Somerville changing youth football league from tackle to flag citing injury concerns

Somerville’s recreation department is changing the city’s youth football program from tackle to “non-contact’’ flag football for kids in first through eighth grade.

City officials cited concerns nationwide over increases in youth injuries from contact football and declining enrollment in the city’s contact program in the announcement of the change this week.

“Particularly over the past few years, the rise in injuries among young people playing contact football, both in game situations and during regular practices, demonstrates a need for us to reevaluate the programs we offer to our youngest residents,’’ Jill Lathan, the city’s director of Recreation and Youth, said in a statement. “Somerville Recreation has a history of providing programs and opportunities for youth of all ages and interest levels, but we also have a commitment to keep our children safe while they have fun.’’

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While Lathan said the recreation department will continue to support those who want to continue to play in a contact football program, like Pop Warner, through its equipment rental program, the city “will not continue to fully fund a program.’’

“Interest and participation in flag football is increasing both in Somerville and nationwide, and we are excited to be able to offer the program here in Somerville that will teach youth the necessary skills if they do choose to participate in contact football at an older age,’’ Lathan said.

The Somerville Recreation Flag Football Program will begin in the summer of 2016.

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