High School Football Participation Increases Despite High Risk of Concussions

While high school sports are an integral part of the fabric of American society — over five million student athletes participate in sports in any school year — some high school athletic programs, such as football, pose a higher risk of serious injury compared to others. However, regardless of the high incidence of football-related concussions, enrollment in high school football continues to rise.

There are a growing number of student athletes choosing to play high school football, even as numerous scientific studies link concussions to long-term health issues. In 2013, the National Federation of State High School Associations reported an increase in high school football participation, with 1.1 million boys and girls playing the sport after a nearly five year slump.

The federation’s executive director, Bob Gardner, says the increase is reflective of the fact that many parents have been reassured and feel confident football can be played without a high risk of brain injury. In fact, concussion management has been stressed on both the state and national levels. The federation has even gone as far as to change rules in hope of reducing injury. Also, each U.S. state has a law requiring specific concussion protocols.

“With the precautions that are in place nationwide to address concussions in all high school sports, including football, we have maintained that the risk of injury is as low as it ever has been,” Gardner explained.

While parents continue to weigh the benefits of participation in high school football against the risk of serious injury, there is still growing concern.

This season alone, at least four high school football players died as a result of head trauma. Seventeen players died due to direct or indirect causes while playing high school football in 2013, according to the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research.

A number of former NFL players, including Kurt Warner, have expressed their concern regarding children and young adults playing football. NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Terry Bradshaw hopes to see fundamental changes to the game in the future which will decrease the risk of head injury.

For now, it seems that parents and their children will continue participating in the sport with a sense of cautious optimism and enthusiasm.

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