Deaths on the football field are down but it's still the most dangerous place to play, says Dr. Frederick O. Mueller of the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research at the University of North Carolina.

He said there were nine deaths in high school and collegiate football in 1984 compared with 13 in 1983. In each year, four players died because of football injuries; the others died of heatstroke or such problems as pre-existing heart conditions, he said.

Some other figures he's collected: In 1982-84, seven high school basketball players died. In 1983-84, four high school wrestlers died. In 1982-83, there were four deaths in high school track -- all in the pole vault -- but none the following year.

He said that headfirst slides in baseball had caused one case of permanent paralysis and one fractured cervical vertebra among school players and two cases of permanent paralysis in sandlot play . . .

The Indianapolis Colts traded quarterback Mark Herrmann, 26, to the San Diego Chargers for an undisclosed future draft pick. The Chargers expect him to be Dan Fouts' backup. Mike Pagel and Art Schlichter will compete for the Colts' starting job . . .

Linebacker Billy Cannon Jr. of the Cowboys apparently is finished, victim of a spinal injury. He couldn't pass the team physical . . .

Center Jeff Van Note, 39, will be back for a 17th season with the Atlanta Falcons. Only quarterback Jim Hart, 40, of the Redskins and kicker Jan Stenerud, 41, of the Vikings have played longer . . .

The Washington Redskins and the Department of Health and Human Services will sponsor "Game Plan," a program that will send Redskins Mark Moseley, Mark Murphy, Calvin Muhammad, Joe Washington, Darrell Green and Darryl Grant to area junior high schools to encourage students to resist negative peer pressure.