It's now January. Football Playoffs begin and end in all levels of the sport: High School, college and the pros. The High school sports website Maxpreps, ranks Allen (TX) High School as America's top prep football team. The team plays sixteen games this season -- the same amount as an NFL Team. Alabama, ranked No. 1 at the end of the college football season, played fourteen games. The Allen Eagles have players who just began driving. Alabama's youngest players are 18 though the the core players are in their 20's. At a time when football injuries have skyrocketed, should we continue allowing high school athletes to continue playing 16 football games each season?
As someone who has avidly watched and followed football for years, I failed to grasp the severity of the many injuries. I ignored the commentators and analysts who believed that football needed to get safer. Maybe it was Ronnie Hillman's foot injury that hurt my fantasy team's playoff chances, or maybe I realized it when Joe McKnight, a player on the cusp of breaking out this season, tore his Achilles tendon during the season. Whatever injury or moment it occurred, I soon understood the immensity of the injuries in football. In my Physics course last year, I explored the forces at play during a football hit. A hit from Haloti Ngata for example, has almost as much force as a 30 MPH car crash without a seatbelt. Finally, I learned the specific amount of players injured in a given year: last year, at least 270. In my Anatomy course this year, I've explored the psychological and mental impact a concussion can have on a football player.
Only one sport releases injury reports each week: the NFL. The NFL lists many players on injury notices for a variety of different reasons. In addition, the NFL has the largest roster of the four major sports (NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL). The NFL requires the most players on the field at one time (11 for offense and 11 for defense plus backups), yet this may be because of the plethora of injuries. In the NFL, star players such as Julio Jones, Calvin Johnson and Arian Foster have missed games this season due to injury. In other sports, star players miss games, yet not at the same frequency as NFL players. Last year, Jenny Vrentas wrote an article about "The Year of the Injury." However, one could title each season "The Year of the Injury." Stars from every team miss games. Even the durable players may injure themselves.
The solution begins at the high school level. Schools and athletic boards should refrain from scheduling an NFL-like season at such a young age. Twelve games (including playoffs) are an acceptable amount, because it simulates the college football environment. Also, high schoolers must learn an alternative to the dangerous helmet-to-helmet tackling approach. If players learn the alternative at the younger levels, they will be more likely to tackle lower when they play in high school. Allen High, I hope you enjoyed your 16 game schedule. Hopefully no one suffered a devastating injury late in the season that may impact next year.