Nashville, Tenn. (OSBORNE) -- High school football still dominates Friday nights in Tennessee, but participation in the sport is in decline.
The drop in the number of boys joining teams is part of a wider national trend. Football participation in Tennessee peaked in 2014 at 23,000 players. This past school year the number fell below 22,000 for the first time since 2005.
Dr. Roger Pielke (PEL-key) with the University of Colorado has studied sports participation for years. He notes that, nationwide, football participation peaked in 2009 and has dropped by about 80,000 participants in the decade since.
“Those numbers hold up if you look at the proportion of boys playing sports, the proportion of overall boys in the population."
Dr. Pielke says there’s no definitive answer yet as to why fewer American boys are playing football. He says that answer will have to wait until additional research can be completed.
But he does note that the two sharpest drops in participation rates do coincide with growing fears about concussion. The first decline came a decade ago as the first concussion research surfaced. The second, even sharper decline, occurred beginning in 2015.
“That’s perhaps associated with the Will Smith movie Concussion; even more attention to potential health risks of the game… and it has to go back to choices being made by parents and players.”
Professor Pielke notes there are still a million students playing football, so the sport isn’t going away anytime soon.
While Tennessee participation may be in slow decline, the number of schools fielding a team has actually grown in recent years.
Below is a video by the Centers for Disease Control explaining how concussion affects the brain.