Football, Student Safety Butt Heads At High School

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At the new Sequoyah High school there is a wide range of sports, including volleyball, fencing, archery, and flag football. What there is not, however, is a tackle football team.

Marc Alongi, High School Director, stated that choosing flag over tackle football was the result of “a discussion with a number of staff members over a long period of time.” That long period of time extends years into the past. “For the high school, we started planning it about four or five years ago when we started talking about sports programs,” Alongi said.

Alongi pointed out that not only is tackle football a safety dilemma, but also, as he put it, “resource-intensive.” According to Alongi, “Typically, you need to have a much bigger school to be able to have a [tackle] team, because there’s so much equipment and a lot of safety needs that you need, to play football safely.”

If a majority of students wanted tackle, Alongi said, “We would have to establish a process for introducing a sport like that. We would have to involve the appropriate groups.” Administrators, teachers, and students would all need to be involved.

Menelik Tafari, Spanish teacher for the high school and coach of this year’s flag football team, also showed some concern with tackle football. “I actually refuse to coach a tackle football program,” says Tafari. “There’s a lot of pretty solid research that’s been conducted over the past 30-40 years, dealing with what happens when people have their heads hit over and over and over again.”

The National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research (NCCSIR) reports that there have been a total of 859 high school tackle football injuries during the period from 1982 to 2014, with 121 fatal, 373 nonfatal, and 365 serious.