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‘USA Today’ Makes the Case for Banning Youth Tackle Football

Youth Football
AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein
WARNER TODD HUSTON

USA Today Sports published a broadside against youth tackle football, claiming that the sport is just too dangerous for children.

Calling its proposal “a sensible change,” writer Joe Schad calls for an end to tackle football for everyone under 14 years of age in a March 4 article.

The paper imagines that the ban would not affect football overall.

“With this shift,” Schad writes, “kids would grow up playing flag football before transitioning to tackle football in high school — just like youth baseball players start with T-ball before learning to hit pitches from a machine, a coach and, eventually, live pitchers.”

USA Today Sports cited the claims by tackle ban supporter Chris Nowinski, co-founder and CEO of the Concussion Legacy Foundation, and former NFL player.

“The kids don’t lose anything in this situation,” Nowinski said. “There’s no safety issue that’s known. There’s no football development issue that’s known — no child’s being recruited off their fifth-grade film. So you end up with healthier children, still playing football — just for fewer seasons of tackle.”

Nowinski has been selling the idea of replacing tackle football with flag football in an effort to put an end to brain trauma among kids in sports.

The paper goes on to deny claims that waiting until high school to expose kids to tackle football opens them to more injuries. Such a worry, the paper says, is “fear-mongering.”

Other sports have taken notice of CTE worries, USA Today Sports reports:

Most professional sports organizations have reacted to this research over the past decade by changing how they operate. US Soccer now bans heading before the age of 10. USA Hockey eliminated checking before 13. US Lacrosse now penalizes any contact to the head.

“Football’s on an island,” Nowinski, a former Harvard football player, said. “It’s the only sport now where children as young as 5 … are getting hit in the head hundreds of times.”

USA Today Sports concludes urging state legislatures to take up the cause of banning youth tackle football.

But the move is already afoot. Several states, including New York, California, Maryland, Illinois, and Massachusetts, among others, have begun looking into the idea of banning youth football. Thus far, these states have made proposals, but no laws have yet been implemented.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.

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