By Ken Reed

If you’re looking for one more sign that football’s popularity is dropping and participation rates are down, here it is: More kids ages 6 to 12 now play flag football than tackle football.

According to the Sports and Fitness Industry Association, flag football is the fastest-growing team sport in the past three years.

The reason?  Flag football is significantly safer, especially for the brain.

The Aspen Institute recently published a report suggesting that the flag version of football may be preferable for young people because it’s safer.  Kids have weaker necks than adults, meaning their brains can bounce around inside their skulls more than is the case with adults.  Also, brains are still developing in children and teenagers, which means blows to the head could have more negative effects on young people.

Other studies have shown that playing tackle football before age 12 may increase the risk of memory and behavior problems later in life.

Another benefit of participating in flag football, as opposed to tackle football, is the cost is much lower.  As an example, a single football helmet can cost around $400.

This downward participation trend will undoubtedly continue for tackle football. Back in 2016, a study revealed that 78 percent of adults believe kids younger than 14 should not play tackle football.  Given the growing number of studies showing that football is dangerous to the human brain, that number is surely greater today.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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