Comparing Head Impacts in Youth Tackle and Flag Football

A CDC study published in Sports Health reports youth tackle football athletes ages 6 to 14 are 15 times more likely than flag football athletes to sustain a head impact during a practice or game and are 23 times more likely to sustain a high-magnitude head impact (hard head impact).

Head impacts increase the risk for concussion and other serious head injuries.

Key findings from the studyHead impact exposures among youth tackle and flag American football athletesexternal icon” include:

Youth tackle football athletes had 15 times more head impacts than flag football athletes during a practice or game.
  • Youth tackle football athletes experienced a median of 378 head impacts per athlete during the season.
  • Flag football athletes experienced a median of 8 eight head impacts per athlete during the season.

These findings suggest that non-contact or flag football programs may be a safer alternative for reducing head impacts and concussion risk for youth football athletes under age 14.

We all play a role in protecting youth from concussion.

Parents can:

  • Looks for non-contact sports options, such as flag and touch football.
  • Read about concussion safety and talk to their child about concussion.
  • Make sure their child’s sports team has a concussion safety policy.
  • Choose a sports program that enforces rules for safety and avoids drills and plays that increase the risk for head impacts.

Coaches can:

  • Talk to their athletes about concussion and teach ways to lower the chance for getting hits to the head.
  • Avoid drills and plays that increase the risk for head impacts.
  • Get informed about school or league concussion policies.
  • Take a training on concussion.

Healthcare providers can:

  • Identify athletes at greater risk for concussion during preseason exams and discuss non-contact sports options.
  • Talk to athletes about concussion safety and strategies to lower the chance for this injury.
  • Take a training on concussion.

Schools and sports programs can:

  • Offer non-contact sports options, such as flag and touch football.
  • Make an effort to have certified athletic trainers available at games and practices.
  • Enforce rules for fair play, safety, and sportsmanship.
  • Inform coaches and parents about school or league concussion policies and offer trainings.
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