Safety for Albuquerque football players comes at a cost

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ALBUQUERQUE, NM (KRQE) – The bright lights, the pumped-up crowds, and serious pep talks – high school football in New Mexico is as strong as ever.

It’s what brought high school head football Coach Judge Chavez back to his Valley roots, “The camaraderie amongst players and coaches, and people would ask me when I was out of the game for three years would ask me what do you miss and that’s what I missed.”

Just about any New Mexico kid that straps on a football helmet has the same dream, to play on Sundays and play in the Super Bowl but it’s what’s missing from the shelves this time of year that every high school football parent wants to know about.

Just like the pros, concussion concerns are a big part of the high school game. At Albuquerque Public Schools better helmets are the new priority but it won’t happen overnight.

“It is the most scrutinized piece of athletic equipment that we own” says Director of Athletics Kenny Barreras and they don’t run cheap, “you’re probably talking close to $300 a football helmet.”

There are about 1,500 high school football players in APS and if they were to buy all new helmets, it would cost the school district about $450,000.

All thirteen high schools have to split a yearly budget of $190,000 for football gear and that includes everything from shoulder pads and uniforms, to kicking tees and footballs. “It’s no secret we have limited resources and I think at this point we’re going to have, from a dollars and cents stand point, even more limited resources than we’ve ever experienced before,” says Barreras.

The district tries to buy 120 new helmets each year and makes sure to send all of them back to the manufacturer to be reconditioned after every season.

Barreras says this is an extra cost APS willingly pays. “From my standpoint and in my opinion, the reconditioning of football helmets on a yearly basis is a non-negotiable,” a decision players, parents and coaches appreciate.

“As a coach you spend more time with them than your own families and the kids than they do with their families so you want to make sure they’re safe.” Says Coach Judge Chavez.

As they phase out old helmets, each of the newer, more advanced helmets can last up to ten years.

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