Tyrell Cameron. Ben Hamm. Evan Murray. Kenney Bui. Rod Williams. Cam’ron Matthews. Andre Smith. Luke Schemm.

These are all young athletes who have died this season playing high school football.

Deaths in a sport can be classified as either direct or indirect fatalities. Direct fatalities are those that result from football itself, such as a player suffering a broken neck tackling an opponent. Indirect deaths result from exertion while playing. Examples include heat stroke and cardiac deaths.

From available media reports, it appears that most of the young athletes listed above died from events directly caused by football. They died from brain injuries, cervical spine injuries or a lacerated spleen.

If these reports are accurate, then at least six of the deaths this fall are directly related to high school football. Add these to the eight deaths in 2013 and five in 2014, and this three-year period marks the highest total since 1986-1988, according to Jason Lisk of The Big Lead.

Whether or not this recent spike in fatalities is part of a trend or just an aberration remains to be seen.

Dr. Frederick Mueller, the former director of the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research, explained to me that in the 1960s and early 1970s, 25 to 30 athletes died each year as a result of head and neck injuries. In 1976, football banned spear tackling, which involved leading with the head or helmet. That change helped to dramatically cut fatalities in the sport.

According to data from the NCCSIR, 26 high school football players suffered deaths directly related to the sport between 2003 and 2012, or about three per year. Nineteen direct fatalities have occurred from 2013 through the end of the 2015 season, which appears to be a significant increase. It’s possible, however, that increased media coverage and the proliferation of social media has helped to publicize deaths we might never have heard about in the past.

While it’s hard to conclude that deaths in high school football are becoming more common, it is clear that we aren’t making much headway in preventing them either.

Part of the problem could be the evolution of the sport at the high school level and the athletes who play it. Kids start playing competitively at a much younger age, so the high school game is played at a higher level than ever. Plus the athletes are bigger, faster and stronger and deliver hits with more force than they did decades ago.

More worrisome, though, are the deaths indirectly related to football. There were 62 indirect fatalities between 2008 and 2014, according to NCCSIR data. Most deaths from heat stroke, sickling in athletes with sickle cell trait and heart issues can be prevented with rapid and appropriate medical response in the first few minutes. Yet these deaths seem to be rising.

I don’t present these statistics to scare anyone. The simple fact is that kids die playing football.

You might look at that number — six deaths directly caused by football this year — and think that it isn’t many when 1.1 million kids play high school football. Or you might be a parent who decides it is far too high.

We need more research on high school football deaths and new strategies to prevent them. Would creating more protective helmets make a difference? Would teaching proper tackling techniques help? Yes, we need those efforts and much, much more. But the last 40 years have shown us that we aren’t making much progress.

Football is more popular than ever, and kids want to play. Parents will have to decide if six deaths a year is an acceptable risk for their children.

Dr. David Geier is an orthopaedic surgeon in Charleston. For more information about football injuries and other sports medicine topics, go to drdavidgeier.com.

Source: Geier, David. “Are Deaths Increasing in High School Football?” Post and Courier. N.p., 25 Nov. 2015. Web. 25 Nov. 2015.