Alaskans push youth toward touch football
Some Alaskans are backing a nationwide move to ban tackle football for any child under the age of 14, due to the possibility of concussions and brain injuries.
Maria Feigner, who recently watched her 10-year-old son David make a key interception during a flag football game at The Dome, is in favor of the proposal.
"As a parent, as a nurse, I love that idea, because I am hesitant to let my kids play tackle football," Feigner said. "I worry about injuries."
Supporters claim the sport is simply too dangerous. Among them is one of the greatest to ever play the game, NFL Hall of Famer Nick Buoniconti.
"I beg of you, I beg all parents to please don't let your children play football until high school," said Buoniconti, who at 77 years old, suffers from dementia, and likely chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.
Buoniconti's plea follows the findings of the latest research at Boston University. It sheds new light on the impact of tackle football and brain injuries.
"This paper provides the best evidence to date that CTE is triggered not by concussion, but rather by hits to the head irregardless of whether it results in concussion or not," says Dr. Lee Goldstein, one of the researchers involved with the study.
Goldstein and others say children's bodies, especially their heads, have simply not developed enough to withstand the shaking of the brain that occurs during tackles. That's why they support the "Flag Football Under 14" initiative.
The Associated Press reports that Illinois lawmakers are considering a ban on tackle football for children under age 12. The measure is named after 1985 Chicago Bears defensive back Dave Duerson, who shot himself in the chest at the age of 50 in February 2011 so that his brain could be studied for signs of CTE.
Kids as young as 5 play tackle football in the Mat-Su. Clint Spencer, who runs the program, says proper tackling techniques are taught by himself and other coaches to avoid serious injuries. Spencer believes banning tackle for young children could create more problems.
"You're going to increase the odds of having more CTE injuries -- more concussions, and more broken bones -- by sending these kids to high school before they can play tackle football, than if you were letting them do it at the youth level," Spencer said.
For now, however, Feigner isn't convinced that Spencer's argument tackles the problem.
"I love flag football," Feigner said. "I feel it's much safer."
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