TALLAHASSEE, Fla – The Florida House of Representatives has passed a resolution designating August 2020 as “Abdominal Injury in Youth Football Awareness Month.” The goal of this resolution is to better protect the roughly 40,000 student-athletes who participate in high school football throughout the state of Florida.
HR 8045, sponsored by state Rep. Mel Ponder, R-Destin, is bringing much-needed attention to abdominal injuries in youth athletics – especially in football, where such internal injuries often can go undetected until it is too late.
Damage to vital organs such as the liver, kidney, spleen and gallbladder actually can be lethal. Such was the case in 2008, when 15-year-old Floridian Taylor Haugen died after suffering a ruptured liver while playing football for Niceville High School, in Okaloosa County.
Since Taylor’s death, his parents, Brian and Kathy Haugen, have spearheaded a movement to bring the risks of abdominal injuries in youth football to the forefront. In memory of their son, the couple established the Taylor Haugen Foundation, which today is the leading advocate for better protection against abdominal injuries in sports, especially for high school athletes.
Taylor Haugen’s on-the-field injury occurred when he was tackled during an early-season game in late August, making this month the 12th anniversary of his passing.
“August has always been a tough time for us, but we are extremely heartened by this House resolution. It shows that the State of Florida cares very much about protecting its youth,” Brian Haugen said. “We are especially grateful to Representative Ponder for his strong support of this initiative. It will go a long way in preventing abdominal injuries and making football safer for the young athletes who so love the game.”
Ponder’s resolution points out that abdominal injuries are more common in youth football than in the professional ranks because the organs in that area of the body naturally are not well protected in younger players. Also, the pros routinely wear abdominal protection equipment, which is not often the case in high school football or youth leagues.
“The hopeful results of this resolution is better protection of our young student-athletes in Florida. This is something we should all feel very strongly about,” Ponder said. “Of all the precautions we take for high school football in the name of safety – education and awareness should be included at the top of the list. This measure will help make the game as safe as possible for our children, by encouraging a greater understanding of these types of injuries and how they can be avoided.”
The Taylor Haugen Foundation has set a goal of making sure that by 2028, everyone playing youth football throughout the United States will be wearing abdominal protection equipment. Through the foundation’s signature YESS Program, thousands of high school athletes around the country have been outfitted over the past decade with high-tech abdominal protective gear.
To learn more about Abdominal Injury in Youth Football Awareness Month and to take the foundation’s #PledgetoProtect, visit taylorhaugen.org.