Add Flag Football leagues to Santa Barbara High School athletic programs.

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Our community is requesting that our local high schools, SBHS, SMHS and DPHS add Flag Football California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) division leagues to their athletic programs.  

 In our  community, flag football leagues provide team opportunities for 1st through 8th grades, and adult leagues begin at 18 years of age. High school students deserve the opportunity to competitively play the game they have grown to love, without being limited by the costly and increasingly dangerous tackle football option.

This petition will illustrate the dangers of tackle football and identify the benefits of flag football to support the creation of a flag football alternative for high school-aged students.

NFL-style, tackle football is proven to be detrimental to the health of its players. In the United States experts claim that the game is getting increasingly safer, that the advanced helmet technology and rule changes are helpful; but helmets only protect the outer skull during a collision, they cannot keep the brain from slamming into its container.

In layman’s terms...the brain floats on its stem in fluid inside your skull. 

 When the skull stops suddenly, twists violently, or takes a blow, the floating brain can smack or abrade against the rough inside of the skull. At this point researchers believe that the brain tissue can become damaged and a protein called “tau” can become present. A person with damaged brain tissue from these sub-concussive hits may think everything is normal because symptoms [of concussion] are often not present with these smaller hits. This is the part researchers find troubling because, without symptoms, the athlete subjects his brain to further hits, thus compounding an already serious problem. As time goes on, this tau protein spreads and begins to interfere with the proper functioning of the brain. This is the nightmare known as CTE, (1).

 Doctors have found that Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) is caused by accruing concussions over a period of time. Doctors are now observing that repeated sub-concussive blows are also causing CTE (1). Sub-concussive blows are considered as: “the kind (of blows) that occur routinely when athletes head the ball in soccer, check each other in hockey, and hit and tackle in football. This means someone can develop CTE without ever sustaining a concussion,” (1) which means any abrupt hit can create the environment for CTE to develop.

The threat is insidious and difficult to measure because the disease “doesn’t typically develop right away. It can take decades, often presenting itself long after risky activity has ceased. Its symptoms include memory loss, confusion, impaired judgement, paranoia, impulse control problems, aggression, depression, and eventually progressive dementia,” (1).

In early March of 2016, Jeff Miller, the N.F.L.’s senior vice president for health and safety policy confirmed there is a link between football and degenerative brain disorders like C.T.E,. “This signaled a stunning about-face for the league, which has been accused by former players and independent experts of hiding the dangers of head injuries for decades (3).”

 The youth of our society look to adults to guide them, and they inevitably move towards what is available. “Increasingly, medical researchers are finding that the long-term neurological defects of football start at the youth level, and increase with each year of participation” (2). There have been major shifts in guiding children under the age of 14 to play flag football. Starting in 9th grade, tackle football is available for high school players and flag football is not. It is unclear why 9th grade is an acceptable time to allow young, growing brains to engage in risky sports. We would not allow our children to drink alcohol or do drugs at this age, so that their brains can more fully develop. Why would we risk the chance of them accruing tau proteins in the brain?

Flag football is a commendable sport. It requires clear tactics, teamwork, agility, speed, and coordination. It is equitable and accessible to more students. 

 The essential elements of the game remain, including the grace, beauty and athleticism, albeit without the bone crunching, brain scrambling hits, blocks, and tackles... The fact is, virtually every benefit that can be derived from tackle football can still be taught and absorbed through participation in flag football. Players will still be on teams to learn sacrifice, personal responsibility, and teamwork. And the game will continue to be wonderfully entertaining, but in a different, less brutal (and expensive) way. (1) John Gerdy  

 We need to give our youth the opportunity to choose health, fun, sportsmanship, and team-building all at the same time. Longevity is a foresight that young minds are not capable of, so adults need to create the framework for their life-long well being.  We need to inform them of the consequences of repetitive concussive and sub-concussive hits and what those collisions have proven to do to the strongest of players. We need to make in-depth CTE education mandatory for anyone entering the world of contact sports and help youth understand the importance of brain functionality, not just for today, but for their futures.

 We need a four-year high school flag football program, and we need it now.



2) by John McDermott


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