Joe Kazmar For The Record

Former Super Bowl hero Kurt Warner said recently that he is worried about his own kids playing football, according to an Associated Press article this weekend.

Warner, a National Football League star quarterback, who retired after a long career with several teams, caused quite a stir when he revealed that he had reservations about allowing his children to play youth football.

And he’s not alone in his thinking, either. Former NFL safety Matt Bowen claims there are no easy answers when it comes to balancing safety concerns against the positive things kids can learn from football.

Bowen, who now is a columnist for a Chicago newspaper and the national website, gets a lot of questions from fellow fathers, according to the article.

However, at his own household, the question already has been answered. “I’ve had conversations with my wife quite a bit,” Bowen reveals, “and I know in our house, our boys aren’t going to play youth football. My wife’s already taken care of that. That’s just not going to happen.

“I tell them that I love the game,” Bowen continues. “I respect everything I learned from the NFL, and in college and in high school. I don’t think there’s a better sport out there in terms of teamwork.

Bowen also said that his body got beat up a lot and he had a lot of injuries during his playing days. When someone asked him if football was a violent sport, Bowen replied, “Yeah, I think it’s violent. I think it’s violent and it’s made for young men, not little boys.”

The AP article points out “while it’s too early to establish a link between parents’ safety concerns and football’s popularity, there are indications that fewer kids across the country are putting on pads.”

Research from the National Sporting Goods Association indicated overall football participation across all age ranges has decreased from 10.1 million in 2006 to 9 million in 2011.

Dr. Michael Koester, a pediatric sports medicine specialist in Eugene, Ore., says it’s too early to connect a downward trend with parents’ safety concerns, but says the numbers are worth watching, especially in youth football.

“I think if we’re going to see a culture shift from a participation standpoint, I suspect we’re going to see it more at those lower levels, where parents are going to be deciding there’s just no reason for their 7, 8 or 9-year-old to be out there playing,” Dr.  Koester surmised.

“And frankly, I support them in that,” Dr. Koester added. “My son didn’t start playing until he was 12.”

Hoping to ease those concerns about safety, USA Football—a national organization founded by the NFL and the NFL Players Association—has put safety measures in place in recent years for the youth leagues that have joined its membership.        USA Football-affiliated coaches must take a training class and pass a test.

The coaches then must follow specific instructions that include proper equipment fitting, an age-specific approach to teaching tackling and other techniques, and limits on contact in practice.

This fall, USA Football will launch the first comprehensive study on injuries in youth football, according to USA Football executive director Scott Hallenbeck. “Clearly, there’s a concern, and we have been proactive on that for five or six years,” he acknowledged.

It looks to me like there is an awareness that youth football needs to be monitored more closely for the 7, 8 and even 9 year olds, with the weight of the youngster being more important than his age. This will eliminate mismatches that could be the cause of unnecessary injuries.

KWICKIES…Orange County was well-represented in the softball/baseball playoffs this school year. The Little Cypress-Mauriceville Lady Bears came within a whisker of making it to the state tournament in Austin, losing 5-4 in the bottom of the eighth inning to a feisty Montgomery team Saturday night. The Lady Bears had a monumental task of having to win two straight times at Montgomery and nearly pulled it off. And while this action was going on, the No. 2 Bridge City Cardinals (25-3) were forced to play (because of a lost coin flip) a one-game, winner-take-all regional semifinal baseball game against the state’s No. 1-ranked team in Class 3A Waco-Robinson (28-2) and lost 6-2. The Cardinals had won 21 straight games before falling to Robinson. It was a great run for both LCM and Bridge City.

The Major League Draft is set for Monday and for the third time in their franchise’s history the Houston Astros will be making the overall first pick. The front office is keeping mum on what the team will focus on, but an organization can’t go wrong by selecting a pitcher. Stanford’s Mark Appel, who hails from the Houston area, would be a good choice. However, the husky right-hander is being advised by super-agent Scott Boras whose brain sometimes gets clouded with dollar signs. The Astros only other No. 1 overall picks were pitcher Floyd Bannister and infielder Phil Nevin.

And while on the subject of the Houston Astros, they are still having a difficult time winning ball games on the road. This year they are not being blown out like they were in 2011, but still a loss is a loss, with five of them coming on the home team’s final at-bat. And dropping two-of-three to the Dodgers in Los Angeles last weekend put the Astros’ road record at 6-15. They did get within one victory of reaching that magical .500 plateau, but going into Colorado Monday for a four-game series, the Astros stood at 22-25.

The NBA playoffs have finally reached the Conference Championship Series with the San Antonio Spurs clashing with the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Con- ference while the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics lock horns in the Eastern Conference. I still like the Spurs meeting the Celtics for the World Championship, but the Miami Heat seems to have the inside track in the East.

JUST BETWEEN US…I happened to be a witness to Kenny Ruane’s hole-in-one Monday morning on the 160-yard Par-3 No. 6 hole at Sunset Grove Country Club. Kenny hit a five-wood and the ball landed right near the frogs, took a couple of hops and disappeared. The other members of our foursome—Craig Couvillion and Bob Hoepner and I– thought the ball might have disappeared because it rolled over the green. But that wasn’t the case and it cost us because we were playing a skins game. However, Kenny did buy me a Coors Light, which is traditional whenever a player records and ace. Although Kenny has been playing golf less than 15 years, it was his third hole-in-one—his second at Sunset Grove. And because Kenny is a member of the Men’s Golf Association, he will be $200 richer whenever the treasurer writes him the check for the hole-in-one.