A high school in Rockport, about an hour north of Portland, has canceled the rest of the school’s football season – and next year’s too – amid “serious safety concerns” attributed to a reduced number of players.
Players, speaking recently to The Boston Globe, are bitterly disappointed. They argue even if they suffered major losses on the field, they shouldn’t be denied the opportunity to play. But school administrators say it wasn’t the scoreboard that concerned them. Rather, it was the risk of injury to players.
The superintendent in an open letter explained several team members had sustained injuries early on in the season, and two of those incidents led to trips to the emergency room. She also said a number of players were afraid to go on the field, though they would not admit so publicly. The number of players had dwindled substantially in recent years, and the school says that meant players were young and inexperienced and often going up against bigger, stronger, older players.
These concerns can’t be discounted, despite protests from the team, especially in light of what has been a perilous year for those in high school football. Since September, four student athletes in Oklahoma, Washington, Louisiana and New Jersey have died as a result of injuries sustained while playing football. Also recently, another student died in Georgia after collapsing during practice.
The school said it will revisit the decision in two years, but for now, there will be no team, no practice and no games.
Such concerns aren’t limited to high school sports. The National Football League is currently paying some retired players up to $5 million each for serious injuries and medical conditions incurred as a result of head trauma from repeated hits on the field.
Recently, the American Journal of Sports Medicine researched the issue and found catastrophic brain injuries in football is a far more serious risk for high school players than for those who compete at the college level. Further, the study asserted high school players have an extremely high rate of ongoing ailments due to previous head injuries.
In nearby Massachusetts, it was reported the number of head injuries among high school football players was up 25 percent during the 2013-2015 school years, reaching a total of 14,000.
Nationally, the number of high school football players has fallen by 25,000 since 2010. In Maine particularly, participation in the sport has fallen by 11 percent since 2011. Coaches blame the media for the decrease in participation, but there is substantial evidence indicating the rate of head trauma for the sport is unacceptably high. Many parents and students aren’t willing to take the risk.
During the 2013-2014 season nationally, nine high school football players died due to indirect causes, such as heatstroke, according to USA Today. Meanwhile, no players during that season died at the college or professional level. In fact, high school players have a catastrophic injury rate that is three times that of college players. Researchers say this could be the result of several factors, including:
- Older helmets and other protective equipment.
- Teenage brains are not yet fully mature, and therefore more susceptible to a condition known as “second-impact syndrome.”
- Lack of athletic trainers, which are present in less than 40 percent of all high school football programs. These are health professionals trained to recognize concussions and keep injured players from continuing to play.
If your child has been injured while playing high school sports, call us today to learn more about your rights.
Student injury victims should contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-804-2004 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.
Fearful of injuries, a Maine high school cancels football, Oct. 16, 2015, By Stan Grossfeld, The Boston Globe
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