TOPEKA (KSNT) — The death of a high school football player on Tuesday is drawing new attention to the risks children face in contact sports. Eleven deaths have been reported in high school football in the U.S. this season, seven of them were directly related to football. The risk of concussions which can turn into a life-threatening event is hard for many parents to swallow.
Kathryn Marney is a mother of three boys, she says the decision to let her boys play football was a tough one. Marney says, “It does make me nervous that later on down the road we’ll find out something happened during football that we didn’t know happened and that maybe I should have made them stop at that point and didn’t know.”
She’s not alone in that fear. John Peterson has two boys and a girl. All are multi-sport athletes. Peterson says, “My son did have a concussion this year, he had two, from football and it was alarming, but he’s recovered.”
Maintaining safety is not just a concern for parents — it is for schools as well.
“We focus on fundamentals,” says Keith Jones, Principal of Chase Middle School. “Teaching the right protocol of how to hit and tackle in football, you know, the things that you see in basketball and the other sports.”
Football coach Shawn Keeling says, “We teach chest up, head up, head up, see what you hit.” And when he sees a problem? “We stop them, pull them to the side, and they won’t continue the drill until they can show us and demonstrate that they can do it the right way.”
Despite the risk, parents say the experience is worth it.
“It is because they make lifelong relationships with friends and coaches and they have more mentors than just the people at school,” says Marney.
District officials say parents must sign a consent form, confirming they are aware of the risks, before a student can participate in athletics.