Report Shows Continuing Drop in High School Football Players

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistAugust 7, 2017

Royal players celebrate as Connell players walk off the field after Royal beat Connell 25-10 to win the Washington Div. 1A high school football championship, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, in Tacoma, Wash. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

The number of high school football players dropped by 25,901 participants in 2016-17, according to a report by National Federation of State High School Associations

Football still had the highest number of overall participants, however, with 1,086,748 in total last season. An additional 61 schools added football to their athletic offerings in 2016-17 as well.

"While we are concerned when any sport experiences a decline in participation, the numbers do not substantiate that schools are dropping the sport of football," NFHS executive director Bob Gardner said. "The NFHS and its member state high school associations have worked hard to reduce the risk of injury in high school football, and we are pleased at the continued strength of the sport across the country."

Nonetheless, the findings appear to be a part of a growing trend.

According to a survey last week from the California Interscholastic Federation, "football participation [in the state] actually decreased by 3.12 percent over the past year and about 10 percent over the past decade," per Ann Killion of the San Francisco Chronicle.

Killion added, "That is the second consecutive year that football participation decreased by more than 3 percent, although it still remains the high school sport with the most participants in the state. Also nationally, participation has declined slightly, about 1 percent in the past five years."

The growing concern about brain injuries and head trauma continue to impact the game of football. A recent study from neuropathologist Dr. Ann McKee found chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in the brains of 110 of 111 deceased former NFL players.

NFL players, at least, are taking notice. Adam Schefter of ESPN noted that 34 players under the age of 30 have retired from the NFL in the past two years. Given that high school participation in the sport is trending downward, however slightly, it would appear parents around the country may be paying close attention to the links between football and the potential for brain trauma as well.