WASHINGTON -- The recent spate of deaths in high school football has caught the attention of three members of Congress who want the federal government to study the problem.
The High School Football Safety Study Act, introduced Thursday by Reps. Cedric Richmond (D-La.), Ralph Abraham (R-La.) and Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), would require the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to examine the causes of football-related deaths and produce recommendations for how to prevent them.
Luke Schemm, a 17-year-old Kansas student, on Wednesday became at least the eighth high school football player to die on the field or in practice since the 2015 season began.
"It is our responsibility to ensure that we leave no stone unturned to make the game as safe as possible for young people and prevent these tragedies from happening in the future," Richmond said in a release announcing the legislation. "Moving forward, I hope this legislation will start that process and begin a national conversation about how to better protect youth in football."
Though football-related deaths in high schools have received more media attention in recent years, the number has remained relatively constant over the past 35 years, as The Huffington Post reported in October. The most common causes of death include heat stroke, cardiac arrest, and head, neck and spinal injuries.
Athletic trainers and others who have observed safety issues in high school sports have said states and school districts simply aren't doing enough to protect athletes. Just 37 percent of high schools, for instance, employ a full-time certified athletic trainer, though nearly three-fourths at least have access to one at most games.
“The best practices are not being followed,” Dr. Douglas Casa, CEO of the Korey Stringer Institute at the University of Connecticut, told HuffPost last month. “I’m kind of mystified, but people are just not implementing evidence-based medicine and policies at the high school level. I’m not saying they’re not interested in it, but they’re just not doing it.”
The legislation introduced Thursday would ask the CDC director, the secretary of Health and Human Services, the secretary of Education, and the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition to seek input from athletic trainers, health professionals, parents and coaches about the deaths.
“My district felt the terrible effects of one of these tragedies just this year,” said Abraham, referring to Franklin Parish, where 16-year-old Tyrell Cameron died after suffering injuries in a football game this fall.
“This bill will seek the root causes of such incidents so that we can better protect our children while preserving the game we love," he said.
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