What is the right age for kids to play tackle football?

ABC 8 (Lincoln, NE)

September 21, 2021

How early is too early for kids to play tackle football?

Dr. Thayne Munce of Sanford Health in Sioux Falls and a team of researchers designed the First Down Project, a multi-year study examining head impact exposure in 7th and 8th grade football players, to try and find answers.

“What we found is that middle school players incurred about half as many impacts in a single season as the high school players,” Munce said.

Here in Nebraska, Nate Neuhaus, who is the director of football with the Nebraska School Activities Association says that he’s seen a big shift in terms of player safety in his 11 years in the role.

“With regards to the helmet-to-helmet contact, and the concussion data, the game is now safer than it’s ever been,” Neuhaus said.

“the greatest segment of the population that plays football are youth under high school age.”

As Munce notes, youth football players account for 57% of all football players in the country.

Neuhaus says that coaching proper fundamentals plays a huge role in keeping kids safe at the youth level. This includes things like body positioning, tackling angles and pursuit angles as opposed to just hitting as hard as you can.

“That needs to be the focus of attention at the young ages, not just lining up and doing the old Oklahoma drill,” Neuhaus said.

Neuhaus says NSAA has teamed up with Hudl to show officials and coaches examples of correct tackling and blocking technique

So when is the right age for kids to start playing tackle football?

“There isn’t a specific age, but it is, again, a conversation that needs to take place with parents and children and perhaps even your physician and others in the league,” Munce said.

“It’s important that if you do consider getting your son or daughter involved in competitive football at a young age, you really want to vet the organization,” Neuhaus said. “Are they teaching the game? Are they teaching the fundamentals? Or is it all about winning a championship and winning in the playoffs?”

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