By Ken Reed

Flag football is the fastest growing sport in the United States, according to a recent survey conducted by USA Football. From 2014 to 2015, flag football participation grew by 8.7%, for children ages six to 14. One youth sports organization, i9 Sports has seen a 46% growth in participation for its flag football program over the past five years.

“Due to concussion concerns, flag football has quickly gained popularity among parents, coaches, and league officials in both youth and high school football leagues across the country,” said Brian Sanders, president and chief executive officer of i9 Sports, a youth sports organization that focuses on safety and concussion awareness.

“This shift speaks volumes and proves that parents are seeing the benefits of flag versus tackle, and I think it’s a movement that we should continue fueling. Flag football is a great alternative to tackle football, especially for families that want to enjoy the benefits of involving their kids in one of America’s favorite sports without the same risk of injury.”

To date, when it comes to brain injuries in football, the nation’s focus has been on the NFL and its 1700+ players. But that focus should be flipped to the more than 4 million children and teenagers playing tackle football at the youth and high school levels in this country. This is especially true when you consider that according to the Brain Injury Research Institute, 20 percent of this country’s high school football players suffer brain injuries in any given season.

“People are understanding the research and making the appropriate moves,” said Chris Nowinski, cofounder of the Concussion Legacy Foundation. “There is no downside to postponing the introduction to tackle football.

Some communities, such as Tega City, South Carolina, are eliminating the tackle football option for youth players.

“I asked myself a question,” said Joey Blethen, a former high school player and football coach and now the parks and recreation director for Tega City. “Could I live with myself if a participant in our tackle football program were to become seriously injured, paralyzed, or even worse?”

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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