Concussion tests required for Arizona Pop Warner players

PHOENIX - Anything can happen during the moment of impact, especially in youth football.

"That's in any sport for that matter, but it happens a lot," says Arizona Pop Warner coach Gary Marcantonio.

He's coached the Northeast Nighthawks for more than six years. And in this time, he's seen the game evolve, specifically, when it comes to attention to violent hits.

"As a football coach, we're not so much looking for big hits, as we are looking for fundamentals," Marcantonio said.

But things still happen, despite knowing the fundamentals.

It's why the Mayo Clinic is teaming up with Arizona Pop Warner this season, requiring players to take part in a series of cognitive tests before the season. The results are used as a baseline for each player and doctors can refer to it during checkups if a player suffers a concussion.

One of the tests, called the King Devick, tests how fast each player can read numbers from left to right.

So when a player is removed from the game after showing concussion-like symptoms, such as dizziness, ringing of the ears, or nausea, coaches not only can administer this test, they'll have the player's baseline test results to see if they're up to speed.

The player would still need medical clearance before resuming play.

"This is a test that's looking at rapid eye movements, attention, and language processing," said Dr. Amaal Starling, a neurologist with the Mayo Clinic.

And for a coach who rewards technique over the highlight reel hit, it's something he's glad to see added to the game.

"It's bringing a lot more preparation to coaches so they can identify symptoms early, rather than late," said Marcantonio.

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