“I’ve seen across the country a decline in football because of head injuries,” Charity Mathis, mom to a Sparkman High football player, said.
That’s the reality for many football teams as more studies emerge showing the effects that concussions and hard hits have on the brain.
“A concussion is some kind of a brain injury. It can be something as minor as it just shifts around inside your skull,” the Huntsville Hospital Sports Center Program Director said. “It could be intercranial bleeding, or something severe as the brain bumping up against the skull itself.”
But youth football coach, Greg Parker, said he firmly believes the game is safer than ever.
“But because of the negative publicity it's gotten, the numbers are going down,” Parker said.
He says helmet companies are using new techoology to prevent injuries.
“The helmets have sensors and stuff in them that goes straight to trainers' computers,” Huntsville High School quarterback, Jackson Glover, said.
Danville High School also uses sensor helmets. Stevenson said those helmets are part of an ongoing debate.
“There’s still a lot of studies going on to see how useful that technology is, but some helmets have sensors that tell how much force a player is receiving on a hit,” Stevenson said.
Youth football has dropped seven percent since 2009, according to The National Federation of State High School Associations. In Hampton Cove, the youth league has gone from eight teams down to two.
“I think people aren’t playing football as much, some because of parents. I feel like some people see statistics and think, oh that’s a number, and the number makes it look a lot worse than what it is,” Huntsville High School wide receiver, Graham Parker, said.
Rules are changing. David Bell, a football official, said new penalties are in place for players’ safety.
“We want to get the players playing lower. Take the head out of the game,” Bell said.
A targeting penalty is given when a player uses their head to hit another player above the shoulders. Referees have also implemented a blindside block penalty.
“If a player cannot see you coming at him to block him, you have to use your hands,” Bell said.
“All that technique is being translated from the NFL to the colleges to the high schools to the youth leagues,” Mark Fleetwood, Huntsville High School football coach, said.
“Head up, eyes up, and hit with your shoulders," Coach Fleetwood said. “And it’s important as the game moves forward it’s taught the right way."