As Worries Rise and Players Flee, a Missouri School Board Cuts Football

As Worries Rise and Players Flee, a Missouri School Board Cuts Football

Elijah Keely of Maplewood Richmond Heights carries during a game between Maplewood Richmond Heights High School and John Burroughs School at Maplewood Richmond Heights on Friday, Oct. 19, 2012, in Maplewood. (STLToday.com)
Elijah Keely of Maplewood-Richmond Heights carries during a game between Maplewood-Richmond Heights High School and John Burroughs School at Maplewood-Richmond Heights on Friday, Oct. 19, 2012, in Maplewood, MO. (STLToday.com)

MAPLEWOOD, Mo. (New York Times) — Students and families at Maplewood-Richmond Heights High School are looking forward to homecoming, the highlight of the autumn school calendar for decades. But for the first time, the centerpiece event will be soccer, not football.

The school board in Maplewood, a St. Louis suburb, disbanded the high school’s football team in June, even though it reached the state championship game five years ago. A decade ago, such a move would have seemed radical. But concerns are growing about football players’ safety, and soccer and other sports are gaining popularity.

“Over all, it was, ‘Can we field a team that is competitive and safe for the kids to perform?’ ” said Nelson Mitten, the president of the Maplewood-Richmond Heights School Board, who said players’ injuries last season included a broken ankle, a torn anterior cruciate ligament and a significant head injury. “Whenever you have anything like that, you have to be a responsible board and discuss what we can do to make sure we can field a team.”

“Over all, it was, ‘Can we field a team that is competitive and safe for the kids to perform?’ ” said Nelson Mitten, the president of the Maplewood Richmond Heights School Board, who said players’ injuries last season included a broken ankle, a torn anterior cruciate ligament and a significant head injury. “Whenever you have anything like that, you have to be a responsible board and discuss what we can do to make sure we can field a team.”

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