Study suggests kids stick with flag football until high school to minimize brain injury

FRESNO, California -- On the field at Clovis High, it is apparent the players have a love for the game of football. But that love can come at a high cost.

All it takes is one hard hit to leave them with a severe head injury.

A new 27-page study from Aspen Institute is trying to change that reality, suggesting players under the age of 14 stick with flag football to minimize brain injury.

RELATED: Playing football at early age linked to health risks of CTE

Dr. Jennifer Crocker, medical director of pediatric rehabilitation at Valley Children's Hospital, supports the research. She says the brain is continually growing and developing in children between the ages of 10 and 12. And she believes exposure to head impacts will increase medical problems down the line.

"We see kids that have an emotional disturbance, cognitive delays, and even depression later on, and we really promote flag football for the skills versus the impact," Crocker said.

It's an impact Toran Maronic knows all too well. At the age of 16, he spent five days in a coma and nearly a month at Valley Children's after suffering a traumatic brain injury at football camp.

RELATED: All parents must be alert for concussions, doctor says

But while the injury took Maronic away from the sport permanently, he does not agree with taking a child away from the traditional experience.

"You can suffer a concussion or brain injury doing anything, so if we're going to stop kids from under 14 playing contact football are we also not going to let them drive in cars in anymore?" Maronic said.

Michael Hauser, a parent, and football coach understands the concerns. However, he says there are other ways to reduce injury.

"I've coached for the last six years, and if it's coached right with the basics and proper technique on tackling and right equipment then its safe for the kids," Hauser said.
Copyright © 2022 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.