Concern about youth football safety resurfaces

Concern about youth football safety...

HOLMEN, Wis. (WKBT) -- - The Eau Claire YMCA is no longer offering tackle football to its fifth and sixth-grade kids. 
The choice was made due to growing concerns about concussions. 

The La Crosse YMCA has not offered a youth tackle football program in recent years because of those safety concerns, but it does provide a flag football program for children

The Holmen youth football program, however, says contact is just part of the sport.

"Football is a contact sport," said Greg Imhoff, Holmen youth football coach, but he also said football is more than hits on the field.

"It's about fun -- fun learning and life lessons. That's what we teach here," Imhoff said. 

In the wake of the Eau Claire YMCA moving away from tackle football, the concern about children's safety remains strong. 

"As we are learning more about long-term effects of concussions and things like that, it's finally appropriate to introduce a sport like flag football that is developmentally appropriate." said Kyle Moll, La Crosse YMCA youth sports director.

The La Crosse YMCA offers a flag football developmental league and summer program to introduce children gradually to the sport.  

"You are providing an opportunity for the youth to get exposed to the sport, that they can really focus on the fundamentals and doing things accurately," Moll said. 

Imhoff has been coaching with the Holmen youth football program since it began. He says cutting youth programs is not the answer.

"It's the ultimate team sport," Imhoff said. "They are making a mistake."

Some local high school programs have seen a decline in team involvement because parents are concerned.  

 "The concussion thing scares parents and it should," Imhoff said. "We have addressed it. "We go to clinics as much as we can. "You know, safety first, always, all the time."

The Holmen youth football program starts children at third grade. Imhoff said it's not safe to wait for kids to learn how to tackle. 

"It take a year or two to learn, so they are going to be hitting wrong for two years and I think they will have more chance of getting hurt not learning earlier," Imhoff said. 

Imhoff said concussions can happen in a variety of sports, not just football. 

"You can get a concussion walking down the street," Imhoff said. 

The Holmen youth program won't be cut anytime soon. 

"Football will be around because it's our sport," Imhoff said. 

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