In suburban Highland Park, helmets and shoulder pads have been replaced by belts and flags as tackle football has been cancelled by the local park district.
The Park District staff informed the district board of the cancellation of tackle football at Tuesday night’s meeting. The panel says that dwindling sign-ups for the team led to the decision, and there was no pushback.
“In 2015 I think we were at 54 kids,” Liza McElroy of the Highland Park Park District said. “In 2016 we dropped to 33 and then this summer we were down to 11.”
Meanwhile, enrollment in the flag football league is surging, and with parents and athletes concerned about the risk of concussions and concussion-related brain injuries, the sign-up numbers for tackle football have plummeted.
“I think that what you’ve seen from the NFL level on down is that it’s a trickle-down effect, and parents of young kids (have) a lot of decisions that they have to make,” McElroy said. “The good thing is that there’s a lot of good choices for the kids.”
The 11 kids that had signed up for tackle football through the park district will have the option of either playing flag football in Highland Park or to play tackle football in a neighboring town, according to the park district.