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  • Writer's pictureTerry O'Neil

O'Neil Responds to Declining Participation

Participation in high school football has dropped to its lowest level since the 1999 season, according to a report released yesterday by the National Federation of High Schools (NFHS).  Data for the 2018 season showed a decline of 3% from the 2017 season and a drop of 8% since peak participation in 2013.  More than 87,000 players have been lost since the 2013 season.

"This is the fifth straight annual decline and, apart from two states, we've heard no adequate response from high school football," said Practice Like Pros founder Terry O'Neil.  "New Jersey and Michigan, by enacting new regulations this year, can now tell parents, 'We've reduced the risk dramatically.  Practice contact for your child has been cut to the lowest levels in the history of football.'  This is the most effective messaging.  Stakeholders want to see directed action against the problem."

Here is the change in participation, 2017 to 2018, for selected states:

Alabama gained 1,484 players Arizona lost 1,012 Arkansas lost 287 California lost 2,981 Colorado gained 1,000 Connecticut lost 179 Florida lost 1,491 Georgia lost 1,123 Illinois lost 1,745 Indiana lost 505 Iowa lost 801 Kansas lost 206 Louisiana lost 61 Maryland lost 782 Massachusetts lost 907 Michigan lost 1,607 Minnesota lost 20

Mississippi -- no change Missouri lost 940 Nebraska lost 467 New Jersey lost 519 New York lost 2,558 North Carolina lost 1,631 Ohio lost 2,843 Oklahoma lost 943 Oregon lost 568 Pennsylvania lost 90 South Carolina lost 415 Tennessee lost 1,018 Texas gained 977 Virginia lost 582 Washington lost 4,934 Wisconsin lost 1,072

Scientific Research Confirms Urgency

Two scientific research studies published this month confirm the validity of PLP methods and the urgency to implement.

The first study, released August 7, tracked 38 University of Rochester (Division III) players in the 2011-13 seasons.  It found that 59% of head impacts were suffered in practice, not in games.  This is consistent with 2015 research by Datalys of Indianapolis, which found that 58% of high school and college concussions are sustained in practice,42% in games.

The second study, presented yesterday in Boston by Dr. Scott Burkhart, PsyD, to the annual meeting of the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine. followed players from 1,999 high schools in the 2012 through 2017 seasons.  Dr. Burkhartdetermined that 48.2% of concussions occurred in practice, 51.8% in games.

"This is where excessive practice contact connects to declining participation," said Terry O'Neil.  "Half of high school football concussions are still suffered in practice?  This must stop.  In the NFL, that number is 4%.  No wonder parents are reluctant to sign consent forms."

Reaction to Recent PLP Clinics

From Defensive Coordinator Wade Cooper. Dorman High, Roebuck, SC:  Dorman is the second largest school in South Carolina and a very successful program, having won at least seven games each of the past 26 years, plus two state championships and four runner-ups.  We have been using the principles that you are advocating.  We are never "live" during the week of practice.  At most, we use "thud" contact.  It isn't easy to teach the kids to practice this way.  Being able to watch your videos not only gives them a visual demonstration of HOW to do it, it also gives this type of practice credibility when they see the pros and colleges doing it, as well.  Thanks for sending the videos and if we can be an advocate for your organization, please let us know.

From Director of Football Operations Frank Marcucio, Shelton (CT) High: Thanks again for the presentation.  All the coaches and I think it really has a positive impact on the kids and does change their way of thinking. 

From Head Coach Ty Jenkins, Bunnell High, Stratford, CT:  The presentation was awesome.  My players just kept talking about how much they like the idea.  As a first-year head coach with a small team, we will be implementing a lot of what we heard. 

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