Study finds flag football may be no safer than tackle football for young athletes

February 14, 2017 by Olivia Mccoy

There has been significant focus recently on injuries athletes sustain while playing sports. Much attention has been paid to rates of concussion in American football, and the long-term effects of repeated head injury. These reports have led many parents to wonder if putting their children in contact sports at an early age could be detrimental to their health by potentially put their children at risk for injury.

Eliminating tackling from football would seem like an alternative that could reduce exposure to injury in young athletes. Dr. Andy Peterson at the University of Iowa and Dr. Dr. Kyle Smoot, associate professor of Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine at the University of Kentucky, lead a study to prove or disprove the hypothesis that the rate of injury, including concussion, would be lower among competing in flag football compared to those in tackle football.

The results of that study, published in the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine, were unexpected; injury was more likely to occur in youth flag football than in youth tackle football.

Though safety of football has been called into questions recently, there has been little research on the injury rates in youth sports and previous studies that aimed to focus on the issue used small samples or suffered from methodological limitations.

In the United States, approximately 2.8 million young people, aged six to 14 participate in youth football and sports-related injuries are the leading cause of injury among children and adolescents.

Smoot, a co-collaborator on the study said, "this study questions what many parents may assume, that flag football is safer."

By knowing the true risk of injury, athletes and their parents can decide if the benefit of participating in a sport outweigh the risks. Smoot said "this study provides information so that parents and athletes can make informed decisions."

Explore further: Should tackling be banned from youth football?

More information: Andrew R. Peterson et al. Youth Football Injuries, Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine (2017). DOI: 10.1177/2325967116686784

Related Stories

Should tackling be banned from youth football?

February 4, 2016
(HealthDay)—Tackling should be eliminated from youth football due to the risks that collisions and head injuries pose to young athletes, a researcher argues in the Feb. 4 New England Journal of Medicine.

Study examines incidence of concussion in youth, high school, college football

May 4, 2015
A slight majority of concussions happened during youth football games but most concussions at the high school and college levels occurred during practice, according to an article published online by JAMA Pediatrics.

Is flag football a safer alternative to tackle?

June 13, 2016
Reports of serious head and neck injuries to football players, especially young football players, have caused some parents to hesitate to let their children play tackle football. In some places, such as Bergen County, New ...

Concussion outcomes differ among football players from youth to college

May 2, 2016
Concussions in high school football had the highest average number of reported symptoms and high school football players had the highest proportion of concussions with a return-to-play time of at least 30 days compared with ...

The American Academy of Pediatrics tackles youth football injuries

October 25, 2015
With football remaining one of the most popular sports for children and teens, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is issuing new recommendations to improve the safety of all players while on the field. In a policy statement ...

Coaches can be a strong influence in preventing football injuries, say researchers

July 17, 2015
Teaching coaches about injury prevention and contact restrictions pays off, say researchers who tracked injury rates among youth football players during the 2014 season.

Recommended for you

State-level disclosure laws affect patients' eagerness to have their DNA tested

December 12, 2017
Different types of privacy laws in U.S. states produce markedly different effects on the willingness of patients to have genetic testing done, according to a new study co-authored by an MIT professor.

Babies born during famine have lower cognition in midlife

December 12, 2017
Hunger and malnutrition in infancy may lead to poor cognitive performance in midlife, according to a new study.

'Man flu' may be real

December 11, 2017
The much-debated phenomenon of "man flu" may have some basis in fact, suggests an article published in the Christmas issue of The BMJ.

Full moon linked to increased risk of fatal motorcycle crashes

December 11, 2017
The full moon is associated with an increased risk of fatal motorcycle crashes in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia, finds a study in the Christmas issue of The BMJ.

Social media trends can predict tipping points in vaccine scares

December 11, 2017
Analyzing trends on Twitter and Google can help predict vaccine scares that can lead to disease outbreaks, according to a study from the University of Waterloo.

Study suggests being proud may protect against falls in older people

December 11, 2017
Contrary to the old saying "pride comes before a fall", the opposite appears to be true, according to a study published in the Christmas issue of The BMJ.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.