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Participation in Youth Football Declining

Additional sports; concern over concussions likely contributing factors.

HOLLIDAYSBURG, BLAIR COUNTY - According to new statistics from Pop Warner, the country's largest youth football organization, fewer kids are pulling on the shoulder pads and strapping on the helmets these days.

Participation has gone down ten percent in the past two years.

That holds true here, at least in the case of one local league, where the numbers match up almost exactly.

We spoke with some of the folks who run the Hollidaysburg Area Youth Football Association. They said the amount of kids involved peaked around 120 about two years ago. And while participation remains strong in the program, there has been a noticeable drop the past few years-- down to about 93 this past fall season.

There are several explanations for why...

Kids are getting more involved in other sports that are growing in popularity-- like soccer and ice hockey.

Some might be choosing to not play anything.

But many folks believe the biggest reason is concern about the possibility of concussions.

There's been a higher level of recognition over the past few years with several notable professional athletes suffering the serious injury.

Andy Haines with the Hollidaysburg football program said they're now part of a national effort to change the culture of the game and promote better safety.

"We now have trainers at games who are trained in concussion awareness, our coaches are trained, and our players are trained to tackle, not using their head, using their shoulder and to reduce the amount of concussions," said Haines.

He also said because of the additional sports now available, participation in youth football probably won't return to where it used to be. But the recent emphasis on concussion awareness and safety could reduce the amount of kids leaving football or even keep the numbers at their current level.

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