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Is the decline in youth football tied to fear of brain injuries?

In the past, most parents did not think twice before signing their children up to play football. However, in recent years, there has been a decline in enrollment. And while some say this is due to the economy and more of a focus on specializing in just one sport, others think the decline is due to more attention being paid to the potential for injuries.

Pop Warner is the largest youth football program in the U.S. In 2010, Pop Warner hit an all-time high in terms of enrollment with 248,899 youth football players. However, between 2010 and 2012 there was a 9.5 percent decline in enrollment. The organization ended up losing 23,612 players.

Some say this decline in enrollment was a direct result of the stories related to Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, commonly referred to as CTE, making it to the news. This brain disease is one many allege is caused by head injuries, including those head injuries many players suffer in football.

Even the NFL recently settled a $765 million class-action lawsuit. This class-action lawsuit involved more than 4,500 plaintiffs who claimed the organization hid the link between brain damage and playing football.

In this settlement, the NFL did not admit fault, but the news stories surrounding the case -- and the former players who have come out speaking against the sport -- may have something to do with why youth football enrollment numbers are down.

In the end, with more information tying football to brain injuries, it would be only natural for parents to be hesitant. While a hit to the head used to just be viewed at as a normal part of the sport -- with the idea the helmet offered enough protection -- now many are no doubt questioning how serious a concussion is and if the thrill of the game is worth the potential consequences.


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