The Y to End Youth Tackle Football Program
As you may have been following over the past couple of years, a significant amount of research and new studies have been released related to the potential long-term harm of concussion and repetitive head impacts (RHI) on youth. This has been of particular interest and concern at the Y as safety in our youth sports programs has always been a top priority.
While the jury is still out on the extent of the harm on brain development, cognitive function and later-life issues such as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) resulting from RHI and concussion, there is virtually unanimous consensus that there clearly is harm. Equally concerning is the increasing evidence that the younger the individual is when starting the type of contact sports in which youth are most at risk for RHI and concussion, the more likely they are to develop health risks such as CTE later in life.
This mounting evidence of harm, combined with the already known risks of concussion, has compelled us to reevaluate our youth sports programs – particularly tackle football. After much research, discussion, consultation and debate, we have come to the conclusion that tackle football is not in the best interest of Siouxland youth and does not fit with the Y’s mission of Youth Development. To that end, we will no longer offer a tackle football program effective June 1, 2016.
This decision did not come easily as we fully recognize the many benefits of a team sport such as football, are dedicated to keeping kids active and healthy, and know so many kids love the game. However, we cannot simply ignore the potential short-term and long-term risks and we know parents always expect the Y to do what is in the best interest of their children.
We strongly encourage other organizations and school districts to examine their own tackle football programs and give serious consideration to the harm that may be inflicted on the youth served. At minimum, we hope thought will be given to starting kids at an older age, reducing the number of full-contact practices, ensuring that absolutely the most protective gear is in use, and making all coaches, program staff, players and parents fully aware of the risks – immediate and long-term.
While we know many kids and parents will be disappointed by this decision, we appreciate the understanding and support as it is made only with the best interest of youth in mind. We hope this may encourage kids to try other sports that offer just as many benefits, but with significantly less risk to their wellbeing.
Norm Waitt Sr. YMCA