Three players, all dead, and within the same week of high school football games. The tragic losses of these student athletes in Alabama, New York and North Carolina have reignited questions about whether full-contact football is too dangerous for children and teens. High school football is a revered American tradition that brings communities together beneath the Friday night lights, but at what cost? What should parents be aware of when deciding whether their children should be allowed to play football?
Children and teens don't have fully developed brains, making them more vulnerable to concussions and brain injuries. In addition, children and teens don't have fully developed necks when compared to adults, which means they're also more likely to suffer structural head and neck injuries. Girls are even more vulnerable to head injuries than boys, although few girls play high school football.
Researchers have found that most high school football players die from non-traumatic causes such as overheating and heart conditions. The National Center for Catastrophic Sports injury Research examined deaths of high school and college players from 1990 through 2010. The organization's study found that of 243 football deaths, only 62 were due to brain injury.
Hydration and discretion during practice can protect people from heat exhaustion and heat stroke. However, parents of football players must communicate with their local coaches to make sure players are coached properly during hot weather.
The game is becoming safer. New rules at all levels of the game are protecting players from situations where traumatic injuries are most likely to occur. In addition, innovations to helmets and padding are offering more protection.