Among high school boys, football remains the most popular sport, with more than 1 million playing the game during the 2012-2013 school year. But in recent years, experts have raised concerns about the safety of the sport.
Headlines pointing to injury and death in high school football have raised scrutiny even more.
Tom Cutinella, 16, died recently after an on field collision with an opponent in a varsity football game. Cutinella, a junior at Shoreham-Wading River School on Long Island, who played guard/linebacker on the school’s football team, sustained a head injury in the third quarter of the game against John H. Glenn High School of Elwood, NY. Shortly before passing, the teen was taken to the hospital and placed in the intensive-care unit after undergoing surgery.
The Long Island teenager becomes the third U.S. high school football player to die in a week. In North Carolina, before a recent game, Isaiah Langston, 17, collapsed during warm-ups and died Monday. While in Alabama, a 17 year-old cornerback, Demario Harris Jr. collapsed after making a tackle and died after suffering a brain injury.
In the United States, each year an average of 12 high school and college football players die during practices and games, according to a new study by the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research that found heart conditions, heat and other non-traumatic causes of death are twice as common as injury-related ones.
Although City College of New York does not have a football team, many students on campus played in the past or follow professional teams and have mixed feelings about the sport’s safety. “I think every sport has some sort of danger,” says Jordan Lamache, 22, an advertising and psychology student. “In baseball people don’t consider it a dangerous sport, but recently Giancarlo Stanton, an MVP candidate got beamed in the face and suffered a laceration on left side of his cheek. Even a sport that is not considered dangerous, someone got hurt really bad.”
He admits that football has its dangers. “There is always going to be a risk no matter what you do; there’s just a higher risk with football,” he says. “But I think with good equipment and a lot of knowledge, you can reduce the risk.”
The NFL requires all players to take a medical exam at the beginning of the year. But high schools have no standard test for football players or medical personnel to be employed. Also, the NFL Players’ Association negotiated limits on tackling during practice, because of concussions that happen from player-to-player contact. Few high school leagues have matched these standards, though 90% of concussions in high school football happen from player-to-player contact.
Fran Kilinski, 20, thinks high school football needs to catch up. “They just need more precautions and make sure that the high school athletes are safe because they don’t have all the commodities that college football and the NFL have like injury prevention and all that stuff,” says Kilinski, CCNY basketball’s shooting guard. Still, he believes high school football is safe to a degree.
Others, too, have mixed feelings. “When you analyze high school sports in general, each sport has its danger points,” says David Morales, 20, a junior majoring in sociology. “I do believe that football puts kids at a higher risk just based on the fact that the injuries high school students receive are of the same intensity as those in the NFL.”