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Is Youth Football's Future Flagging?

GENEVA -- Like the cooling of the air, fall in Geneva brings the sounds of football pads and helmets clacking in the distance like rams. It is the helmet clashes that have become the focus of national attention these days.

Publicity of the cumulative brain damage discovered in the autopsies of National Football League players has parents questioning nation-wide whether football is a safe sport for their children. As the science linking football to later-life brain damage evolves, lawsuits -- some already seen at the professional and college levels -- are likely to force schools to balance the popularity of the sport against their first obligation to keep kids safe.

Recently the Aspen Institute produced a White Paper examining whether flag football, a less violent form of the game, was more suitable, particularly among elementary and middle school-age children whose brains are in early stages of development when tackle football injects repeated head blows into their young lives. The report clearly suggests a shift away from full tackle football before high school. However, many believe even the high school-age brain needs to avoid this experience as well.

The thought of eliminating or replacing tackle football with the flag version would strike many as almost un-American. Certain regions of this nation -- and a strong part of Upstate New York's Friday night culture -- are dominated by traditional football. However, as the Aspen report shows, more and more parents across the nation are re-directing their children away from the sport.

The Aspen Institute, located in Washington D.C. is an academic think-tank that examines issues in American sport and recreation. The organization recently conducted research on children's access to recreation in the Rochester Region, including Geneva, for the Ralph Wilson Foundation and the Rochester Area Community Foundation. To read the full football report click on the report below or this link: FINAL-Future-of-Football-Paper.3.pdf 

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