Kentucky School Advocate
By Matt McCarty
Football-related injuries have resulted in as many as five reported high school football deaths in the country this season.
“When those things happen it makes everybody check what they’re doing,” KHSAA Commissioner Julian Tackett said. “We have a lot of injuries in other sports, we just don’t have a lot of fatalities so it’s always going to magnify what happens in football.”
Woodford County coach Dennis Johnson, who played three seasons in the NFL, said while safety is always a concern, “you can never fully prevent it and you are devastated when something like that happens.
“I don’t think you can worry about it. I think you have to teach them, just like anything else, driving a car. You teach, try to give them all the safety features and what not to do and just hope and pray that they’ll be sound,” Johnson said. “But you can’t, I don’t think in the game of football, which is such a live, physical, unknown sport, you can never say it’s never going to happen because you just don’t know that.”
That reality could be one reason why the number of high school students playing football is on the decline.
According to data released by the National Federation of State High School Athletic Associations, high school football participation declined 2.4 percent nationally from 2009 to 2014. In Kentucky, the decline was 5.2 percent.
Tackett, however, said Kentucky’s figure is misleading because the KHSAA recently went to electronic rosters and the numbers are more accurate now than they were in 2009. He said the numbers in Kentucky are stable. He also said he wonders if the national numbers of about 25,000 fewer participants spread across 14,000-plus high schools is overblown, noting that it’s only 1.4 players per school.
“Is it really a decline or is that 25,000 just a number people grab a hold of?” Tackett asked.