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Survey: Half support banning youth tackle football

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A survey released Thursday by Robert Morris' Polling Institute found that almost half of respondents supported banning youths from playing contact football before middle school and 2 in 5 people supported such a ban for teens prior to high school.

The survey comes as football is coming under fire because of potential health risks, including concussions.

The survey, conducted in October, polled 1,003 individuals, including males who played contact football and parents of children who have played. Of those polled, 40.5 percent supported banning youths from playing the sport prior to high school, and 47.6 percent were in support of a ban for youths before entering middle school.

Among the findings:

• Of those who had played the sport, 38.2 percent supported a ban prior to high school, 44.3 percent for a ban prior to middle school.

• Among parents whose children play, 41.2 percent supported a ban before high school and 46.6 percent supported one before middle school.

“We need to continue to educate athletes, parents, coaches and fans about the effects of concussions and raise awareness of best practices for prevention,” said Samantha Monda, an RMU sports psychologist.

Recent studies, however, have shown that youth football is the safest age for players, with a concussion rate of less than 4 percent, said Dr. Julian Bailes, chairman of the department of neurosurgery at the NorthShore Neurological Institute near Chicago. Bailes said the youth football concussion rate is less than 20 percent that of high school players.

“The No. 1 thing is that there is no scientific agreement that the youth brain is any more susceptible to injury than the adult brain,” Bailes said. “This trend of saying, ‘Yeah, we need to outlaw youth football' is not based on any factual data. It's an emotional stance.”

Gary Horvath is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at ghorvath@tribweb.com.

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