One of the unfortunate constants in football is that participants die or are seriously injured each year, and statistics show that high school athletes are particularly vulnerable.
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.
Why do those at the high school level die at such alarming rates?
Experts say there are a variety of reasons, ranging from inadequate equipment to the development of the brain to the availability of qualified trainers.
“Unfortunately, some of these deaths are preventable,” Kevin Guskiewicz told USA TODAY in 2014, “and when you don’t have appropriate medical care out there, you can have players going back to play when they shouldn’t.”
Guskiewicz is founding director of the Matthew Gfeller Sport-Related Traumatic Brain Injury Research Center at the University of North Carolina.
A certified athletic trainer was not at Coahoma County High School in Mississippi on Friday night when Byhalia High School player Dennis Mitchell collapsed after re-entering the game after absorbing a hit and vomiting on the sidelines. He was later pronounced dead at a hospital.
Deaths result from hits, heat stroke
Not much has changed in terms of the statistics since Guskiewicz’s comments four years ago. High school athletes such as Mitchell continue to lead the way in fatalities.