimberly Archie is tackling Congress and spent a day on Capitol Hill laying out her case. Her major issue: Why do children's toy football helmets have more regulations than the real deal?

Toy helmets must adhere to rigorous federal safety regulations to protect children under the age of 12 from harm. Namely, the toy helmets must have only traces of lead and be free of small parts that can be swallowed. However, the real helmets have no restrictions at all.

The National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE) does have a set of rules for adult helmets, but those rules don't carry over to youth models. And that doesn't sit right for Archie.

"I would tell them, 'We're going to play with one helmet, and with the other, we're going to put it on your kids' heads and go do mini car crashes,'" said Archie. "Everyone just looked at me and didn't know what to say. It doesn't make sense."

Archie's mission to instigate stricter rules and regulations for youth tackle football helmets is fueled by personal loss. Her son, Paul Bright Jr., played eight years of Pop Warner football, and later experienced behavioral problems. He died in a motorcycle accident at the age of 24 and his autopsy revealed he had suffered from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a neurodegenerative disease found in many deceased football players.

(Photo: Vice)

In her lawsuit against Pop Warner, Archie claims the company touts itself as a "safety-first organization" that extensively trains their volunteers and coaches, but that they failed to ensure children were using the safest possible helmets.

"If your kid is at the public pool during the summer, the lifeguard has to have the appropriate training, because people can drown," said Archie. "It's a much higher standard than youth football. Frankly, a nail technician has more regulation to do fake nails."

While no new legal precedence can bring back her son, Archie wants to make sure other families are spared from a similar fate. She knows more can be done to protect the youth football players and she's placing the onus on lawmakers to make it happen.

"California just moved [the legal age to purchase] cigarettes up to age 21," said Archie. "But you can be five years old, weight 45 pounds, get out of your car seat – a car seat that has to meet certain requirements by law – and go do mini car crashes in football with a phony helmet that isn't made for children. Really?"

As the world has progressed and scientific progress has led to a greater understanding of the human body and how it operates, government has stepped in to lay down new laws to better protect us. When it comes to youth, those laws are doubly important.

"I can remember in the 1970s, you would see kids piled in the back of a pickup truck, speeding down the highway," said Archie. "You would never see that today. We know better. But in youth sports, we are still driving 70 miles per hour with kids in the back of the truck. We need to fix that. America loves sports, but we need to even the playing field and love kids just as much."

Adults may be in charge of running NOCSAE, but children will be the ones suffering the consequences if the safety of youth football helmets isn't raised.


[ H/T Vice ]