As high school football seasons get underway in Southwestern Virginia, three high schools in Virginia entered this season with no football on their fields.
Manassas Park and Park View — suburban schools in Northern Virginia — no longer have varsity football along with Charles City. In nearby North Carolina, Chapel Hill, dropped its football program as did Bedford, KY, and Bladensburg, MD.
Several reasons account for the drop: Declining student enrollments, changing demographics, other sports alternatives and players choosing to specialize in just one sport, but a primary cause comes from the growing number of injuries suffered in the game, especially head trauma.
An extensive study of brains of deceased National Football players found 87 percent of the brains suffered a degenerative brain disorder because of repetitive head trauma.
The National Federation of State High School Associations says enrollment in football dropped by 20,000 students between 2016 and 2017 and enrollment in the last decade is down 6.6 percent nationwide.
A study of student athletes by Boston University in 2017 found that kid who began playing tackle football at age 12 or younger had more behavioral and cognitive problems later in life.
BU found those you participated in youth football before the age of 12 suffered a twofold “risk of problems with behavioral regulation, apathy and executive function and a threefold risk of “clinical elevated depression.”
Students at high schools and colleges have died on the field during practice sessions and in games. Jordan McNair, a student football athlete at the University of Maryland, died in June of this year after collapsing on the field. In 2015, seven high school football students died in football games or practice at American schools in just seven weeks.
Wake Forest School of Medicine said magnetic resonance imaging technology found that boys between the ages of 8 and 23 for just one season suffered diminished brain functions.
The Pop Warner youth football league is fighting a class-action lawsuit that claims the program knowingly put young players in danger by ignoring the risks of head trauma.
Ivy League schools decided last year to eliminate tackling at practices during the regular season, as does the Canadian Football League.
“The curiosity about head injuries and the correct age to play full contact is peaking,” Terry O’Neill, founder of Practice Like the Pros, which recommends only flag football in the sixth grade and limited tackling in 7th and 8th grade games.
“Tackling is the culprit,” O’Neill adds. “Everybody associated with the game is worried about the numbers.”
The National Football League has been slow to react to studies in head trauma, even thogh studies show extreme trauma issue associated with both scholastic, collegiate and professional football.
Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is linked to the hits to the head that occur in tackle football on both the amateur and professional levels; studies show that CTE can lead to, among other things, dementia and depression.
Increasingly, studies show, parents now think twice before letting their children participate in tackle football in middle schools or high schools.
Bladensburg, MD, announced it won’t be fielding a football team this year because of safety concerns. Other schools report they are withholding their children from participation because of the same concerns.