The park department in a suburban Chicago city has cancelled its youth football program after a major drop-off in participation.
The Park District of Highland Park, Ill., has scrubbed its tackle football program, according to the Chicago Tribune.
“Our enrollment declined so much with everything that has been going on in football that the tackle program will not be taking place in 2017,” executive director of the park district Liza McEloy said during a park board meeting Tuesday, per the Tribune.
According to the Tribune, the park district had offered the tackle football program to fifth through eighth grade students in collaboration with the Highland Park High School football staff. The teams have competed in the Central Suburban Youth Football League in the past, with more than 150 participants in peak years.
As McEloy told the Tribune, though, the number of registrations dropped to 54 in 2015 and to 33 in 2016. This year, the program was canceled after the number dropped to 11 – only enough for one side of one team.
“People are not playing tackle football anymore,” McElroy told the Tribune. She also noted that fall baseball enrollment has more than tripled in the past two years.
Concern has grown around the country over injuries and brain trauma in the sport. Earlier this month, a study from Boston University showed high prevalence of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) in former NFL players.
Per the Tribune, the Highland Park district had adopted the Heads Up Football program of USA Football, the youth football development partner of the NFL. Among other matters, the program instructs coaches on safer tackling and blocking techniques to lessen the risk of head injuries and raises awareness to concussions.
This year, however, there won’t be a season.