The Truth Behind High School Football – Football Safety Series

The 2016 high school football season is on the horizon, and in some states practice begins this month. With over 1 million players, high school football is still wildly popular, but participation is declining, some schools have dropped their football programs, and some doctors are calling for a ban on tackle football in high schools. Why? We know more about the long-term consequences of concussions in football players, and the sheer number of students that are dying on the field.

20 Football-Related Deaths in 2015

In October of last year, we told you about three high school football players who died over the course of a single week. The numbers only got worse. According to the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research’s final report for 2015, there were 20 football-related deaths in students ranging from age 9 through 25. Here are some highlights from the report:

  • Fourteen of those who died were high school football players.
  • All seven who died as a result of injuries, such as brain injury or broken neck, were high school athletes.
  • Of the 10 student football players who died of “indirect causes”, such as heart attack or heat stroke, one was a college player, six were in high school, one was a middle school player, and two were in youth league.
  • There were three non exertion-related deaths. One was a high school football player, two were college players.

Just Part of the Game for Who?

There are some who say that permanent injuries and death are just part of the game. Not just fans. Players, coaches, and even parents are known to buy into this line of thought. But for those who have been involved in fatal plays, and those who have suffered the consequences of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), it’s a different story.

On December 19, 2015, Zac Easter shot and killed himself after years of suffering with symptoms of CTE. He started playing football in third grade, and played for 10 years before his third concussion took him out of the game permanently. Before his death, Easter told his family that he wanted his brain donated to CTE research. He left extensive journals detailing what he went through and his desire to help other young athletes avoid his fate. When he shot himself, Easter made sure he did not damage his brain.

In November, 2015, the American Academy of Pediatrics released its new guidelines for youth football safety and recommended that players “decide whether the benefits of playing outweigh the risks of possible injury.”

About Sandra Dalton

With a background as a paralegal, focusing on criminal defense and civil rights, Sandra Dalton launched her freelance writing career in 2000 with a weekly column on Freedom for Suite 101 and pro bono projects for individuals and organizations supporting causes close to her heart. One of her first projects was for the Police Compliant Center writing about police misconduct. Sandra’s legal writing quickly expanded to include personal injury, animal welfare, criminal defense, disability discrimination, family law and much more.