High School football participation rates down, safety among top concerns

(KATU File Photo)

High school football participation rates are down again, falling a few thousand since the 2015-2016 season. Safety is among the top concerns for students and parents.

But new technology, better medical knowledge and advice, and stronger communication between state associations has made football at the elementary, middle and high school levels safer than it has ever been.

The Oregon School Activities Association has made significant changes in how coaches lead and the game is played.

In order to coach football in Oregon, coaches are required to take a number of courses and training.

  • Fundamentals of Coaching
  • Concussion Recognition & Management Training
  • Anabolic Steroids & Performance-Enhancing Substances Training
  • Spirit Safety Class
  • Heat Illness Prevention

Under state law, coaches and athletic directors are required to receive concussion training every year, and steroid and performance-enhancing drugs and substances training every four years.

OSAA President Peter Weber says Oregon is on the leading edge when it comes to football player safety.

It's "Heads Up" program, centered around concussion education, is unlike any other in the country.

"All coaches, paid, volunteer, or a couple days a week," Weber said, "have to have that (certification) prior, to assume any coaching duties at a high school."

Weber says OSAA has also examined equipment and improved helmet safety.

Following life-threatening incidents around the country, OSAA has changed its policies on practices.

Two-a-days are now strongly discouraged, and are modified to decrease player injuries.

"If they are doing a double session in a particular day, limiting what they can do in that second session or a teaching as opposed to contact," Weber said of what OSAA recommends. "And then, also, as many states have done around the country, limiting the amount of contact during the season, during practices."

The discussion of player safety was renewed Wednesday when former University of Oregon football player Doug Brenner filed a lawsuit against his former university, coaches and the NCAA for failing to enforce binding safety guidelines. Brenner was diagnosed with Rhabdomyolosis after intense conditioning workouts during practices in 2017, cutting his career short and shaving off years of his life expectancy.

"It’s just so easily avoidable," Brenner told KATU Wednesday. "The bottom line is, the workouts that they put us through were not to get us better at football or to get us stronger or faster. Those workouts were a punishment, and they were aimed at seeing who would quit and who couldn't handle it. There’s no room for that in athletics."

KATU Reporter Chris Liedle looks at the high school football participation rate and what the OSAA is doing to keep your kids safe on the field:

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