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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Flag football for young players is growing in hopes to keep young players safe.
Doctors are especially happy and relieved about the trend to limit contact in pee-wee football. Research has shown children playing football are especially vulnerable to brain injuries.
Football is a favorite across the country, and now, for younger players, there is a renewed emphasis on safety as many youth football leagues are learning a contact sport, with no hitting.
A number of schools have turned to flag football for young players.
“When we were playing tackle, we were sending them over to the ambulance for concussion protocol and it just got to the point where we were like, ‘This is crazy,’” said flag football coach Brian Oleksa.
In a paper published this fall, the Aspen Institute recommended flag football as the standard for kids before age 14.
Concussion specialists say children are more vulnerable to hits because their heads are disproportionately bigger than their bodies and their necks are weaker.
“People who start playing tackle football under the age of 12 have a greater chance of later life behavior, cognitive and mood issues compared to a group that started later in life,” said neurosurgeon Dr. Robert Cantu.
Most parents like the increased safety their kids get with flag football.
“He’s learning the game of football, the fundamental skills, and being safe at the same time,” said mother Amy Stone.
And for the young players, it’s still about the love of the game.
“That’s what I’ve been doing my whole life, I’ve been playing football,” said Troy.
New Jersey is among five states where bills have been introduced to ban tackle football for kids under 12, but none had enough support to pass.
So, for now, it’s a voluntary situation.