The Olympics are unlike any other sporting competition on the planet. For 16 days, over 300 events representing 35 sports and every country on the planet compete to take home their prized medals, and I have looked forward to watching the Summer Olympics every 4 years since as far back as I can remember. But there’s always been something missing. One of the United States most popular sports, and a top 10 sport throughout the world, it looks as though tackle and flag football could be Olympic sports by the year 2024, but issue obstacles still remain for that to become a reality. First we’ll walk through some reasons why the road to getting American Football included into the Olympics has not been an easy journey, followed by why we believe flag football to be the logical solution and choice as a future Olympic sport.
WHY ISN’T AMERICAN FOOTBALL ALREADY AN OLYMPIC SPORT?
According to an article by NFL.com, the biggest logistical problems facing the sport of American Football being included in the Olympics are very similar to that of Rugby. With the large numbers of participants on each team, the “gender equality” formats where both men and women participate in every sport, and the compressed 3 week schedule that would be tough with a more physical game like football and rugby. Furthermore for American Football, the barrier to entry is high due to it’s cost to equip all players with pads and gear, and therefor has also been slow to adopt in many foreign countries, especially of the poorer variety.
Knowing all this, it’s hard to see how either sport would be a good fit for the Summer Olympics. Rugby is a lot like Soccer in that very little is needed to play the sport in terms of gear and practice at it’s base level, and has a much larger international following. This among other reasons has recently allowed Rugby to be cleared for the Olympics starting in 2016 by changing the traditional style to a less traditional “sevens” format which is faster paced with less people, which could help carve a similar path for American Football, or flag football more specifically.
TACKLE SAFETY CONCERNS
Even more and more high school, college and pro teams are starting to reduce the number of contact practices, still sporting the likes of soft-padded headgear and shoulder pads for added protection. But what if we could limit the contact players see before high school and middle school while also addressing some of the concerns for the sport related to it being fully accepted into the Olympics?There’s a lot of talk recently revolving around the safety of tackle football, and not just in the NFL where concussions are a major concern. Starting as far back as the youth football level, recent evidence has surfaced supporting the idea that even short of a concussion, repeated head impacts and collision can manifest in similar brain injuries later in life for kids tested between the ages of 8-13. Many researchers are suggesting kids shouldn’t be playing football at all, suggesting that kids’ heads are “a larger part of their body, and their necks are not as strong as adults’ necks. So kids may be at a greater risk of head and brain injuries than adults.”