CHULA VISTA, Calif. - Tackle football is losing some of its young participants.
Pop Warner football recently told ESPN its participation dropped 9.5 percent since 2010. At the same time, youth organizations like i9 Sports reported an 11 percent increase in flag football registrations.
10News recently visited a South Bay YMCA flag football game in Chula Vista. Parent Rodney Garcia said he’s OK having his young boys play flag football for now.
“As soon as they get to eight, nine, 10, I’d probably be a bit more worried,” he said.
He said he’s worried because of all the recent studies outlining the dangers of head injuries that can happen from repeated hits to the head, which have been shown to lead to brain damage and mental illness. Charger great Junior Seau's suicide has even been blamed on years of hard hits.
South Bay YMCA flag football coach Jesse Pina has played both forms of football. He said parents ask him about the dangers of football all the time.
“I think parents are being a little more careful how early they start their kids,” he said.
He also said he expected the football participation numbers to continue to switch to flag football as more information is learned about the dangers of tackle football.
Garcia said he’s still not sure but will eventually let his boys decide.
“Early high school, kind of let them make the choice and if they want to do it, then I’d let them play,” he said.
In the meantime, more than 250,000 children across the country still strapped on the pads for Pop Warner leagues this year.