Football’s Concussion Crisis


Addie Townsend

A Travelers Rest player braces for impact of the three oncoming Blue Ridge Players

Football has been the top dog of sports in America for decades and will likely continue to be for a  long time. However, recent numbers from the past seven years suggest that the number of players for high school football teams are dropping. Why are participation levels in America’s favorite sport declining?

One of the main reasons is safety. Some parents have reached a point where they will not allow their kids to try out for football because they fear a concussion.  George Harrelson, one of the football coaches at Travelers Rest, shared his perspective on the situation. “My son wanted to play football, but I would not let him play football until he was in seventh grade.” Multiple concussions can even lead to permanent brain damage that can impair someone’s thinking.

Concussions have been a problem for a long time, but recently a large amount of awareness been raised about the real dangers they pose. Harrelson added that, “Back when I played we got them. But we didn’t really know what they were.” With awareness tends to come fear, maybe not just to the high school athletes, but to their parents as well. Most of the time, a player won’t come out of the game for fear of losing their starting spot. Joseph Rosenthal, the clinical assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at The Ohio State University, says that “if they continue to play while symptomatic, they are at risk for a second impact that can lead to severe disability and death.” Although death cases are rare, it only takes one case to cause a decline in participation. 

Doug Pensinger
A head to head collision between Boise State and Colorado State

Despite the increasing awareness, the numbers of concussions in high school athletes aren’t dropping. There has actually been a 71% increase in rough, sport-related concussions for athletes ages 10-19 since 2010. Even with all of the new helmet technology being invented, concussion cases are not decreasing. Rosenthal thinks this is due to the fact that concussions are diagnosed more consistently than they were in the past. Even if that is true, the fear of brain damage is not going to decrease until concussion cases drastically do so. Only then, will we see football return to its former glory and numbers begin to rise once again.