The Maplewood Richmond Heights High School in Maplewood, Missouri has a long history of football popularity. In 2010, the team even went to the state championship.
But there is no football team at Maplewood this season. In the same way that schools in Camden, Maine, and Ridgefield, New Jersey have discovered, Maplewood has begun to have a difficult time finding enough players because of injuries and lack of interest. School board president Nelson Mitten said:
“When you have low numbers of students from a school this size, you’re drawing all the way from freshman to seniors. If we didn’t have the size, that can have a significant effect upon the possibility of injuries.”
Across the US, the number of high school football players has declined by 25,000 in the past five years. Five high school players died last year playing football — that number is higher than the number of players who died in college, semi-pro, or professional teams during the same time, reports the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injuries.
But Romelle Person, a Maplewood senior, says he misses the game. Football, to him, was fun and exciting. The annual homecoming game will take place this year, but the game before the dance will be a game of soccer.
At Warren Hills Regional High School in New Jersey, the star quarterback, Evan Murray, collapsed on the field after a hit and later died. This makes three high school players who have died from injuries in a game this season. The question is, according to Michael Gonchar, reporting for The New York Times, should high schools do away with football because too many players are getting injured?
In the article, Gonchar asks students 13 and older to answer several questions, including whether teenage brains not meant for such a hard-hitting sport, whether high schools have a responsibility to keep students safer than the NFL or colleges, and whether additional safety measures would be effective.
Tyrell Cameron, a sophomore at Franklin Parish High School in Louisiana, died on September 5 after a punt return hit. Ben Hamm, a 16-year-old linebacker at Wesleyan Christian School in Oklahoma, died September 19 after suffering a head injury during a game.
A study that examined deceased pro football players brains was published last October, finding that 96.2% suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy before their deaths. Jim Bourg of Reuters says interest in the sport of football is “beginning to wane.”
High schools, because of decreasing numbers of players, are facing serious safety issues when players get injured and they cannot field a team or when smaller, younger players are forced to be put in a game against older and bigger players. Mitten said the team at Maplewood had so many players hurt last fall that they had to forfeit a game. Only 14 active players were on the Maplewood roster at the end of the season, whereas seven years ago there were 40.