Another season of high school football is upon us -- a late summer tradition that may seem to be running high, but step back and take a look around and you'll see across the country a sport that seems to be on the decline.
"Nationally the trends, participation has dropped," says Bill Curran, Director of Student Activities and Athletics for Fairfax County Public Schools. "There's no question about it on a national level the participation in the youth level and high school level has dropped."
Curran says the numbers have not fallen off in Fairfax County where roughly 3,300 boys and about 30 girls each year are trying out for freshman, JV and Varsity football programs at the county's 25 public high schools.
Curran says the risk of concussions is a major concern and that's why Fairfax County is now partnering with the NFL to teach kids from an early age how to tackle not with your head, but your shoulders.
"There's a state law in Virginia that requires all parents and all athletes go through a concussion training course and identification course that was passed two years ago," Curran explains.
Curran says in Fairfax county coaches are trained as well.
"It seems very basic for educators to have done this but we've never really done it: we bring the parents out onto the field and show them what we're teaching. And how we teach contact, how you teach an athlete, particularly a football player, how to hit," Curran tells us.
Curran says high school programs across the region are limiting the amount of contact during practices. And in Montgomery county and Fairfax, they're establishing baseline testing for all student athletes.
It's a cognitive test that goes into cognitive reaction time and speed. And a student will sit down at a computer and take the baseline when they're perfectly healthy. When everything is fine. And if there's a suspicion of a concussion and if there's any sign of concussion what our athletic trainers can do, and every single one of our high schools has two athletic trainers in them, they can bring that student in, sit them down and go through that battery, that test."
Curran says those student athletes are not cleared to play again until trainers and coaches are certain the signs of a concussion have cleared.
It’s a serious issue getting some serious attention.