MAPLEWOOD, Mo. (CBS St. Louis) — High school football is taking a hit across the U.S. due to safety issues.
CBS News reports that the number of high school students playing football has dropped by more than 25,000 over the past five years. Schools in Missouri, New Jersey and Maine have either canceled or cut short their seasons because of injuries or low student interest.
“One of our students suffered a head injury that put him out the rest of the season, and then we had at least one broken ankle,” Maplewood, Missouri, School Board President Nelson Mitten told CBS News.
The Maplewood Blue Devils had a high school football tradition, making it to the state championships in 2010.
Mitten explained to CBS News that they had to forfeit a game last year because so many players were hurt. There were only 14 active players on the roster when the season ended, down from 40 seven years ago.
“The board did an assessment of interest in the program, found that there were probably insufficient students to maintain a team, and decided to cancel the team for this year,” he said.
Maplewood sophomore Isaac Pearson is on the school’s soccer team because his mom didn’t want him to get hurt playing football.
“My mom’s like … soccer’s your thing. She doesn’t want me to get hurt, too. But soccer’s just something I really liked,” he said. His older brother played football at Maplewood.
Time magazine senior writer Sean Gregory told CBS News that the downward trend in high school football will continue.
“Youth participation is declining, high school participation is declining. This trend is going to continue,” he said.
Gregory continued, “I’m not ready to call ‘Friday Night Lights’ off in the next 10 years, but I wouldn’t be surprised if coaches are having kind of a more difficult time attracting quality players.”
Three high school football players in the U.S. have died so far this season.
A new report found that 96 percent of former NFL players tested positive for chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a brain disease associated with repeated head injuries.