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September 2014


AAYFL offers to work with family


The Wisconsin All-American Youth Football League is willing to work with a family seeking concessions to an equipment policy that, so far, has prevented their 12-year-old son from competing.

Graham Bartunek has albinism, a defect of melanin production that results in little or no color (pigment) in the skin, hair and eyes, and partially blind. Graham is seeking to be allowed to play with a tinted visor on his helmet, which is a violation of AAYFL rules.

 This afternoon, the AAYFL issued this statement:

"We certainly understand the unique circumstances involving this player and his family, and we are sympathetic to the situation, but we also need to have policies that put safety first and that abide by guidelines set forth by safety experts. We represent approximately 7,000 youth in Southeast Wisconsin who play tackle football and our policies mirror important safety guidelines in place in leagues across the country, including high school and the NCAA.

Those policies require clear face shields and that policy was implemented upon the advice of the National Athletic Trainers Association and the sports medicine community. The policy protects players who may become hurt or unconscious on the field. Medical personnel attending to an injured player need to be able to evaluate the player without removing the helmet in order to avoid aggravating or causing a spinal injury. Based on our experience and experts we have talked to, the presence of a tinted face shield necessitates removing the helmet prior to evaluation, posing significant risk to the player.

That said, we certainly remain interested and willing to speak with the family to continue to explore solutions. We have proposed and even offered to provided tinted goggles, tinted contact lenses or sunglasses to address the specific medical concerns presented to the league. And, if there are other suggestions, we remain willing to look at them.

We also certainly understand that it seems like the easy decision would be to change the policy or make an exception, but we wish it were that easy. Unfortunately, there are many ramifications a league like ours  -- a nonprofit, volunteer league -- needs to consider.

We are pleased that this young man is playing in our league. We found some solutions, he is practicing and he played the first game, and we will keep trying to work with the family on solutions that can work for all.

It is our goal to keep our players safe and to continue to provide youth football opportunities in Southeast Wisconsin as we have for 33 years. Having sanctioned safety policies that follow national standards is crucial to that effort."

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