Missouri High School Cuts Football Program: Safety Concerns

Five years ago, Maplewood Richmond Heights High School saw its football team play in the state championship game. This year, the school’s football program has been officially disbanded amid growing safety concerns for student athletes. Students are being encouraged to participate in less dangerous sports, like soccer, which will see center stage as Maplewood’s homecoming game this year.

High school football programs have come under fire from concerned parents and health care officials in communities around the country according to a New York Times article.

Every year high school football players receive significant injuries both in practice and in play. Last season, five players died as a result of football-related injuries, while three players from schools in New Jersey, Louisiana, and Oklahoma have already sustained deadly injuries during the 2015 football season.

In Maplewood, the football program has steadily been declining since its championship season in 2010. Last year’s team had only 20 players and saw forfeitures due to injuries. When students were asked about a 2015 football program, just over a dozen students said they would try out for football, and only five players from last season were willing to play again.

SAFER SPORTS AND FEWER INJURIES ENTICE MO STUDENT ATHLETES

Nelson Mitten, president of the Maplewood School Board, said the decision to cut the school’s football program was the obvious choice “when you simply don’t have the players.” Two Maplewood families expressed their concerns about the school losing its football program, but no parents showed up at the board meeting to protest disbanding the team.

Alternative high school sports have been gaining popularity in school districts around the country, with soccer being one of the front runners. Parents are enrolling their children in city and school soccer programs from a young age. Betty Pearson, a Maplewood mom says, “The boys I’ve seen, they’re growing up with soccer. I come out and there are 10 kids kicking the ball around in the street.” These kids are choosing to continue with soccer in high school rather than switch to football.

HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL DECLINE MIGHT HAVE DOMINO EFFECT IN COLLEGE/PROS

A decline in high school football could have a negative impact on the sport’s future in both the college and professional realms. Roger Goodell of the National Football League says that new rules and regulations have made playing football much safer now than it was in the past. The NFL continues to donate funds to youth football leagues to encourage young athletes to pursue a football career, however safety protocols differ significantly from high school to college or professional.

College and professional teams are required to have medical staff onsite to immediately identify and treat injuries. Additionally, coaches are professionally trained to recognize signs of concussions and promote safe play. These standards are absent in many high schools, and the health and safety of high school football players suffers because of it.

With more school boards debating cutting or changing their high school football programs, Missouri parents may feel conflicted between choosing safety for their children and allowing their student athlete to pursue their football dreams. As parents, we all want what’s best for our kids. You can make a difference by getting involved with your school board’s discussions or by talking to the board, the principle, or the football coach about safety standards during play and practice.

If you have any legal questions about catastrophic school sports injuries and what you can do to protect your child’s rights to safe play, attorney Chris Faiella can offer you both advice and legal representation. Chris is managing partner at Tatlow, Gump, Faiella and Wheelan with offices across Missouri and Kansas. He offers personalized service and takes the time to get to know and care about you and your family while working with you. Contact Chris Faiella today.

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