You don't have to be a football fan to know that concussions have been in the news a lot lately. And if you're an AB reader, you know head injuries are unfortunately a topic we have to cover way too often. Just this week we've reported deaths of two youth football players who died following head injuries.

Naturally, parents are concerned. So it probably doesn't come as a big surprise that participation in youth football is declining.

According to ESPN's "Outside the Lines," Pop Warner, the nation's largest youth football program saw participation drop by 9.5 percent between 2010-12. From ESPN:

Pop Warner lost 23,612 players, thought to be the largest two-year decline since the organization began keeping statistics decades ago. Consistent annual growth led to a record 248,899 players participating in Pop Warner in 2010; that figure fell to 225,287 by the 2012 season.

Pop Warner officials said they believe several factors played a role in the decline, including the trend of youngsters focusing on one sport. But the organization's chief medical officer, Dr. Julian Bailes, cited concerns about head injuries as "the No. 1 cause."

Meanwhile, USA Football, a national governing body which is partially funded by the NFL, saw participation among players ages 6 to 14 fell from 3 million to 2.8 million in 2011, a 6.7 percent decline.

In 2012, Pop Warner took measures to increase safety. The organization cut back on the amount of tackling permitted during practice. This year, the organization teamed up with the NFL to endorse "Heads Up" football, designed to teach proper tackling technique and minimize head contact. Pop Warner is expected to introduce even more rule changes in the near future.

Like most youth sports, I believe it is too much, too soon. I am a former high school football coach and player. Kids playing tackle football before the age of 10 is nonsense. They should be playing flag football. They can still learn fundamentals and what it means to compete as a team.
I played youth tackle football before junior high, but the teams and levels were set up by weight, not age. This is a much safer practice and youth football organizations that use this policy have it right.
The sport's future depends on right-thinking in youth football which includes starting to tackle at a much later age, limit contact in practices and shorter seasons. Kids of this age don't need to play 8 or 9 games and then be in some tournament that proves nothing at that age.
Baseball is the game that should be promoted to every youth in America.

Football is too dangerous and soccer is Communistic in nature and should be outlawed in the Greatest country in the World - USA!!!
Interesting to see that the numbers for tackle football among youth have declined, but we wish the story had included data on the rise of flag football among young athletes. Flag football allows kids to learn the fundamentals of the game without exposing their young brains to the violent collisions you see in tackle football. At i9 Sports, our flag football participation has more than doubled across the country in the last five years. With medical experts recommending flag football for kids up to age 14, we believe we'll continue to see growth in flag football participation, ensuring our kids learn the values of teamwork, sportsmanship and healthy competition without the danger of permanent damage caused by a head injury.
By Michael Gaio — AB eMedia Ed Friday, 15 November 2013
i9 Sports,

Thanks for sharing that info. Good to get that information out there.
As a longtime certified athletic trainer I too encourage flag football in youngsters prior to middle school. Learning the fundememntals of the game is a benefit of flag football. That said, I hope these same parents who fear the game of football will also keep their teenage sons from driving when the time comes. Far more concussions and worse occur as a result of automobile accidents than will ever occur from properly coached football.