With all the talk about concussions in football today, a growing number of schools are trying a new way to make the game safer for kids to play. Many are now converting their TACKLE football programs into FLAG football. Meaning, instead of wearing helmets and shoulder pads, players are wearing flag belts around their waist. And instead of tackling each other, players stop the ball by grabbing and removing an opponent’s flag.
The trend is most popular in elementary schools, where enrollment more than doubled this year, and some schools say flag football has become their fastest growing program! But a lot of parents and coaches are pushing to have kids keep playing flag football all through middle school, too – and delay playing tackle football until at least high school!
That’s because statistics show that teenage boys are more than twice as likely to get concussions from playing football, than from any other sport. And many new studies are linking concussions to permanent brain injuries, which can affect memory and learning.
But aside from concussions, experts say football is dangerous for young boys and girls to play. Because during a typical football season, players can experience up to 1,000 “impacts” – each similar to being in a 25-mile-per-hour car crash! And that’s a big deal to younger kids, who start playing football as early as the third grade – when their necks are weaker, and their brains are still developing. Because each blow shakes the brain like a bowl of Jell-o, causing trauma to brain tissue and nerves.
So, the thinking is that by playing flag football, kids can play the game they love, while delaying the risks of tackle football as long as possible.