DAYTON, Ky. – High school football teams practice hard through the summer heat for the chance to play in the fall night lights. So it was a tough call when Dayton High School canceled Thursday night’s game against Ludlow.
But the superintendent of Dayton Independent Schools said it was a matter of safety.
So many Dayton players are injured that they have barely enough to field a team, Superintendent Jay Brewer said.
"We started the season with nearly 30 kids and, game after game, practice after practice, somebody limps in and has this injury or that injury. We're down to about 13-14 kids," Brewer said.
That would require almost every player to go both ways and play special teams, too.
"When you need 11 players on the field - playing a full game of football - that number starts to question, ‘Are we doing what's right for our kids, expecting them to play every play all game long?’ " Brewer said.
"It's a little frustrating, a little disappointing. But we try to put it into perspective in the body of work that we're doing here,” he said. “Teaching and learning are the most important things and obviously keeping our kids safe and healthy too."
Brewer said the Dayton players have a mix of injuries – some more serious than others that will need more time to heal.
"It's a range of everything - broken angles, knees that are a little messed up, concussions, spinal injuries. “It's like, you name it, we’ve seen it this year."
So has Scott Helton, director of sports medicine and athletic training services at St. Elizabeth Healthcare.
"We tend to see more student athletes coming into the office now because of the repetitive trauma and repetitive work that they're putting in," said Helton.
Helton said he sees about four student-athletes a day in various offices - including a few from Dayton High School - and this time of the year is his busiest.
Helton said player safety should come first, and one of the biggest things an injured player needs is rest.
"That's a very difficult decision to make to cancel a varsity football game. I think they're recognizing we have to pay attention to what the kids are reporting, and rest is one of the most under-utilized treatment approaches I think that we don't use," Helton said.
Brewer isn’t sure Dayton will be able to play next week’s game against Bellevue. It depends how many players are healthy next week.
"The sun will come out tomorrow, I believe, and both teams will go on to play hopefully against other opponents,” Brewer said.