Is The Sport of Football Truly Dying?

Submitted by xtramelanin on July 28th, 2015 at 11:08 PM


Like a number of other Mgobloggers, I coach football.   Sign up for the football leagues up north is set to close on Friday for this upcoming season.   The numbers of kids signing up for football all over the NW part of the lower peninsula are way, way down.  In our area, in the last 5 years we have gone from fielding something like 18 teams to fielding possibly 6 this year.  That is an incredible drop in participation and if it is seen across the country does not bode well for our favorite sport.

As one who played football until late in life I think it would be a shame to see the demise of such an exceptional game.   Perhaps it is inevitable though.  Please share your experiences and insights on this topic.  I am hoping for good news from you all. 




July 29th, 2015 at 9:05 AM ^

the kids have choices in other sports or going to other leagues (like travel ball).  Our sign ups dwindle as the kids get older.  Lacrosse and soccer may be taking some of the players from football just like they are taking them from baseball.  Our local high school coach said that he sees lacrosse as the biggest threat to take kids away from the sport of baseball.

Add in the economic factors when parents weigh the cost of football against soccer and it's a no brainer.  "Son, you can play football, but it's pronounced futbol." 


July 29th, 2015 at 10:10 AM ^

I worked at a sporting goods store throughout college and I will definitely second that. Football is just way too expensive for some families compared to the miniscule monetary cost of soccer and lacrosse. Some of these parents would come in complaining that the school wouldn't pay for their kid's pads and helmet and I don't blame them. Those two things alone start at a $150 combined for the cheap ones and you might as well add $30 for a pair of cheap shoes (not counting the replacement pairs), and let us not forget grabbing a decent pair of gloves for $20. I mean, you're realisitcally looking at $200 for football gear compared to $25-30 for a pair of children's soccer cleats.

Factor in the current concussion health scare and I would honeslty have been shocked if attendance wasn't plummeting.


July 30th, 2015 at 10:39 AM ^

Hahah, that is true, but those were maybe $20 for mid range ones. And to be fair, I forgot to mention mouthguards, for either, but it's mostly a football thing.

And I actually may have underestimated the football cost, because I somehow forgot to include the $60 padded pants... Damn, football is expensive.


July 29th, 2015 at 11:09 AM ^

Until the game is made safer from concussions, a lot of parents are going to tell their children "no."  Football is probably going to end up changing into something closer to basketball to survive.  I think there are two tweaks that would irritate purists, but make the game safe while preserving most of its competititve integrity.

1.  No more rewards for the "big hit."  No change of possession on a fumble and no hit can cause an imcomplete pass.  

2.  Calibrate "unnecessary roughness" penalties to actally include unnecessary roughness.

Are these suggestions perfect?  Of course not. But the game is going to have to be made safer.  Otherwise, more and more parents are going to deny their children permission to play.



July 29th, 2015 at 2:04 PM ^

is that the latest research is indicating that the damage done is not necessarily the result of a concussion, or recurring concussions (though those are still obviously of concern overall), but rather the repetitive, low level impact to the head sustained throughout practice and games. Making things worse is the indication that the level of damage/injury correlates to how early they start playing. Earlier start=more brain damage.

This actually has repercussions outside football as well, as any soccer player doing consistent head-ball drills on a regular basis may suffer similar degradation. 

My son is 10 and plays lacrosse and loves it and while it also has some hitting/impact, it is far less regular and way less head-to-head oriented (checks and hitting are typically accomplished through stick-to-stick, or shoulder/body-to-shoulder/body), so the likelihood of injury is ostensibly a lot lower. The helmet design there is to protect against an inadvertent head-to-head collision and of course against the ball and stick from smashing you in the face, but in no way does it make going in for a hit with your head a good idea the way a football helmet allows that. 

He wants to play football as well. I played growing up and am fine, but I'm holding off starting him as long as possible and fortunately I live in San Francisco and there aren't many/any leagues for kids his age to play tackle and he wants no part of flag football. 

I played football from 3rd grade flag football to pop warner and into high school as a linebacker and fullback (not what you would call a finesse player, so I doled out and received a decent amount of punishment) and loved it with no ill-effect to my brain.....that I know of anyway, though my destroyed knee just got another round of surgery last year and I'm 47. It pains me to hold him out of tackle football, but as a parent, it ihard not to. 

I look at the science and the new information that it provides and it feels remiss to allow him to play the game as it currently exists, especially to start him early on.
I contrast that with looking at the number of people that played the sport and seemingly have no issues and wonder at the incident rate, predisposition factors involved and whether or not the "seemingly" part of that is mostly because no one has been looking at/diagnosing/tracking issues as they might relate to football. 

As it stands, it is a tough call and a roll of the dice to let your kids participate in football and unfortunately there is unlikley to be any kind of definitive science in the near future to change that, or even provide some idea of what your risk is if you throw the dice.


July 28th, 2015 at 11:22 PM ^

The problem here is that when ESPN leads a concussion story its automatically plastered on every level of football.  I have been coaching Tykes in my area for 5 years now and the most gruesome injury I have seen was a double compound fracture in this kids arm.

The problem is people are pushing their kids towards "safer" sports like hockey and soccer when in fact those sports are just as dangerous at the youth level.

I read somewhere that women's soccer has the highest concussion rate per capita of all the sports.  Not sure if true you can never believe anything researched by anyone since they are backed by whoever seems to pay the highest price for the research.

In our league we are stressing the heads up tackling and the rugby style tackling associated with the Seattle Seahawks.  All coaches have to go mandatory concussion training as well.



July 29th, 2015 at 12:55 AM ^

it's much more physical than people realize. You constantly have to keep your head on a swivel for a possible blindside tackle or slide that could take out your legs. Plus you have to deal with players grabbing you at every possible moment to win the ball back.  Then you pretty much have to win the ball in the air which contributes to concussion especially if you bang head on another player's head.

Ronnie Kaye

July 29th, 2015 at 12:24 AM ^

"The problem here is that when ESPN leads a concussion story its automatically plastered on every level of football."

There is a perception out there that this is an NFL problem and that lower levels of the game are relatively safe. But according to Head Case Company, 47 percent of ALL sports-related concussions are suffered in high school football (and 33 percent of those occur in practice, not games).

I'm happy to hear about the practice of safer tackling techniques because it's going to be needed in the future to make the game more accessible to average parents. But the idea that concussions are just something the big boys have to deal with is false.





July 29th, 2015 at 12:37 AM ^

Well considering HS players here in Michigan can only have 'full contact' twice a week now I suspect those %s will continue to decline in regards to head injuries. I wish I could say the same for the rest of the limbs that will most certainly be effected when players never learn the proper technique to hit. But hey, one issue at a time.

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July 29th, 2015 at 12:31 AM ^

Could not agree more. A great deal of the football population decline is do to the media's reports that football leads to head injuries. There have been actual write-ups in our school newspaper basically bashing the 'dangerous play' that is often, apparently, only found in football.

Head injuries/concussions on my Varsity football team during the 2014-15 season: zero. Head injuries from our boys varsity BBall team 1 concussion. Baseball: 1 concussion. Girls soccer: 3 concussions.

Crazy how dangerous their sports are becoming...

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July 29th, 2015 at 8:01 AM ^

look at the weather on this 1980's tech, uncalibrated weather station, up high on this hot black tar roof, round the numbers UP a degree if it suits your particular side of the argument, then compare it against "super accurate" records from the 1800s (which you've already rounded down) and use your "scientific consensus" (not science) as a billy club.

Roc Blue in the Lou

July 30th, 2015 at 1:29 AM ^

And consensus once had the world being flat...  Consensus may yield a hypothesis, but it does not PROVE anything.  I know there are many highly respected, world class scientists that do not believe the objective data yet proves a causative effect between climate cycles and human interaction with the environment.  Do a little reading.  Oh, and save Dennis Miller for a light-hearted discussion of the monolithic thought control evidenced by those soooo damn upset when others dare poke holes in their pet theories, er consensus.  I personally believe we are still in the "testing the hypothesis" stage on all this, and we have a great deal of research yet to be done before any true scientific conclusions may be universally realized.  But, I'm just sayin', thanks for the straw man.


July 29th, 2015 at 11:01 AM ^

That scientists, who are trained to account for every possible source of error, somehow ignored the very basic fact that measurements from the 1800s are not as accurate as they are today. Not only that, but they totally just arbitrarily round up whenever they feel like it. Because science.

Right, yup, that makes sense too.


July 29th, 2015 at 12:30 PM ^

meaning, the purposeful and significant tweaking of the data came out yesterday, and there are others.   and when science and politics combine we all need to take close, careful looks at any side of any argument/position.   and i will avoid any further even remotely connected comment on politics here....


July 29th, 2015 at 1:28 PM ^

That's not what I'm saying at all. I'm saying that the same garbage weather station that has been baking up on a roof for 30+ years is assumed to still be giving accurate readings. 

Sac Fly

July 29th, 2015 at 7:52 AM ^

You are basing your entire argument on reported concussions. So if it's not reported did it not happen?

Linemen knock heads in the trenches on every play, especially when they're not coached properly. That sudden jolt 50+ times a game is where the damage is done, not "reported concussions."


July 29th, 2015 at 12:44 PM ^

Lineman typically hit each other in 'the box' at most 2 yards apart. The only time lineman make significant contact that may not involve throwing their hands would be if they make contact at the second or third levels. Lineman on lineman contact is some of the safest contact in the game of football...

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July 29th, 2015 at 1:42 AM ^

The Seattle Seahawks' tackling technique gets more credit than it is due. I believe it is based purely on what is thought to be safer but has not been validated at all. Actually, a former Atlanta Falcons team surgeon gave a talk at my med school about brachial plexus injuries and he said he couldn't think of a better way to CAUSE them than the Seahawks' tackling approach. Again, it hasn't been evaluated for this, but it just goes to show that this tackling form doesn't have much evidence behind it. (actually no evidence according to Heads Up proponents themselves)


July 29th, 2015 at 1:16 PM ^

Yes, there really is no data supporting it. I did not watch the film (I'll watch it when I get home) or play tackle football (parents wouldn't let me b/c I'm a skinny 6'0; however my brother is a thick 6'2 and he did play). I'm not saying it isn't possible that it is safer, but it should at least be evaluated for both head injury and brachial plexus injury potential. While it is admittedly an extreme example, look up Inky Johnson, who played at Tennessee, to see the devastating potential of brachial plexus injuries. I'm simply saying the technique should be evaluated for both it's potential injury benefits and risks, neither of which have been done so far.


July 29th, 2015 at 7:40 AM ^ can never believe anything researched by anyone since they are backed by whoever seems to pay the highest price for the research.

Ugh, I hate this line of thinking. Yes, you can believe research; use some criticial thinking skills to evaluate the quality of the source of the research (most universities are safe bets) and the methods of the particular studies.

 It's the same anti-climate change nonsense logic that suggests climate scientists invented climate change so that they could have jobs. It's just a means for people to maintain beliefs that they want to maintain in the face of evidence to the contrary.


July 29th, 2015 at 9:43 AM ^

Yet you are probably the same guy that ignores scientific evidence that GMO's are perfectly safe.  Because it fits the narrative you want.

Look, I'm not taking sides on either debate, but let's not get all high and mighty.  We all have our biases that we like to claim are "science".



July 30th, 2015 at 7:31 PM ^

It's one thing to have a bias.  Almost anyone interested enough in a topic to research it comes in with a bias.  But, if you try to make the data support your bias or refuse to change your opinion in the face of conflicting data that's another story.  "The willingness to change one’s mind in the light of new evidence is a sign of rationality not weakness." ~ Stuart Sutherland


July 29th, 2015 at 10:01 AM ^

I actually am well aware that research has shown no ill effects of consuming GMOs, personally have no concerns eating them, and do think that there is hypocrisy from many of the people campaigning against them.

But no, feel free to make up bull shit to ascribe to me in order to make a ridiculous argument involving putting science in scare-quotes.


July 29th, 2015 at 1:29 PM ^

I happen to agree with you on both climate change and GMOs.

What I don't agree with is shoving a blatantly political topic in front of peoples faces to win an argument about football.  It's pretty heavy-handed.  If you are going to do that, you are going to have to expect some sharp reactions and not be offended by them.



July 30th, 2015 at 7:37 PM ^

Organic food is no more nutritious than its conventional counterparts. The idea that organic farming doesn’t use pesticides is pervasive, and has likely helped the massive growth of the organic industry.  Organic farmers often have to use more so-called “natural” pesticides to achieve the same effect of synthetic pesticides. Just like conventional produce, organic produce shows pesticide residue in laboratory tests. IMO the pesticides used in organic farming are no safer than those used in conventional agriculture.