Should kids play tackle football?

Should kids play tackle football? »Play Video

EUGENE, Ore. - Michelle Phillipo's 8th and 10th grade boys both play football.

"Granted this is a very physical sport, but for me, the benefits outweigh it so much," she said. "They are a part of something, they are a part of a community, it keeps them in school.

"The reality is, is you can get a concussion anywhere."

Pop Warner football has seen an almost 10 percent decrease in registration in the last few years.

Parents across the country are questioning whether or not to allow their children to play football as college and pro players speak out about the lasting effects of head injuries.

That's not been the case in Lane County. Bev Smith from Kids Sports said they've seen an increase in tackle football registration this year compared to last.

"The big question is when should kids start playing tackle football, and the answer is no one really knows," said Dr. Michael Koester, who specializes in sports medicine. Koester recently won the 2013 award of merit from the National Federation of State High School Associations for his work helping high schools keep their athletes safe.

Koester said conventional wisdom says kids bounce back from injuries quicker.

When it comes to head injuries, that's not the case.

"When it comes to brain injuries like concussions, not only may they be more vulnerable but it often takes them longer to get better than adults," he said.

Koester said concussions normally last around 2-3 weeks. He said the main concern isn't with a child's first concussion, but when they've recieved a number of blows to the head.

Smith with Kids Sports said leagues need to look at preventative tactics. 

"Watching a lot of children, their ability to change direction to change speed is compromised because they don't have physical education in schools to help them be athletically prepared," she said. "So maybe we try and provide programs that teach them basic fundamental skills before we put them into pads and helmets."