Source: EvoShieldATHENS, Ga., July 30, 2013 - Could today's fears about safety in football sideline tomorrow's gridiron stars?

With so many headlines lately about the risks of contact sports, parents seemingly have been given good reason to put their foot down on their children's athletic ambitions by holding them back from the playing field.But if you lock away their jerseys, pads and cleats, how will young would-be athletes ever experience the gritty, yet exhilarating, real-life aspects of actual physical competition, the value of discipline and teamwork, the thrill of living out their sports dreams, and the opportunity to positively impact the lives of other young people, as well as their local communities?

While some parents are questioning whether they should let their kids on the field, there are others who feel quite strongly about nurturing the sports aspirations of their young ones, as long as the players are properly protected.

Three of these "Gridiron Guardians" - Jacqueline Griffin, mother of Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III (RGIII), and Florida's Kathy and Brian Haugen, parents of the late Taylor Haugen - have teamed up with EvoShield in a new "Protective Parent" campaign (#protectiveparent) to engage other mothers and fathers about proper protection across all youth sports and to equip children with the tools they need to chase their sports dreams safely.

Taylor Haugen, a hard-working wide receiver on the Niceville (Fla.) High School junior varsity football team, died in 2008 - at age 15 - from an internal injury sustained on the playing field. Today, the Taylor Haugen Foundation's YESS Program (Youth Equipment for Sports Safety) provides education and equipment to middle and high school athletes, to better protect them from internal injuries.

The mission of the Taylor Haugen Foundation is to build and recognize youth leaders and promote youth sports safety, to honor the legacy of Taylor Haugen. For the past three years, EvoShield has been joining forces with the Taylor Haugen Foundation to provide a higher level of protection for youth athletes.

With a new football season just around the corner, Jacqueline Griffin and the Haugens are kicking off the #protectiveparent conversation as the new EvoShield campaign's first Gridiron Guardians. Creating a Dialogue"This campaign will create a dialogue with parents, coaches, trainers and others about protecting young athletes as they follow their athletic dreams - whether on the gridiron, the diamond, the rink or elsewhere," said Bob Pinckney, CEO of EvoShield, a leading maker of innovative protective gear for a variety of sports. "Our Gridiron Guardians, Jacqueline Griffin and the Haugens, truly believe in the importance and positive impact of supporting children's interest in sports and are making a statement about what it really means to be a protective parent.

"We feel the campaign will connect with families and can add more context and clarity to the debate about safety in sports, especially at a time when there is so much concern for the proper protection of young players," Pinckney said. "There are risks inherent in any sports activity, but, as a parent myself, I try to balance my concern for safety with my children's desire to get in the game. Safety education and the right protective equipment are the keys to safe play."

In an exclusive online video for #protectiveparent, Jacqueline Griffin and son Robert, the young NFL star, discuss how parents can balance their legitimate concerns for safety with encouragement of their children to live out their dreams.

Meanwhile, Kathy and Brian Haugen, in their own video appearance for #protectiveparent, advocate safety education for football and passionately share their conviction that being a protective parent doesn't mean removing youths from every risk - it means preparing them for it.

"The message these concerned parents are delivering is you can't let fear alone prevent your children from participating in sports and enjoying one of the best experiences of being a kid," Pinckney explained.The videos and additional campaign details can be viewed at www.evoshield.com/protectiveparent.

EvoShield also has launched an interactive #protectiveparent app on the brand's Facebook page, where youths and parents can participate in the campaign conversation while having a chance to win rewards and prizes, such as EvoShield products or a football signed by RGIII.

There already is enough evidence that wariness about football injuries has been affecting the sport. Even though about 3 million children participate in youth football across the United States, the total has been dwindling over the past few years. According to a recent report from the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, the number of kids ages 6 to 12 playing football dropped 35 percent from 2007 to 2011.

Separately, the SFIA reported an 11-percent decline in tackle football's "core participation" from 2009 to 2012. And the National Sporting Goods Association recently reported that the largest decrease in team sports in 2012 took place in tackle football, which experienced a nearly 13-percent decline in participation from the previous year. More than one-half of that falloff was within the 7-11 age group.

More than 3.5 million children under age 14 receive medical treatment for sports-related trauma every year, according to Safe Kids USA, a nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating preventable childhood injuries - the leading cause of death and disability for youths ages 1 to 14. And at its 2013 annual meeting, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons reported that football injuries among children ages 5 to 14 have increased by 22.8 percent over the past decade.

Every year, more than 30,000 high school athletes are treated for avoidable injuries.

"Our products are designed to help protect athletes of all ages and at all levels," Pinckney said. "Our passion is protection and we're becoming the leading choice across several of the major sports, including football, baseball, softball, soccer, lacrosse and hockey." About EvoShieldEvoShield has been providing unsurpassed on-field protection to some of the biggest names in sports, including RGIII, who's been wearing EvoShield products since his sophomore year at Baylor University. EvoShield's game-changing protective apparel is sold nationally in a variety of retail outlets and online at www.evoshield.com and comes with a perfect-fit guarantee.

Emily Attwood is Managing Editor of Athletic Business.