When Alto (Texas) football player Cam’ron Matthews died in mid-October, reports initially indicated that he died from an aneurysm.
However, the autopsy report was released Tuesday and Smith County Justice of the Peace James Cowart says Matthews died from “blunt impact to the head,” according to KLTV.
Cowart told KLTV that Matthews suffered “anoxic encephalopathy following resuscitation from cardiac arrest from unspecified blunt impact.” according to the autopsy report. Essentially, Matthews’ brain was unable to get enough oxygen because of swelling caused by the blunt impact.
According to the Alto school district, Matthews, 17, came off the field Oct. 16 and said he did not feel well. His condition worsened when he was being evaluated by the trainer. A Life Flight was called and Matthews was taken to East Texas Medical Center, where he was a pronounced dead the next day.
The family donated seven of Matthews’ organs after his death. While organ donation is confidential, the family said Matthews’ grandfather received a kidney.
“God also is using Cam’ron to help save people spiritually,” the family said in statement. “The number of lives he has touched is ongoing. Being an organ donor allowed his family more time to say goodbye to their son.”
The Matthews’ case provides another rallying cry for the football advocacy group Practice Like Pros, which has proposed a coordinated effort at a national research center to compile data in catastrophic injuries by combining the athlete’s medical information along with his football history and specifics of the circumstances of the injury. With a more comprehensive picture of each case, patterns could be determined with the possibility to effect change.
“This is another missed opportunity to have learned something from the death of this player for the greater good of high school football,” said Terry O’Neil, the founder of Practice Like Pros and a former executive with the New Orleans Saints. “We now find out it’s another suspected case of second impact syndrome, but we can’t say for sure because at time of death there wasn’t a way to do the study. We bury these boys without knowing exactly what killed them. We’re going to end another season with no more information than we had.
“The question is, was this a preventable death? Could this boy have been diagnosed with a concussion earlier? It’s maddening me for to sit and watch these news reports when it’s so clear we need this study. … It’s astonishing in this country that we would allow this to continue year after year.”
The National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research in Chapel Hill, N.C., has recorded 10 deaths in high school football since July 1. Six have been classified as football related and four have been classified as indirectly related such as heat exertion. Because the center does not release names, it is unclear how it classified Matthews’ death and whether the autopsy results would cause a change.
In all, the Center has recorded 13 football deaths in the calendar year and 42 in the last three years, 20 of those 42 are from contact. The center is interested in collaborating with Practice Like Pros on the project.
“Unfortunately, this is another case that’s going to go down as blunt head trauma. That’s a big basket of a category that doesn’t necessarily tell you what happened,” said Dr. Robert Cantu, the center’s medical director. “We know he got hit in the head. That goes without saying. W
“Was the final problem a correctable one such as would be in second impact syndrome or was it something else? By talking about the lack of oxygen to the brain, that’s normally what is seen due to the brain becoming herniated because of massive swelling. This has all earmarks of second impact syndrome. I’m not saying it is, but that’s a potentially preventable entity. It’s just yet another case this year that needs to be fully worked up with people who know what they need to look for as opposed to a broad category of diagnosis that doesn’t tell what the particular problem was.”