By Ken Reed
The number of boys playing tackle football at the youth and high school levels continues a gradual decline. But the latest football participation stats revealed an interesting trend: the number of girls playing tackle football at the high school level is actually on the rise.
In fact, the number of girls playing high school football this year was 1,964, more than double the number of participants from seven years ago.
One theory as to why this is happening is that society’s acceptance of girls playing traditionally boys sports is growing faster than the rise in safety concerns about playing high school football.
A quick caveat about the latest girls football stats: It is believed that a significant percentage of girls playing high school football are kickers, and thus, not exposed to brain trauma to the degree those who play other positions in football are.
That said, there is a movement to get more girls playing tackle football at all positions on the field. For example, an organization called Utah Girls Tackle Football had approximately 400 girls participating this year.
This trend has doctors and medical researchers worried. Studies have shown that in sports with similar rules for girls and boys, the rate of concussions is higher in the females. In general, studies show female athletes sustain more concussions than their male counterparts, report more severe symptoms and have a longer duration of recovery than male athletes.
“Why bring girls into it? We should be taking the boys out of it,” said Dr. Robert Stern, director of clinical research for Boston University’s C.T.E. Center, which studies the degenerative brain disease caused by repeated blows to the head.
“It doesn’t make sense to expose our children to repetitive head impacts during periods of incredible maturation of the most important organ in our body, the brain.”
Why? It’s an important question to ask.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of FansPrint
- League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.