Illinois school district cuts tackle football at junior highs

Naperville School District 203 in northwestern Illinois will cut tackle football at all five of its junior high schools and replace it with flag football, the school announced.

District officials said the schools are seeing a decline in participation, partly due to growing concerns over injuries. According to ABC7 in Chicago, one of the schools barely had enough students to field a team last season. The high school will continue to play tackle football.

From ABC7:

Principal Brian Valek said he wants to encourage kids to play football, and flag football is a way to do that without concerns about hitting, which can cause injuries. But tackle football is still alive and well in Naperville. According to organizers, the Pop Warner team the Patriots Youth Football League is seeing good numbers.

The head of the Patriots program said safety is their top concern, and according to several suburban youth coaches, they have reduced hitting in practice to limit risk. They said they have changed drills to improve conditioning, and they follow a strict concussion protocol.

A study published last year by Translational Psychiatry suggested that children under the age of 12 should not play tackle football. Organizations like USA Football have launched programs to help acclimate kids to football with fundamentals and specific skills before later introducing them to contact.

Participation in high school football has declined nationwide over the last decade, but it remains by far the most popular prep sports for boys.

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