Michigan High School Cancels Remaining Football Games for 'Safety Reasons'

Caro High School in Caro, Michigan, has cancelled the there remaining games on its schedule citing safety concerns for its players.

A school of only 524 students. the Caro team suffered numerous injuries over the course of the season, forcing the coach to promote junior varsity players to the varsity. Four players also quit over the last two weeks which meant the coach was faced with a decision on whether to play freshmen. The freshmen team had already had their season canceled due to lack of players, so rather than play undersized players against the varsity from other teams, the coach and school principle, after a vote from the players and school board, canceled the last 3 games.

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New York Times:

“It’s a difficult decision because our players were out there battling hard, but we’re an educational institution, and with our students, safety comes first,” Joslyn said in a telephone interview Friday. “These kids have long lives ahead of them, and we need to keep the brains in their heads intact.”

At a vigil for Tom Cutinella on Thursday at Shoreham-Wading River High School, players from Mount Sinai High School paid their respects.

Caro’s decision followed a tumultuous two weeks for the sport nationally — at least three high school football players died, two after on-field collisions.

Joslyn said Caro’s roster was so depleted that eight sophomores had been called up from the junior varsity. Because so many freshmen had been moved up to the junior varsity, the freshman season had already been canceled. Todd Topham, the varsity coach, then began to worry that his players would be so overmatched by older players on opposing teams that the games could become more dangerous for them.

Caro, with an enrollment of 524 students, plays in the Class B Tri-Valley Conference East and had gone 4-29 in the past four seasons. It was 1-5 this season.

Joslyn, who played football at Caro High School and in college, said the reaction from the community was mixed.

“I would say the response has been about 50-50,” Joslyn said. “Half have thanked us for making a courageous decision. The other people say you don’t ever quit, that kids are soft these days and need to get out there and battle. I understand all of that, but our kids were out there battling. We made the best decision we could.”

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Sports are important to kids. They build confidence, instill discipline, and teach kids about the importance of teamwork.

But they’re not worth their health. The alarming statistics about concussions in all sports, but especially football, are causing a re-evaluation of the rules, as well as a bigger emphasis on good health care at all levels of the sport.

Young, growing bodies, not fully developed, are far more prone to serious injuries than adults. While “playing hurt” is part of football, that shouldn’t mean that you have to sacrifice your future health for the team or the sport.

There’s a movement in Little League baseball to make it illegal for a kid to throw a breaking ball. The strain and stress on young arms and the pressure to succeed is so great, that kids as young as 10 are having “Tommy John surgery.” The idea to ban curves and sliders in Little League has several prominent proponents, including some Hall of Famers.

The drive to compete and succeed is what sports are all about. But the frightening consequences of playing the game to the long term health of children should be weighed against the benefits that team sports give them.

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