Dennis Mitchell's death raises the question: Why wasn't an athletic trainer there?

Brad Vest, The Commercial Appeal

Dennis Mitchell's death raises the question: Why wasn't an athletic trainer there?


Dennis Mitchell's death raises the question: Why wasn't an athletic trainer there?


A 16-year-old from Byhalia, Miss., died on the Coahoma County High School football field Friday night, and the principal said his school met Mississippi High School Activities Association requirements even though it had no certified athletic trainer on site.

A 16-year-old from Byhalia, Miss., died on the Coahoma County football field Friday night, and Dennis Mitchell’s grandmother said she’s wondering why her grandson was allowed to go back into the game after absorbing a hard hit.

Think about those two things for a second.

How is that possible, in this day and age, given how dangerous we know football to be?

How do we still live in a place where a sanctioned high school football game can be played with no athletic trainers around?

How many more 16-year-olds do we have to lose before this changes?

On Friday, could an athletic trainer have caught something others missed?

Because right now, in Tennessee and Mississippi, athletic trainers don’t need to be on hand to play a high school football game.

What are trainer rules in Mississippi, Tennessee?

Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association executive director Bernard Childress told The USA TODAY Network – Tennessee that the TSSAA recommends a trainer and emergency medical services be at every high school football game. But, Childress added, that’s not possible in some rural communities, so it’s not a requirement.

MHSAA executive director Don Hinton echoed that sentiment and noted coaches are required to have first-responder training.

My response: If a school can’t afford or procure the necessary medical resources to play football — or any contact sport for that matter — they shouldn’t be allowed to sponsor that sport.

You would never participate in a football practice, or play a football game, without a helmet. Having at least a certified athletic trainer on hand should be considered just as necessary.

“The lack of a health care professional on the sideline is simply inexcusable given what we know in terms of how qualified they are to help athletes,” said Dr. Samantha Scarneo, the Vice President of Sport Safety at the Korey Stringer Institute.

But this is happening all over the country.

A 2017 study released by the Korey Stringer Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing sudden death in sports and named after the former Minnesota Vikings offensive lineman who died from heat stroke at training camp in 2001, found that only 58 percent of the more than 2,000 high schools surveyed offered athletic training services of some kind.

According to the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research, 42 football players at all levels died of direct and indirect causes between 2015 and 2017. Of that total, 30 involved high school players.

Read the rest of the story in the Memphis Commercial Appeal


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