Resources for Teachers and Students
FOR THE WEEK OF OCT. 05, 2015
Injury risks and slipping interest reshape high school football’s status in some districts
Read any sports coverage and list advantages and drawbacks of team athletics.
Try to find a quote from an athlete at any level that shows his or her emotions, or what it feels like to compete.
Look for news about another potentially risky activity. Discuss what’s done, or could be done, to make it safer.
A Friday night American tradition is changing – dramatically in some cases. Football-related injuries cause growing concern in school districts across the country, and many are debating whether to keep their teams. Schools in Maine, Missouri and New Jersey have canceled or cut short their seasons this year due to injuries or low student interest. The total number of high school students playing football across America has dropped by more than 25,000 over the past five years – although nearly 1.1 million teens still take the field.
Last year, five high school football players and one at the college level died directly from game or practice injuries. The total so far this year is three teens – including 17-year-old quarterback Evan Murray of Warren Hills Regional High School in Washington Township, N.J., who died from a lacerated spleen after being hit in a game Sept, 26. In Detroit, a high school junior is paralyzed after an accident during football practice in early September. Eddie Hammonds, 16, received a head and neck injury when he was tackled.
Various safety concerns exist. Older equipment and helmets in some district don't meet the same standards as in college or professional games, experts say. Another factor is that developing teenage brains are more susceptible to injury from concussions. Schools also have inconsistent standards, with some not requiring specialist trainers and paramedics at games.
This month's homecoming game at Maplewood Richmond Heights High School in Missouri will be a soccer match. The school dropped football as unsafe. So many players were hurt last fall that the team had to forfeit a game. Only 14 active players were on the roster at season's end, down from 40 seven years ago. "One of our students suffered a head injury that put him out the rest of the season," recalls the school board president, "and then we had at least one broken ankle."
20-year toll: 77 students have died from direct injuries during high school gridiron games since 1995, an average of just under four each year.
Parent says: "If he wants to play, he's going to play. . . . It's being able to watch your kid just enjoy what they enjoy doing." – Nicole Frey, Washington Township, N.J., talking about her 10-year-old, Tyler
Journalist says: “Coaches are having kind of a more difficult time attracting quality players" – Sean Gregory, Time magazine
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