For years, the number of high schools with football teams and the number of high school children playing football grew at a steady rate. But recently, participation leveled off and even began to go down, except for one group: high school girls.
As concerns over playing football grow, the number of boys playing high school football has started fall. However, over the same period of time the number of girls playing football has continued to grow.
First, here is a look at the number of U.S. high schools with an 11-player football team, according to data from the National Federation of State High School Associations. The number of high schools this year with a football team fell to 14,047, the lowest total in eight years.
Meanwhile, the number of high school boys playing football has leveled off over the decade and may even be starting to decline. This comes after many years of strong growth.
But now look at the number of girls playing high school football.
This year, there are 1,964 girls playing football, the second-highest mark ever recorded and more than double the number of participants seen just seven years ago.
What may be going on here is that the level of acceptance of girls playing traditionally boys sports may be growing at a faster rate than the stigma and safety concerns for playing high school football in general.
Still, in an era of heightened awareness over the safety of football, it is a bit jarring to see any demographic increase their participation in a sport that many feel is not safe for brains and bodies that have not yet fully matured.
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