The New Jersey high school quarterback who died Friday night from an on-field injury because of massive internal bleeding caused by a laceration of the spleen, according to the Morris County Medical Examiner’s Office.
Evan Murray, 17, from Warren Hills Regional, had an abnormally enlarged spleen, according to the report from Dr. Ronald Suarez and was therefore more susceptible to injury. The Medical Examiner’s Office ruled the death accidental and said there was no evidence of heart disease or head trauma.
The office said it does not intend to issue further statements on the case.
Junior lineman Bailey Lieberman had told NJ.com that Murray has taken a helmet to the stomach before the play that knocked him from the game. Murray walked off the field under his own power but collapsed a short time later on the sideline and was taken via ambulance to a local hospital. He was pronounced dead at the hospital.
School officials have not said the manner in which the injury occurred.
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The most notable spleen injury at higher levels of football involved Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Chris Simms. Simms ruptured his spleen during a 2006 game but was saved by the quick thinking of athletic trainers and doctors who tended to him after the game. Simms lost nine pints of blood and was rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery to remove his spleen and had a transfusion. It took him a year to recover, but the injury largely brought an end to his career.
“I’m sure this used to happen, but in the modern era, I don’t recall a college or pro quarterback other than Simms ever suffering a serious spleen injury,” said Terry O’Neill, a former front office executive with the New Orleans Saints, who has founded a safety program for high school coaches called Practice Like Pros. The concept is to make proven concepts from coaches at the college and pro levels and share them through clinics around the country with high school coaches.
O’Neill said he was struck when looking at the pictures of Murray that the quarterback doesn’t appear to be wearing a hard-shell full corset or rib protection that is standard at the college and NFL levels.
“No quarterback in college or pro football would go on the field without it,” O’Neill said. “I’m not saying he didn’t wear it or making any accusations. The question has to be asked was he wearing any kind of protection and it doesn’t appear that he is. In high school, you are just as vulnerable — to a blitzer with a free run at a quarterback who is in the act of making a throw and the blitzer puts his helmet into the ribs — as a college or pro quarterback is. High school players are bigger, stronger, faster and better conditioned than ever. They can do extreme damage.
“Some of (Murray’s teammates) have said that he took a big shot in the chest before the half. That is the kind of shot if not wearing rib protection end up with lacerated spleen.”
Murray’s family issued a statement to ABC News thanking the community for the outpouring of support.
“There are no words to express how touched we are by the overwhelming outpouring of love and support from not only our local community but from people across the country,” the Murray family said in a statement to ABC News. “We thank you so much for keeping us in your thoughts during this unimaginable time.”
Murray’s funeral is scheduled for Thursday.
The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletics Association requires member schools to submit a report following a catastrophic injury. The NJSIAA shares that information with its medical advisory board, the NFHS and with the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research.
“Initial reports indicated that both a physician and trainer were present on the Warren Hills sideline (during the game),” NJSIAA Executive Director Steve Timko said, noting that 97 percent of New Jersey’s high schools have trainers on their sidelines, the highest percentage nationwide.
MyCentralJersey.com contributed to this report