Concerns about the inherent dangers of football have surged in the aftermath of the deaths of three high school players.

In recent weeks, three young athletes died in Alabama, North Carolina and New York following incidents on the high school football field. BBC Reports Canadian Football Deaths

Most recently, Tom Cutinella, a 16-year old high school football player, died after colliding with an opponent during a game on Long Island.  Earlier in the same week, cornerback Demario Harris Jr., died in Troy, Alabama after collapsing on the field following a tackle. And in North Carolina, Linebacker Isaiah Langston died during a pregame warm-up just a few days before. More Football Related Deaths Reported

These tragic deaths intensify the controversy over risks of playing football – accelerating a heated debate that is occurring at all levels of the sport. Parents Struggle with Kids and Football

The deaths were the first in high school football this year. In 2013, eight fatalities were directly related to the sport, according to the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research (NCCSIR) at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, with six high school players dying from head trauma and two from neck injuries. Participation in High School Football Still High

Over the last decade, an average of  twelve high school athletes died each year while playing football. 

Surprisingly, the injury rates for high school football are higher than in college or NFL football. In fact, recent data from the Youth Sports Safety Alliance (Statistics PDF) reveals that high school players suffer concussions at higher rates than their college counterparts, with high school players suffering three times as many catastrophic injuries — including fatalities, permanent disability injuries, fractured necks or serious head injuries, temporary paralysis, or cardiac arrest — as players at the college level.

All of the controversy is taking its toll on the popularity of the game. A Sept. 29th Time magazine cover story — “Is Football Worth It?” — reports that high school football is declining in popularity. From 2007 to 2013, tackle-football participation fell 26.5% among U.S. kids ages 6 to 12 — the sharpest decline of any major team sport. Moreover, the story notes that researchers at the Colorado School of Public Health found that football had the highest incidence of brain-rattling impacts—nearly 45% more than the runner-up, girls’ soccer. A Tragic Story of Football Risks

The bottom line?   More and more parents are thinking twice before letting their kids play football. In the meantime, awareness of the symptoms of concussion as well as appropriate  treatment options is key. New Concussion Guidelines

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