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High school drops football, replaces it with soccer for homecoming
Students at Maplewood Richmond Heights High School in Missouri will gather at the stadium for a homecoming game, but the ball will be round, not oval. - photo by Eric Schulzke
Students at Maplewood Richmond Heights High School in Missouri will gather at the stadium for a homecoming game, but the ball will be round, not oval.

In June, the school axed the football program, only partly out of safety concerns. The real problem was that fewer than a dozen students wanted to play. The school apparently hopes to restart the program, if it can hire a coach and generate enough interest.

The school did field a soccer team, which will play for homecoming.

Football is male dominated and The New York Times notes that the number of male high school students has fallen 2.4 percent in the last five years, even though the actual numbers of high school students continue to climb.

The game at even younger ages is now under attack, as well. Earlier this year, a Wisconsin mother of a 25-year-old man, who committed suicide and was found to have serious cumulative brain injury, sued the Pop Warner youth football program, claiming her son's injury was caused by playing the game as a youth.

"An autopsy revealed that (Joseph) Chernach had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a type of brain damage sadly predictable in middle-aged and older men who have played football, but rare for someone who died at age 25," Slate observed.

"The case has the potential to upend the economics of youth football leagues," The New York Times reported in February. "If a court ruled against Pop Warner in Chernachs death, insurers could potentially increase their premiums to offset legal risks. While Pop Warner is the largest and most established youth football organization in the country, smaller leagues could have a harder time paying for more expensive coverage."

The Chernach case may struggle for evidence, however, as it will be difficult to prove that the youth's injuries were caused by Pop Warner football, and he was never apparently diagnosed with a concussion. The latter point is not surprising, however, since most experts now agree that cumulative brain trauma does not require actual concussions.

As Maplewood Richmond Heights High School prepares for its first soccer homecoming, a New Jersey community mourns the death of a high school quarterback who collapsed during a game last week. The autopsy on Evan Murray was released this week, showing that his death was due to a ruptured spleen, not a head injury, according to ABC News. Murray had an enlarged spleen, which put him at particular risk.

But the shift to soccer at Maplewood may not be a silver bullet. CNN reported this summer that new research shows significant concussion incidence in high school soccer, though the figures are roughly half those of football. Most soccer concussions, the research found, result from collisions with other players, not from heading the ball.
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