In September, New Jersey high school football player Evan Murray passed away from internal injuries after being hit in the backfield. A month later, another high school player, Andre Smith, died from head injuries during a football game in Illinois. In the past year, Murray and Smith were just two of seven boys who have suffered fatal injuries playing high school football. It’s clear that change is needed.
The main cause of deaths in high school football seems to be the lack of physical maturity. NFL players have gone through four years of high school and four years of college. Their bodies are considerably more developed, which means less chance for major injuries. It would make sense that players wait until they are fully grown before they are thrown out on the field.
Most NFL players are around 6-foot-1 and weigh about 220 pounds according to SportChart. The shortest players on average are the running backs and they are 5-foot-11. NFL players are taller and wider than the average high school player.
In addition, NFL players work their bodies daily for hours on end in order to maintain their size and condition. Meanwhile, high school students typically practice only at school and have to manage schoolwork with any other extracurricular activities they may have. This is in addition to the hours spent in a classroom with little exercise and long nights filled with little sleep. When high school athletes take the field, they are not in the same physical condition as profession or even college players.
The difference is clear when you note what the causes of death among the high school players were this year. Only one person died from cardiac arrest rather than from an injury on the field. Most died from severe injuries inflicted during a game. Almost every time, it was reported that they could get up on their own and walk, but showed symptoms of serious problems later on.
Perhaps if injuries were taken more seriously it would lower the death rate of high school football players. However, it is difficult to diagnose whether certain injuries will develop into major problems out on the field. That is why waiting until a player’s body is fully developed will help in lowering death rates.
Waiting until college will definitely mean less injuries since a player’s body will be more developed, therefore more prepared to take the hits that cause so many of these deaths. But that’s an unrealistic idea. I don’t think getting rid of high school football will ever happen.
However, there should be a change in the way high school football is played.
Whether it be more medical attention out on the field or stronger helmets, something should be done to separate the intensity of high school football from college and the pros. High school players are not the 250 pound linebackers we see in college and the pros.