BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — There's a lot of research being done about CTE, the brain disease increasingly seen in former football players, according to the Mayo Clinic. For parents out there who may be thinking about signing kids up for fall sports like football, we wanted to bring this debate to WNY and hear from both sides.
“It’s not really the game, what they’re trying to achieve is building better humans,” said Ray Turpin, President of NEYSA—Niagara Erie Youth Sports Association.
But the reality is—there’s a lot of fear out there, a lot of people wonder—is tackle football safe?
"Is there a potential for injury? Absolutely. There’s always gonna be a potential for injury, whenever you’re playing any kind of contact sport," said Turpin.
He oversees between 1,800 and 2,0000 hundred football players with NEYSA and says they've only had a handful of significant injuries over the years.
Former NFL quarterback Brett Favre says he has concerns about his long term health after his 20 year football career. His new PSA raises awareness about the brain disease CTE and pleads with parents to wait to start tackle football until their kids are 14.
CTE is a terrible disease, and we need to do everything we can to prevent it for the next generation of football players. That starts with keeping kids out of tackle football. @ConcussionLF says choose flag until age 14. I agree. https://t.co/nwAtAeo8EE— Brett Favre (@BrettFavre) August 17, 2021
We showed the PSA to Turpin.
7 Eyewitness News reporter Taylor Epps asked, how did that make him feel?
"Um angry. Again, it’s playing on people’s fears. Can we get somebody in who’s another professional player that says oh yes, my kids are playing flag football for 5 years 6 years then at 7 they’re playing tackle,” said Turpin.
On the other side of things—local flag football organizers say it’s good for people to see this.
"Anytime you can raise awareness and at least get a discussion on that, it’s a good thing CTE’s not one of those things you rub dirt on and get back out there, you know?” said Brian Keiser, Owner of Kids Choice Sports, an organization with youth flag football.
Keiser coaches kids 2 to 12 here at Como Lake Park and at Ellicott Creek Park and says flag football teaches the same techniques as tackle with less risk.
"There’s a high demand for flag football, we almost can’t keep up with that demand, it’s a great way to maximize fun and minimize the chance of injury," said Keiser.
But Turpin says his numbers are up as well—and his environment is a safe one.
"Give us a chance. This is a great game. Bring those kids in, let them play flag football. Once they learn the game and see my kid’s good at that, let them play," said Turpin.
Turpin says NEYSA works with USA Football’s head’s up program to make the sport as safe as possible.
"We’re training our coaches, we’re training our parents, we’re training and educating our kids. Oh you want water? Are you a weaky? You need water? We’re not doing that anymore, so we learn, and as we learn we get a better understanding of how to make the game as safe as we can," said Turpin.
So we want to hear from you, let us know what do you think? Would you let your child play tackle football? Or are you leaning more toward flag football for safety reasons? Vote below.
To join Kids For Choice's flag football program, click here for more information. To join tackle football at NEYSA, click here for more information. For more info about the Concussion Legacy Foundation and Brett Favre's PSA, click here.