Posts Tagged ‘best practice’

Changes ahead for youth football?

January 11, 2016

The new year could be bringing a new look to youth football around the country. Case in point: Somerville, Massachusetts, has announced its recreation department is changing the city’s youth football program from tackle to “non-contact” flag football for kids in first through eighth grade.

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Photo courtesy Grand Forks Park District

In an article published by boston.com, city officials cited concerns nationwide over increases in injuries for young players in contact football, as well as declining enrollment in the city’s contact program. The changes were announced this past week, to go into effect this summer.

“Particularly over the past few years, the rise in injuries among young people playing contact football, both in game situations and during regular practices, demonstrates a need for us to reevaluate the programs we offer to our youngest residents,” Jill Lathan, the city’s director of Recreation and Youth, said. “Somerville Recreation has a history of providing programs and opportunities for youth of all ages and interest levels, but we also have a commitment to keep our children safe while they have fun.”

Lathan also said the recreation department will continue to support those who want to continue to play in a contact football program, like Pop Warner, through its equipment rental program, but the city will not sponsor a tackle football program for young players.

“Interest and participation in flag football is increasing both in Somerville and nationwide, and we are excited to be able to offer the program here in Somerville that will teach youth the necessary skills if they do choose to participate in contact football at an older age,” Lathan said.

The city seems to be following recommendations made by Dr. Bennet Omalu, famously portrayed by Will Smith in the new movie, “Concussion,” who said in an op-ed piece in the New York Times last month that there should be a minimum age to play tackle football because children’s developing brains should be protected from concussions. While few believe that the minimum age will be set at 18, as Dr. Omalu suggests, this move by Somerville shows that municipalities are taking the threat of brain injuries seriously and are taking steps to try to keep players safer.