Children Should Avoid Tackle Football Before High School, Report Says

By on October 11, 2018

From Wall Steet Journal:  Children shouldn’t play tackle football before high school, according to recommendations released Wednesday by the Aspen Institute.

Scientists believe children are particularly vulnerable to brain injury in collision sports like football in part because of their still-developing brains, according to a 27-page report on the future of football by the nonpartisan, nonprofit think tank. It recommended that USA Football, Pop Warner, and other youth football organizations focus on flag football before age 14.

“USA Football and the Aspen Institute’s Sport & Society program share the same end goal of advancing and growing youth sports to include positive experiences, focus on skill development and improve safety measures, and a progression of sport development that leads to better and smarter athletes,” said Melinda Whitemarsh, USA Football senior director of communications and public affairs.

Pop Warner didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Young people have still-developing brain circuitry, relatively large heads and weak neck and shoulder muscles compared with adults, the report said. It also noted that although hard-plastic helmets are very effective at preventing skull fractures, “medical experts recognize they do not prevent concussions nor subconcussive trauma.”

Participation in flag football has surged in recent years, and last year surpassed tackle-football participation among children ages 6-12, according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association. Even NFL quarterback Drew Brees has gotten into the game, launching a flag-football league. Though flag football carries injury potential of its own, it is thought to carry a lower risk of serious head injury.

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