MEDICAL: CONDITIONS: CONCUSSIONS : SPORTS: FOOTBALL: HIGH SCHOOL : PARTICIPATION RATES : UNITED STATES: STATES: CALIFORNIA: California High School Football: Concussions Spike, Participation Drops

David P. Dillard
 

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MEDICAL: CONDITIONS: CONCUSSIONS :

SPORTS: FOOTBALL: HIGH SCHOOL :

PARTICIPATION RATES :

UNITED STATES: STATES: CALIFORNIA:

California High School Football: Concussions Spike, Participation Drops

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California High School Football: Concussions Spike, Participation Drops

By Matthias Gafni and Joyce Tsai

POSTED: 08/26/2016 12:00:11 PM PDT

The Mercury News

Bay Area News

http://www.mercurynews.com/bay-area-news/ci_30294524/ exclusive-concussions-up-high-school-football-participation-down

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A shorter URL for the above link:

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http://tinyurl.com/jm6yky6

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As high school football teams around the Bay Area kicked off their season this weekend, new statistics show the king of all prep sports, battered by head trauma headlines and parental pressure, is drawing fewer players than it did a decade ago amid a dramatic increase in concussion diagnoses.

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High school football participation in California is down 7 percent over the past decade, with some schools dropping teams or even their entire football programs, according to hospital and high school athletics statistics compiled by this newspaper. Every other major high school sport has seen participation grow over that period, and for the first time, track and field has more athletes, knocking football off its pedestal.

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"Given the disproportionate number of serious injuries I've seen related to tackle football, I have very real concerns about allowing my son to play the sport," he said of his elementary school-aged child.

Make no mistake, football isn't the only sport impacted by concussions; the state's medical stats do not break the concussion numbers down by sport. Some youth soccer leagues, for instance, have implemented rules barring players from "heading" the ball. However, there are in general fewer concerns about head trauma among soccer players, and participation in the sport statewide has increased by almost 16 percent since 2006, with 99,044 boys and girls playing last year, according to California Interscholastic Federation statistics.

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Amid the sobering concussion numbers, football -- which remains the most dangerous mainstream youth sport, according to studies -- has fallen to become the second most popular sport on high school campuses. With overall participation numbers falling, youth sports officials are paying attention.

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Since the NFL implemented its new concussion protocol amid much publicity in 2007, fewer high school athletes have chosen to play the sport. In California, 100,538 mostly boys snapped on chin straps last year, down from a high of 108,065 in 2006. The new most popular high school sport, track and field, had 101,851 boys and girls competing last school year, a 15 percent increase since 2006.

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"The reason I think the youth football numbers have dropped is due to the issue of concussions," said Roger Blake, California Interscholastic Federation executive director. "Parents, rightfully so, are asking questions and have concerns."

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Blake, whose agency oversees the state's high school athletics, said the drop was precipitated by parents pulling their boys from Pop Warner and youth tackle leagues years ago.

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"Now those kids are in high school," Blake said. According to data from the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, 1.52 million youths nationwide ages 6-12 played tackle football in 2009, but the numbers for that group dropped to 1.23 million last year.

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Mission San Jose High School in Fremont dropped its entire football program -- freshman, junior varsity and varsity teams -- this year because of fewer kids participating. It wasn't sudden; the school competed with 40 players last year, down from 99 in 2009, according to state data.

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"I do think the concussion concerns are a reality and did contribute to the decline in numbers over the past few years," said Tom Thomsen, the school's athletic director.

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The complete article may be read at the URL above.

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