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Fear of injury curbing Minnesota kids' participation in football

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In a widely discussed PBS Frontline report last week on concussions and long-term mental illnesses suffered by former NFL players, an NFL doctor reportedly confided that the end of the league would happen when 10 percent of mothers decide to keep their children away from the game.

On Tuesday, MPR-KARE 11 special assignment reporter Trisha Volpe reports that we've hit that point already. Some youth football teams across Minnesota have seen a fifth to as much as a third fewer players in the last five years, Volpe reports. Heightened concerns about the sport's safety are largely to blame for diminishing interest, say coaches, parents and players, Volpe reports.

She visits Eden Prairie, where the Eden Prairie Youth Football Association has noticed a drop of 34 percent in participation in its third- to eighth-grade league since 2008.

A poll by ESPN last year found that media coverage of the increase in concussions in football have made 57 percent of parents less likely to allow their sons to play in youth leagues.

The PBS special, and a new book by two veteran sports reporters who are featured in the documentary, has prompted some soul-searching for many fans and parents.

"Today, instead of telling kids how football helped to inspire me to go after what I want in life, I advise them and their parents to avoid the game at all costs," writes Roxanne Jones in a new column. She a founding editor of ESPN The Magazine and 30-year die-hard football fan, who says she has lost love and respect for the game. "It's not safe at any level. Play other sports."

Volpe will have more on the story Tuesday on KARE 11 at 10 p.m.

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