Valley youth flag football league gains players who left tackle football over safety concerns

KPNX (Phoenix, AZ)

October 28, 2022

Valley youth football leagues are losing tackle football players to flag football over safety concerns. One study out of the Aspen Institute shows the largest decline in tackle players in children ages 6 to 12.

AZ’s Premier Flag Football League teaches players like Boston Overstreet the game of football without tackling, league director, Bob Ferron said. 

“There’s the safety concerns I think people have seen that flag teaches the kids the skills that they need to get to the next level just like tackle does, without the contact,” Ferron said. 

Too many hits on a tackle team is the reason Jordan Richmond moved her 10-year-old to play flag football with Ferron’s league.

“So we decided to make the switch back to flag, just because he’s so young, he has so many years, for us, there’s no point in it,” Richmond said. “My husband played college football and it’s a safer route.”

One study out of Ohio State University revealed at least half of Americans think tackle football is inappropriate for youth.

A recent survey by the Barrow Neurological Institute found for the first time, a majority of Arizona parents said they will not let their children play football because of concussion risk. The survey also finding parents who allow their children to play contact sports is growing, and more girls are playing soccer even with the high concussion rate in that sport too. 

Banner Sports Medicine Doctor Cody Petrie, said they’re working on another study to see what the injury risk is for young athletes if balance issues follow a concussion.

“And not just more concussions, things like ACL tears and ankle sprains that happen because your balance is off and you go back to play too soon and you can’t protect yourself while you’re playing,” Dr. Petrie said. 

Dr. Matt Shores, another Valley sports medicine physician added it’s important to diagnose concussions early and pull the player from the sport to recover.

“If they start having additional direct hits to the head, even if they’re very mild or minor, that can have much more intense consequences in terms of their recovery from that initial concussion,” Dr. Shores said.

While professional work to get to the bottom of youth concussion prevention, another level of discussions are reaching Valley football fields too. 

“It can mess up your brain and stuff, so just try to stay safe,” youth football player, Overstreet said. 

Parents can be proactive and get their children baseline tests at local medical centers to help manage concussions that may happen during any sport or even daily life activities. The baseline tests also incorporate balance tests in addition to cognitive research and observing eye movement.

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