Much has been made of the continually declining football participation numbers and the affect it has on the sport as a whole. One of the schools cited in a number of larger trend stories has been Camden Hills High School, outside of Portland, Maine.
As it turns out, while Camden Hills may be the lone Maine school to call off its football season midstream, plenty of others have come close due to two significant factors: Declining population in towns across the state and declining participation in football by the teens who do remain.
These trends were explored much more fully in this terrific piece by the Bangor Daily News, which delves into the closure of paper mills and other heavy industry and the profound impact it has had on communities across the state. In that way, the point being made par exemplar is far more nuanced than what has most often been promoted publicly: Declining football numbers are about the increasing urbanization and erosion of American industry as much as they are about safety concerns.
Yet there’s no doubting that declining football participation is also directly tied to escalating concerns about concussions and head trauma. The combination of those two factors are having a profound impact on the sport at a high school level, providing a longstanding threat if not an outright death knell to the long-term prospects of youth and high school football in America.
“I think it’s harder and harder to not only start a program but even sustain a program with the emphasis on head injuries and concussions and the fact the vast majority of schools in the state are seeing a decline of enrollment so you have fewer kids to draw from,” Mike Burnham, assistant executive director of the Maine Principals’ Association, told the Daily News.