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Feb, 2017

Flag football is MORE dangerous to children than tackle

Young people are more likely to get injured playing flag football than the supposedly more dangerous tackle version of the game, a study has revealed.

Researchers at the University of Iowa and University of Kentucky compared injury rates, including concussions, in the two youth leagues, and found the surprising results.

While the amount of severe injuries and concussions were not significantly different between flag and tackle leagues, overall, injury is more likely to occur in flag football.

The study looked at three youth football leagues of 3,794 players in second through seventh grade.

Though the safety of football has been called into question in recent years, little research has been done into youth leagues, the study said.

The study also revealed that concussions are more likely to occur during a game than during practice, and that sixth and seventh graders are more likely to suffer concussions than their younger counterparts.

Concerns over injuries have led parents and kids away from tackle football.

In searching for an alternative, many believe that flag football could be a safer route, but the new study reveals that this is not the case.

Dr Kyle Smoot, associate professor of Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine at the University of Kentucky, said: 'This study questions what many parents may assume, that flag football is safer.'

'This study provides information so that parents and athletes can make informed decisions,' Smoot added.

Researchers did find, however, that the number of injuries in youth football is still relatively low, whether the child is playing tackle or flag.

Of a total of 46,416 exposures to play, only 128 injuries were seen across all three leagues.

The study was first published in the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine.

Sport is the leading cause of injuries among children and adolescents, with 2.8million injuries a year.

USA Football, the national governing body for amateur football, is planning to introduce a less violent overhaul of the youth game, with fewer players on the field and rule changes that reduced violent collisions.

While concussion injuries and deaths of young players make headlines, researchers say the larger danger is repeated sub-concussive hits that linemen absorb on play after play. 

Several studies have shown that players who started playing tackle football before age 12 have a greater risk of developing memory and cognitive problems later in life. 

State laws intended to prevent head injuries vary, though most require athletes to be removed from a game or practice if a concussion is suspected and be cleared by a medical professional before they can return.

Pop Warner, which bills itself as the nation's largest youth football program, has already taken steps to reduce concussion risk. 

Steps include banning kickoffs for the youngest divisions, requiring coaches to complete a concussion education program and limiting player contact to only 25 per cent of practice time. 

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