Evan Murray’s death is the latest tragedy to touch high school football and many are concerned by the increase in these kinds of incidents affecting young players.
Murray’s death is the third episode of its kind this year, sadly, and in some cases the tragic results of rough play has led some schools to scratch entire high school football programs, according to the New York Times.
One such example is at Maplewood Richmond Heights High School in Missouri, where for the first time, soccer will be the main event during homecoming week. In June, the school board took the unprecedented decision to dissolve the football team. Just five years ago they were in the state championship game.
The president of the Maplewood Richmond Heights School Board, Nelson Mitten, said players suffered some serious injuries last season including a broken ankle, a torn anterior cruciate ligament, and a significant head injury.
“Over all, it was, ‘Can we field a team that is competitive and safe for the kids to perform?'”
“Whenever you have anything like that, you have to be a responsible board and discuss what we can do to make sure we can field a team.”
Even though the decision in Maplewood had nothing to do with Evan Murray’s death and happened months before the tragedy last Friday, it is clear school board officials are concerned something similar could happen at one of their high school football games. The report indicates another school in New Jersey, Ridgefield Memorial High School scrapped its varsity football team this season due to lack of interest. Only 13 young men tried out.
At Camden Hills Regional High School in Maine, the last five football games were cancelled because of the number of injuries. This left the team with only the younger players, who could be at risk of getting injured as well, said school principal Nick Ithomitis.
“I want to make sure folks know that this had nothing to do with wins and losses, lack of effort on our kids’ part, coaching, or anything but numbers.”
The tragic death of Evan Murray last Friday once again brought player safety to the forefront, coupled with studies that show the devastating effects of brain injuries in NFL players, the future of football is uncertain. In late January 2015, a study — published in the medical journal Neurology — indicated that those players who started playing tackle football before 12-years-old performed worse in cognitive tests, than those who started playing later in life.
Dr. Robert Cantu made the startling declaration that kids should not play tackle football before age 14 because their brains are still developing, according to The Big Lead.
“The reason is simple. Tackle football is too dangerous for youngsters. Exposure to head trauma is too risky. What we know about football and the vulnerabilities of children’s brains leads me to this conclusion. More worrisome is what we don’t know. How will the hits absorbed by a 9-year-old today be felt at 30, or 50?”
Evan Murray died of injuries to his spleen, which unbeknownst to anyone was enlarged, according to the coroner’s report, and more prone to trauma, but the study linking youth football to brain injuries in NFL players is not to be taking lightly and could be one of the reasons for the dwindling numbers in enrollment. Parents are concerned that their boys will suffer irreparable damage with repeated hits to the head.
It’s worth mentioning that the study on NFL players focused only on those who have complained about cognitive problems and a more comprehensive study is needed, Julie Stamm, the head of researchers from Boston University said. However, tragedies such as Evan Murray’s death, the latest in high school football this year, is concerning to parents and school officials.
A string of disturbing videos showing high school football players taking matters into their own hands and retaliating against other players and officials, have gone viral in recent weeks. A combination of irresponsible coaching and recklessness on the part of players, along with inadequate consequences can be blamed for the apparent increase in violence on the field.
Today, hundreds of mourners came to pay tribute to Evan Murray who was an honor roll student and outstanding athlete respected by peers. As the future of its own football team is unclear, Warren Hills Regional High School plans to close school on Thursday for the 17-year-old’s funeral.
[Image via Bill Adams/Leigh Valley Live]