Summerville, MA will be switching its publicly-backed youth football organization from a full-contact sport to a flag-based program because of injury concerns.
This particular group has decided that the risk of injury among participants, both during games and during practice, was significant enough that it warranted action. The step has certainly not been without controversy; of course, some parents feel that tackle football is an appropriate sport for their children when precautions are taken. However, the end of tackle football in the recreational program does not mean that other programs (such as Pop Warner) do not offer tackle football for the youth in and around Somerville.
What this change has meant is that there is more discussion about the risks—and this is always a good thing, no matter which side of the debate you take. However, with all of the risks it is hard to argue with the decision that the town of Somerville has taken. Choosing to move to a flag football program may very well prevent injuries and even save lives.
Consider these Youth Football Injury Stats
Provided by healthresearchfunding.org:
• There is a 3 times greater chance of suffering a catastrophic injury while playing football vs. other high school sports- even with all the precautions that are taken today.
• Concussion-related sports injuries account for 1 out of every 5 childhood TBI’s (traumatic brain injuries).
• Retired NFL players in their 50s are up to 5 times more likely to be diagnosed with dementia or related symptoms than the general population.
• Children who have had one concussion are six times more prone to have a second one. This makes it especially important to avoid the first one.
• Most of the high-level impacts that occur in youth football occur during practice–this is when many athletes and their coaches’ guards are down, making injuries more prevalent.
• A football player may receive up to 1,500 blows to the head during one season alone. While many of these are seemingly minor, these can add up to cause significant damage, particularly over time when a player begins playing full-contact sports early in life.
With stats like this, it is hard to argue with what Somerville has done. Making a simple switch to the game makes it safer and doesn’t take away the kids’ learning or enjoyment of the game. In fact, many of these same kids will grow up to play high school or college (tackle) football—hopefully with a better understanding of the game in place and with fewer concussions and injuries already suffered during their early practices and game days.
Whether you decide to allow your child to play in a tackle or flag football league, it is important that you are informed about the rules and the risks. If you or a loved one has been injured due to athletic activities, Peter Ventura may be able to help answer your questions.
Image via Flickr by Jim Larrison