Crossing the (50 yard) Line?

Three high school football players died last week. Tom Cutinella, 16, died after colliding with an opponent during a game. He was rushed to the hospital and died after surgery. Two other 17-year-old players Demario Harris and Isaiah Langston also collapsed and died on Friday.

Watching football is often described as watching an entertaining war in which nobody dies. Unfortunately this is no longer the case. The issue of high school football players becoming seriously injured and/or dying from football-related injuries is an epidemic that most have turned a blind eye to, until recently.

In the past decade, about 12 high school athletes died on average every year playing football. A recent study by the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research at the University of North Carolina found that 3 died due to “participation in the fundamental skills of football” and the other nine, on average, died from indirect causes “due to the exertion, such as from heat stroke or an undiagnosed medical condition.”

Much like any issue that cannot pinpoint the exact causes of the problem at hand, more scientific research is needed to deliver more conclusive results as to why so many tragedies on the field are occurring.

However, a 306 page NFL funded report that found the sport not only has by far the highest rates of concussions at the interscholastic level, but also that the average high school player is nearly twice as likely to suffer a brain injury as a college player.

Father of Demario Harris, a player that died last week, put up a Facebook post about the tragedy. “It’s something that nobody could be prepared for. … He’s irreplaceable. And contrary to various media reports, my son had a brain hemorrhage, not an aneurysm, that was caused by a hit he took during Friday’s game. He may have had a pre-existing condition, but there is no way to tell now.”

To clarify, a hemorrhage can be defined as an escape of blood from ruptured blood vessel, that is caused by head trauma or head injury. An aneurysm can be defined as an “excessive localized enlargement of an artery caused by a weakening of the artery wall”. An aneurysm can be caused by factors such as family history or high blood pressure.

Can a school really prepare for this? Amanda Rolik Athletic Trainer at Marshall High School suggests that coaches build trust with their athletes, in order to ensure that they know about any injuries that happen on and off the field. Schools should also implement emergency action plans and be well informed about illnesses that students may have.

Another issue in this regard is that perhaps football-related injuries, such as concussions are not being taken seriously enough. Michigan Quarter Back Shane Morris went back into a game after suffering a mild concussion.

As Larry Strauss of the Huffington Post suggests, every effort is seemingly made to keep high school students safe through drug and alcohol education, anti-weapon rules, and emphasis on emotional health. It is natural to wonder why, then, we put young adults in such a dangerous situation, such as football.

Is football really to blame? Is it worth the risk for High School Students? Is the risk as big as it currently seems? One thing is for sure, it’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt.

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One Response to Crossing the (50 yard) Line?

  1. alana.kohn says:

    This is a tough case because football is so largely popular in our country. I don’t think football will ever be outlawed and people won’t stop watching or playing the sport. But I think the coaches need to do a better job of overseeing their players and building trust with them. Football players should be forced to have physicals and follow-up physicals to make sure they are in the right condition to play the game. And they should also have counselors on hand to deal with mental issues that the players could be going through.

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