Over the past few months we have written extensively on developments with the National Football League (NFL) brain injury cases. An apparent settlement was reached recently which may provide support to the thousands of former NFL players who have suffered severe long-term harm as a result of the injuries they sustained while playing professional football. Yet, we also noted the the settlement was not the end of the matter, as there remain many unanswered questions about the leagues conduct with former players still having options to pursue their rights.
It is important that we continue to share information about these developments. At the same time it is critical to reiterate that the problem of football-related traumatic brain injuries is not limited only to professional sports or even collegiate athletics. Younger athletes are just as much at risk.
High School TBI Death
That point was hammered home in a tragic story discussed by NBC Sports. Late last month, on September 27th, a 17-year old high school football player was in a game on Friday night. He suffered a serious hit, but he was able to make it back to the sidelines. However, it was not long before onlookers realized something was seriously wrong. While on the sidelines during the game he suddenly collapsed.
Naturally, the young man was rushed to a local hospital. It was soon determined that he suffered a blood clot in his brain. He was placed in a medically-induced coma after having emergency surgery in an attempt to stabilize his condition and repair the damage. In the first week following the injury it seemed like he might be showing signs of recovery, but it was not meant to be.
On Sunday the young man passed away as a result of the brain injury he suffered on the high school football field.
Unfortunately, this unbelievably sad story is not as unique as you might think. Similar reports have been filed throughout the country this year alone. August to November is the prime high school football season–a time when hundreds of thousands of older teens compete every week in the physically demanding sport.
With all of the focus on the safety of professional athletes, it is absolutely incumbent upon us to raise awareness of the same dangers that affect younger players. After all, only a very small number of individuals will make it to the professional level, but countless more will play the game in school leagues. As a result, it is inevitable that more total brain injuries will strike younger athletes.
This makes it even more important for school officials, league administrators, referees, athletic trainers, and others to take all reasonable steps to keep players safe. This might include stricter enforcement of playing rules to minimize damage head contact, better observation of at-risk athletes, proper training to spot risk signs, and much more. As the tragic example of this high school player makes clear, the stakes are far too high to shirk these responsibilities.
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