The Observer

MCPS football programs take hit due to injuries

Photo+courtesy+of+Max+Mantz.
Photo courtesy of Max Mantz.

Photo courtesy of Max Mantz.

Photo courtesy of Max Mantz.

By Jackson Resnick, Social Media Editor

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High school football is a staple of American culture. It is a classic way for teenagers to hang out together while cheering loud and proud for their football team and their school. This cultural mammoth has lived on to this day, but has recently experienced a drop-off in participation. Now, however, the future of  MCPS’ “Friday Night Lights” may be in question.

 

The risks of youth football have always been understood among parents. But with more alarming statistics and studies surrounding the health concerns of the game, MCPS parents are struggling to reconcile the dangerous injuries football can present with the joy the sport brings.

 

“I see a lot of media coverage about how fewer kids are enrolling in football,” CHS football parent Erin Mantz said. “But when I look around at private leagues and see so many five-year-olds headed onto the field, I’m not convinced football is falling by the wayside.”

 

Some of the NFL’s greatest players such as Jerry Rice, Barry Sanders and Emmitt Smith come from underprivileged families in poor neighborhoods. For many aspiring athletes, playing football provides an opportunity for a free education that many their families could not have afforded otherwise. Under these circumstances, parents sometimes justify putting their child at risk in order to get a scholarship for an education.

 

MCPS ranks eleventh in the country on the list of counties with the highest median household incomes. Therefore, the need to use football as a way of obtaining a free education is less prevalent, as most families are able to pay for at least some portion of their child’s college education. However, the appeal of playing college football is still very much present and is a major factor in keeping that classic “Friday Night Lights” spirit alive.

 

“As long as there is football at the professional and college level, football will continue to be present within the county,” athletic trainer Gabrielle Haubenstricker said. “If popularity at those higher competition levels decrease then it will trickle down to the high school level in my opinion.”

 

Since the 2013 high school football season, the size of the CHS football team has decreased by nine players each year. Many other schools across the county have seen a very similar drop. Factors influencing this significant drop include the obvious concussion risks and the many other safety risks of football, as well as the lack of commitment among teenagers that are not willing to put in the hard work year-round that a sport like football demands.

 

According to Prevacus, a pharmaceutical company developing treatments for concussions, for one mild concussion is sustained in every American high school football game. High school football has also been proven to have the highest concussion rate out of any other sport.

 

In addition, Prevacus’ studies show that concussions amongst teenagers have doubled in the last decade. While there are even more concussions being reported every day, studies are also showing that these traumatic brain injuries increase the likelihood of obtaining a permanent neurological disability by 39 percent. It is statistics like these that are discouraging parents from signing their kids up for football.

“I do not have any objective data to confirm whether or not that statistics is valid or not,” Haubenstricker said. “However, I can tell you that there was not a concussion every football game hosted at CHS.”

 

The recent spike in football concussion data has even spurred up some debate in the Maryland Courts. A bill is currently in the works of being passed in the state of Maryland that would ban the playing of tackle football until kids turn 14. The bill is intended to prevent kids from sustaining brain damage early on their lives in an attempt to better their lives in the future.

 

This bill proves the legitimacy of the decline in youth football in our area. Not only are parents willing to take their kids out of football, but the government is willing to put an outright ban on it.

 

“A ban on tackle football before kids go to high school would ruin the spirit and fun of high school football for us players,” junior lineman Nick Wagman said. “It would destroy any last hope for a rebirth in MCPS football.”

Although the statistics may swing one way, the feeling of a fan in the stands or a player of the field may stick around a little longer, defying the data.

 

“Football has a timeless spirit and sense of excitement that brings the school and community together,” CHS football parent Erin Mantz said. “It was true when I was in high school watching football games in the 80’s, and it’s true now.”

 

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MCPS football programs take hit due to injuries