A longtime tackle youth football league in suburban Boston has announced that it plans to change its format from tackle to flag competition permanently, beginning in 2016. The reason? Rising concern over injury risks in tackle football across all age groups.
As reported by Boston.com, the Somerville recreation department decided to transition its publicly backed youth football program from a full contact program to a flag competition because of a combination of increased injury risk for athletes and declining enrollment in the program itself.
“Particularly over the past few years, the rise in injuries among young people playing contact football, both in game situations and during regular practices, demonstrates a need for us to reevaluate the programs we offer to our youngest residents,” a statement from Somerville’s director of recreation and Youth Jill Lathan read. … “Interest and participation in flag football is increasing both in Somerville and nationwide, and we are excited to be able to offer the program here in Somerville.”
The elimination of the official Somerville public tackle program isn’t a complete abolition of tackle football in the town, with Lathan noting that Somerville will continue renting equipment to those who want to take part in Pop Warner or other tackle football programs.
Still, the switch is a notable bellwether moment for youth football in the Northeast, with other Boston area towns sure to take notice and consider a switch to a less dangerous form of football themselves.
“Somerville Recreation has a history of providing programs and opportunities for youth of all ages and interest levels, but we also have a commitment to keep our children safe while they have fun,” Lathan said in her statement.