Survey: high school football participation on the decline

OKLAHOMA CITY - High school football is seeing a drop in participation nationwide and statewide, according to a new survey, and concerns about concussions may be to blame.

Just as Friday night football season is getting underway, the National Federation of State High School Associations released a survey showing that participation at the highs school level continues to drop.

Since the 2009-10 season, there are 7% fewer kids on the gridiron. That same survey also shows that in the past three years, Oklahoma participation dropped by 15%.

Many believe this is due to growing concern over concussions. Dr. Melinda Cail M.D. said the medical community is just beginning to see the longterm damage concussions can cause.

“Their brains are still developing for many years so we don`t know what the long term ramifications of that will be,” Dr. Cail said, “major long term ramifications with psychiatric problems, with predisposition to drug abuse, and violent behavior.

In a statement in response to the statistics, the executive director of the NFHS, Karissa Niehoff, said in part, “thanks to the concussion protocols and rules in place in every state in the country, the sport of football is as safe as it ever has been.”

A sentiment mirrored by Putnam North varsity coach Brian Lockart.

“I just think it depends on what coaches you have with the kids, what you`re teaching them, proper tackling techniques, fundamental safety and procedure,” Lockart said.

He said he hasn’t seen a decline.

“But I do have people that I know who as parents, they feel it`s more comfortable to wait until their kid gets to the middle school level and then introduce them to the game,” Lockart said.

Parents we spoke to acknowledge that football can lead to injury, saying that’s the same as any sport, and that with the right precautions in place, their kids are safe to play the game they love.

“Being part of a team football, there’s nothing like it,” said parent Lantz Kemp. “I`ll let him play until he says he doesn`t want to play.”