NFL, Players Union Brilliant to Embark on Youth Helmet Initiative

Ryan PhillipsContributor IIIMay 15, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 26:  NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell stands on stage during the 2012 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on April 26, 2012 in New York City.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

The NFL and the NFL Players Association have announced that they will embark on the largest youth helmet replacement program in history, as tweeted by league spokesman Brian McCarthy. The league and its players association are brilliant to make this move. 

According to an Associated Press report from ESPN, the NFL, NFLPA and NCAA have committed roughly $1 million to a program that will replace helmets that are 10 years old or older at no cost to the beneficiary leagues. The program will also educate coaches in the latest information to help keep their athletes safer. It will be tested in four markets initially, with an eye towards expansion.

The program will also provide approximately 13,000 new helmets to low-income communities beginning in July.

With all the negative attention the league has been getting thanks to its handling of head injuries and the long-term effects of concussions, this is exactly the kind of move it had to make. The fact that the players are on board is just as important. Even symbolically, this shows that the NFL takes this issue seriously. The move to replace helmets in order to better protect young players is absolutely the right idea. 

The NFL has made an effort to crack down on illegal hits in recent years, but that's simply not enough. The league is facing lawsuits from hundreds of former players because of its past practices regarding concussions and overall safety. Obviously, something needs to change, and working to fix things at the youth level is a great step to take.

The tragic suicide of Junior Seau seems to have woken up the football world to the serious long-term problems that football's violence can cause its players. This is hopefully the first in a long line of steps designed to help make the game safer.