Should high school football be banned?

Posted at 10:44 AM, Dec 05, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-05 21:26:06-05

A new medical article about kids and concussions is reigniting the debate over whether high school football should be banned.

In an article in the medical journal Pediatrics, doctors debated the safety of high school football. ABC News reported the commentary in the article focused on exploring the risks of high school football by having three experts give an answer to a hypothetical scenario where a small-town pediatrician has to decide whether to advise canceling a football program.

The report says one in 14 high school football players will suffer at least one concussion -- that risk is 60 percent higher than the next sport. Football is the most popular among boys, with 1.1 million males playing the game.

While some are calling for the sport to be banned, others say there just needs to be more regulations to keep kids safe.

Dr. Mark Halstead of the St. Louis Children's Hospital said, "I think the discussion at the school is how are we going to approach the injury and dealing with it at a very appropriate level and we are taking the injury seriously."

Suggestions include having certified doctors on the sidelines at every game and getting rid of the kickoff return.

Team 10 asked a handful of school districts across San Diego County if banning high school football is something they've ever considered or discussed. A spokesperson for the county's largest district, San Diego Unified, responded, "San Diego Unified will continue to feature football as a sport for the foreseeable future."

A spokesperson for Grossmont Union High School District said they have not discussed banning football in any formal setting and a spokesperson for the Escondido Union High School District says they are not aware of any discussions about that.

Team 10 is still waiting on responses from several other districts.

Earlier this year, Team 10 collected concussion and traumatic brain injury data from school districts across the county.

Six districts responded with information, and their combined numbers show local students suffer hundreds of concussions each year playing high school sports.

However, new numbers show at least one district is decreasing the amount of football concussions, and technology could be playing a role.

The Agency for Student Health Research's technology InjureFree documents student-athlete injuries in real time.

According to the InjureFree website, the data, which is typically collected and entered by a coach or staff, "allows for the comparison of injury rates between schools and districts. It is a great tool that enables program administrators to monitor and compare injury rates to identify areas of improvement and proactively prevent injuries and improve performance."

Charlie Wund, president of InjureFree, said the San Dieguito Union High School District has been using the technology for about four years. According to the numbers, football concussions are now the lowest the district has seen since the 2013 season.

"This district has been going through these steps for the past four years, so they're getting to the point now where education, awareness [is] at an all-time high," said Wund. "People are trained to know how to deal with these situations and the communication piece so that when a child does have a suspected concussion there's a protocol that's being put into place."

Wund said data-driven decision-making is important when looking at injuries.

"They can make changes, they can implement interventions and then they can track the effect that those interventions have over time," he said. "It really gives them a phenomenal barometer of where the stand today and gives them a direction of where they need to go in the future."

San Dieguito Union is being proactive and tracking injuries, but right now, districts across the state aren't required to track concussions due Gov. Jerry Brown's veto of a bill which had that as a component.

Brown did sign a law regarding concussions that will require youth sports participants to undergo the same safety protocols as high school athletes in order to protect them from injury.