The Game Must Go On
By Julia Stevens
This season, seven boys died playing high school football.
The first was Tyrell Cameron, a 16-year-old player from Winnsboro, Louisiana. On September 2nd, Cameron was hit while covering a punt return, sustaining a broken neck and dying shortly after.
The second was Ben Hamm, a 16-year-old junior at Wesleyan Christian School in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. He died on September 19th after surgery and medically induced coma failed to sufficiently address the head injury he received during a game on September 11th.
The third was Evan Murray, a 17-year-old player from New Jersey. Murray sustained a helmet to the stomach that lacerated his spleen so significantly he died of massive internal trauma before reaching the hospital.
The fourth was Rod Williams, a high school junior from Burke County, Georgia. Rod passed away two weeks after collapsing during football practice on September 22nd. Doctors believe a congenital heart defect may have been a complicating factor in his death.
The fifth was Kenney Bui, a 17-year-old senior from Highline High School in Washington. Kenney was hit while making a tackle in a game on October 2nd and died on October 5th.
The sixth was Cam’ron Matthews, a 16-year-old junior from Alto, Texas. During a game on October 16th, Matthews suffered a seizure thought to be caused by injuries sustained while playing. He died in the hospital the next day from an aneurysm.
Could this happen to a player at Edison? Sure, there is always the possibility, but our team actually has a huge advantage when it comes to addressing injuries-we have medical staff. Whereas only 37% of high school football teams have athletic trainers on sidelines, a multitude of trainers and a team doctor can regularly be seen on the field at Edison games. In the words of Coach White, “It’s huge,” to have medical care available, “We have the best trainers, doctors.” He’s correct in the importance of our staff, as according to Kinesiology Professor Douglas Casa at University of Connecticut, care in the first five to seven minutes is critical for life-threatening injuries. And the trainers know this, as senior defensive lineman Shane Fullbright recalls from games, “The second someone’s hurt the trainers are the first ones to make sure they’re okay.” Coach Grace also points out an important part of care in diagnostics, “They know what to look for.”
But problems may arise when players fail to report their injuries or try to return to playing before injuries are fully healed. Junior O-line Heifarra Ferrari admitted, “Football players tend to return to playing before some injuries are fully healed.” The response from Holly, our head athletic trainer, also known as “The Mom of Edison,” along with trainers Amanda Cawley, Hailey Heckman, Alex Robles, and Corinne Halley on this subject was overwhelmingly that underreporting occurs. Heckman suggested this is likely because “They don’t wanna let their teammates down. They don’t wanna let their coaches down,” when they have to take off time for rehab. The trainers said concussions are especially underreported, noting how after the last game a few players admitted to sustaining multiple concussions throughout the season without ever telling anyone or seeking medical attention. In this regard, Edison may be in line with the national statistic that 40% of athletes who sustain a concussion say their coach is unaware of the injury.
At Edison then, if there is any problem with addressing injuries, it’s not because of inadequate or inaccessible care, but rather the general culture of “pushing through it” in football and competitive sports overall.
On the tragic deaths in high school football- coaches, players, and trainers were saddened but generally felt that Edison’s saving grace in the matter was attentive staff and coaches. Coach White said, “As a coach that’s scary, and as a parent that’s really scary,” mentioning he has put three sons through the Edison football program. He also said having a team doctor to make mid-game calls on injuries is huge, because “as a coach you wanna win,” so having a final word from a doctor makes the decision of sitting out an injured player easier. Coach Grace stated, “It’s tragic but there’s deaths in just about any endeavor, when there’s so many millions playing.” For some perspective, twelve people have died this year trying to take a selfie, and eight have died from shark attacks. Fear can be a harmful force in sports, and as summed up by Shane Fullbright, “Fear means more getting hurt.” Trainer Hailey Heckman echoed similar sentiments, saying, “If you’re not thinking that you’re gonna do well you’re more prone to injuries because your mind’s not in the right state.”
As Coach White said, “You can’t live your life worrying about it.” So play on.