Danny Lee was going into the fifth grade. He wanted to join the school football team. His dad had other ideas. “I have friends who never want their kids playing tackle football,” Peter Lee told TIME for Kids. Peter is Danny’s dad. He wanted Danny to play flag football instead. The game does not involve tackling.
Experts say kids under 14 are too young to play tackle football. The sport can cause serious head injuries (see “Hard Knocks”). A 2017 study found that playing tackle football before age 12 can lead to health problems later in life. Flag football is a safer sport. It’s growing faster than any other team sport in the United States. There are 1½ million kids ages 6 to 12 playing it. That’s more than those who are playing tackle football.
Here’s how flag football works. Every player wears a belt with flags on it. The quarterback throws the ball to a teammate who runs for the end zone. The opponents try to stop that player by grabbing one of his or her flags. It’s a fast-moving game.
Sophie Day is 14. She plays for an all-girl team in Nevada. She says flag football is more exciting than tackle. But for Sophie’s mom, it’s all about safety. “In regular football, you have to be big, you have to be bad, and you have to win,” Michelle Day says. “Not with flag football. It’s known as the friendly sport.
A concussion is a brain injury. It can happen with a hard blow to the head or body. Concussions can be serious. A person with a concussion might look confused. He or she might stumble or pass out. Later, a person might become dizzy or get a headache. Or he or she might just not feel right. If you suffer a serious knock to the head or body, tell an adult right away.