(CBS) — The ripple effect from the NFL’s intense focus on concussions is being felt all the way down to the youth football levels.
As a matter of fact, many parents are reluctant to even let their kids play tackle football. There is a safer alternative available for youngsters to learn the game. CBS 2’s Jill Carlson flagged one such league in Palatine.
Youth flag football leagues are thriving in the Chicago suburbs, offering all the fun of tackle football without the same risk of injury.
But, the Northwest Flag Football League in Palatine is different from most. It’s run by someone who used to make his living tackling others – former Bear and current Palatine mayor Jim Schwantz.
“Obviously I owe a lot to football, and I know there’s a huge void of kids who aren’t ready to play tackle game yet but really want to be involved in football,” he says. “Here we’re limiting the number of hits. We’re giving them a chance to play football and when they’re ready, if they’re ever ready, they can go on to tackle football and we’ll be excited and happy for them.”
There are 90 third-through-sixth grade boys taking part in the first year of the league. Some are getting their first exposure to football. Others have even played tackle football previously.
League Director of Operations Matt May says he saw a need in the community.
“Kids now have an option. They’ve never had an option to play flag football. Our program is a little bit different as well as we have really high level coaching and I think the parents are excited to have their kids exposed to that type of coaching,” May says.
So much has been learned about the long-term effects of head trauma. Parents believe they are doing the right thing limiting their kids’ exposure to hits while still allowing them to enjoy the game.
“It’s a good learning experience for these children. Tackle football at third grade for an eight-year-old is intense. It’s 20 pounds of equipment. It’s a little scary on a parent,” Marcy Boudreaux says.