Youth Football Numbers Show Cause for Concern

In the wake of three high school football players dying from injuries in the last month, the sport of football is being viewed differently these days.

According to ESPN Outside the Lines, “USA Football, a national governing body partially funded by the NFL, said participation among players ages 6 to 14 fell from 3 million to 2.8 million in 2011, at a 6.7 percent decline.”

Steve Chandler, Ph.D Physical Education, is not surprised and sees concussion reports and the recent deaths of two high school players as a contributing factor.

“Its not a new issue,” Chandler said. “Its just one that’s coming to light again.”

Russell Barbarino, director of strength and conditioning at Florida A&M University, believes that the trend can be debunked the trend.

“Social media is helping bring awareness to it,” Barbarino said.

Despite reports tying the decline in youth football participation to the menacing reports of football and its connections to brain damage, Brian Smatt, athletic supervisor for Tallahassee, thinks otherwise.

Smatt sees that youth are beginning to specialize in sports that can be played all year as opposed to just seasonal.

“Sports that are year around like travel baseball and soccer,” Smatt said. “Compared to five years ago we may not be where we were in participation but the past two years have been the same.”

Pop warner of the Big Bend, who has also saw a decline in their participation, has partnered with USA Football and its Heads Up Football program.  

The Heads Up Football program is a complete source of resources, programs, applications and promotional tools that equip football coaches with ways to tackle health and safety issues in youth and high school football.

“We’ve adopted several components of ‘Heads up Football’ like proper tackling techniques” Smatt said. “We’ve also partner with (TOC) Tallahassee Orthopedic Clinic.”

According to the Annual Survey of Football Injury Research, there has only been 2 deaths due to football since 2010 in youth football. The study also suggests that youth are not likely to suffer from concussions during football.

“We see injuries like bell rung and sprains, nothing too serious,” Smatt said.

Barbarino is all too familiar with the fears that parents may have when their kids participate in football. Barbarino has two boys that participate in youth football.  

“It is every parent fear that their child may get hurt,” Barbarino said.

Nevertheless, it is a universal understanding that football can be a violent and rough sport, but the popularity in America may stifle the mass exodus.