by Kyle Cooke–
Dressing up for intramural flag football games seems, from a spectator’s point of view, somewhat ceremonious. Since the season for Virginia Tech is in the fall, many of the games- which are played at night- are very cold. Students wear layer upon layer, making sure that their jersey number (usually drawn on in black sharpie) is visible to the refs.
However, some of these rituals are controlled by the intramural sports department for safety reasons. For example, players are not allowed to wear shorts or pants with pockets on them.
“I have literally witnessed firsthand people dislocating fingers because of pockets,” said Jeff Feldhaus, intramural sports coordinator at Virginia Tech. “We don’t allow pockets or any exposed metal on player equipment.”
Pockets don’t seem too risky, but when the flags are worn at the players’ waist, it’s easy for fingers to get tangled in the process of “tackling” (pulling the flag). Players are also not allowed to wear hoodies because of the possibility that they are yanked down by the neck. If they do wear hoodies, which they often do because of the low temperatures, officials see that the hoods are tucked inside the sweatshirt.
Feldhaus added that injuries are at a much higher frequency in the outdoor sports, specifically flag football and soccer, although most of the injuries are minor bruises and scrapes. But he claims that the newly renovated South Recreation Area (SRA) fields, which now include turf as opposed to grass, have seen a decrease in injuries.
Chris Eyestone, the chief of Virginia Tech Rescue, however, says that following the addition of turf fields, VT rescue saw an increase in ankle and lower leg injuries. He also spoke to the prevalence of injuries related to intramural activities like football and soccer.
“We’ve seen everything from the most serious of compound fractures and major trauma resulting from sports injuries to the most minor ankle sprains,” Eyestone said. “But the volume of calls is pretty substantial out of the south rec fields.”
Eyestone says that just about 18 percent of the calls VT Rescue receives are related to intramural sports injuries. A majority of their calls involve alcohol abuse.
One referee said that he has seen a VT Rescue ambulance come to the SRA fields, pick up and injured player, leave, and then immediately pull a U-turn to pick up another injured student.
It’s not only college kids that are getting hurt, though. Many parents are making the switch from tackle football to flag football for their children and teens. According to the Wall Street Journal, the NFL-sponsored flag football program saw a 52 percent increase from 2011 to 2014.
In regards to preventing the minor injuries, Eyestone says that all intramural participants, regardless of sport, should stretch before, during and after the games. They should also stay hydrated throughout the day.