The Minnesota State Football Tournament is now underway at the Metrodome, but the championship playoff is bringing attention to a sport that has seen dwindling participation since 2010.
ESPN reports that Pop-Warner has seen a 10 percent decline in players in the last three years, and it appears fewer parents across the nation feel comfortable letting their kids participate in entry-level football programs due to concussion risks.
There's no question that for many small towns in Minnesota, the state football championship marks one of the most celebrated weeks -- but even with the deep sense of pride, safety concerns linger.
On Thursday, Underwood faced Ely -- and proud parents from both winning teams filled the stands. Those that spoke with Fox 9 News all seemed well aware that playing the game brings with it a potential risk of concussion and other injuries.
"It is something that crosses your mind with all the different injuries and things that you read in the papers," Mary Jo Biegler admitted.
Recent announcements from former NFL players -- including Tony Dorsett -- regarding chronic brain disease linked to concussions are keeping the issue in the forefront for football fans and players alike. Even Brett Favre admitted he sometimes suffers memory loss.
At the high school level, coaches and parents are aware of the issue. In fact, the Minnesota State High School League now has a short, online course on concussions that seeks to educate both parents and players.
"The players have been tested -- kind of a baseline test," Roxanne Thompson said. "They're aware of the signs and we have athletic trainer on the sidelines. That helps."
Knowing the risks -- as well as the warning signs is plenty of preparation for the parents who still let their kids play. One father told Fox 9 News that there will always be risks, but that the life lessons his son learns in team football far outweighs them.