SOUTHBRIDGE, Mass. — Coaches and officials with a Massachusetts Pop Warner youth football league are in trouble after five young players suffered concussions in the course of a 52-0 blowout loss.
According to the Boston Globe, three game referees with the Central Massachusetts Pop Warner have been banned for life following a hearing last week in the aftermath of the September 15th game between the Tantasqua and Southbridge teams about an hour west of Boston. In addition, both head coaches have been suspended for the rest of the season and placed on probation for next year.
Association presidents Doug Lazo and Jen Iller were also placed on probation through the 2013 season.
The injured kids – all between 10 and 12 years of age – played for the Tantasqua squad who lost 52-0. Two of the children were injured on the first play of the game, the New York Times reports, and a third was injured just six plays into the game.
The fifth and final concussion was suffered on the last play of the game.
The Southbridge team, who led by 28-0 after the first quarter and whose motto on their website reads, “Are You Tough Enough?”, did not suffer any concussions in the game.
Pop Warner rules have a “mercy rule” which requires officials to end a game when one team builds a 28-point lead, but officials allowed the game to continue.
In an interview with the New York Times, Southbridge coach Scott Lazo (brother of association president Doug Lazo) blamed Tantasqua coach Erik Iller (husband of association co-president Jen Iller) of not having his team properly prepared, and that Iller put his team in danger by not forfeiting.
“If you lost that many players, you should have called a timeout and come seen me,” Lazo told the Times earlier this week. “My team is not dirty. All the issues were on their side of the field. This is a football game, not a Hallmark moment.”
In last Thursday’s hearing, Central Mass. Pop Warner president Patrick Inderwish blamed bad officiating and bad decision-making by all parties involved.
“Having multiple concussions in one game is something that should never happen, ever,” said Inderwish. “One concussion is too many.”
“That game doesn’t represent what Pop Warner stands for in any way,” Inderwish said.