CU study says high school football participation is declining, but local coaches disagree

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo — A recent study by the University of Colorado suggests the number of kids playing high school football is now declining because of concussion research and other issues surrounding the NFL.

While this recent research from CU says high school football participation has hit its peak, coaches here locally say they’re not seeing the same trend.

A few years ago, a combination of a lack of players and a lot of injuries caused the Cheyenne Mountain High School Indians to end their season early, since then the numbers have bounced back.

Athletic Director Kris Roberts said, “The past four seasons we’ve been holding pretty steady. We’ve got about 70 to 75 kids in the program.”

According to the CU study, 1.14 million high school boys played football in the 2008-2009 school years. In 2016-2017, that number came down to 1.09 million.

“I think that our numbers stay consistent and I think our kids by in large are active, I just think that there are other opportunities and things that they choose to participate in and it may not necessarily be football,” said Roberts.

For 10 years, Eric Caplan has been coaching a team from the parks and recreation league which requires coaches to be Heads Up certified.

“So instead of getting the head across or getting the helmet on the ball, we’re getting the head away from the ball and really using our shoulder pads to bring a tackler down, really similar to how they do it in rugby,” Caplan said.

Caplan said he’s actually seen an increase in kids turning out to play for his team.

According to commissioned research by USA football, youth leagues using Heads Up Football saw 36 percent lower injury rates in practice.

“I think the parents really respect that during practices we’re not going all out and smashing these kids into each other like people did 20 years ago. We’re doing a lot of form-fitting drills, a lot of low-impact drills and using pads and I think the parents really appreciate that,” Caplan said.

As for Cheyenne Mountain High School, Roberts says they have had a concussion protocol in place for the last 10 years and they use a baseline testing system out of the University of Pittsburgh.

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