By Daniela Morales
In a matter of one week, three high school football players died on the field. Are they self-pressured to become pro players; are parents, friends, and coaches having an impact, or is it just the adrenaline of the game?
The first of the three, Isaiah Langston, a 17 year-old student at Rolesville High School in North Carolina, collapsed on the field during a pregame warm-up on September 26. His family announced his death the following Monday and the cause of death is still unknown.
Demario Harris Jr., a 17 year-old attending Charles Henderson High School in Alabama died just two days after Isaiah, a couple of days after collapsing on the field following a tackle in a football game.
According to a neurologist, Harris ruptured an aneurysm in his brain, but his father claimed that his son had a brain hemorrhage caused by a hit during the game.
“He may have had a preexisting condition, but there is no way to tell now,” read Harris’ father’s post on Facebook.
Three days after Harris’ death on Sunday, 16 year-old Tom Cutinella died at Shoreham-Wading River High School. He died after emergency surgery following a serious head injury after a collision at the night’s game against a neighboring high school.
All three deaths occurred during a hard contact game of American football. Kids are hitting harder and harder each time with the goal of blocking the runner from reaching the touchdown point, but just how much is enough?
Impending football players usually go through a basic physical exam and drug test to see if they’re apt to play the sport, but never does the coach request an EKG exam which records the electrical activity of the heart- or an MRI –which uses a magnetic field and radio waves to produce images of organs and tissue of the brain before accepting a high school student into the team. Yet a player’s chance of suffering serious injury or death from a concussion increases exponentially if the player has not yet healed from a previous concussion.
A lot of these young players plan on defining their life through football and would do anything to be the best. This sometimes included playing a whole game with a fractured finger, sprained ankle or a pulled muscle. The pressure and standards of everyone around them including themselves to be the outstanding star player can overcome the momentary pain and have worse consequences later on.
“I once played a full quarter with a fractured shoulder and my coach noticed because I only used my right arm to throw” said Matthew Tanis, a football player for seven years.
There is also the matter of how aggressively the game is played. The size, weight, and strength of the player are all factors coming together to decide whether this one or the next one gets knocked out or just nudged to the side. The average height of a high school football player is 5’8 but in a game where tackling is the main objective most weigh from 200 to 300 pounds, those boys can do some serious damage.
“I’ve been lucky enough to never have gotten a concussion in a football game, just really big hits” said current football player at HML High School.
With eight total student deaths this year due to high school football injuries, parents have demanded better equipment, such as stronger helmets and shoulder guards. Parents have also called for more thorough physical exams before entering the team.
These hits are a matter of life or death for these students. Even if they don’t go as far as pro football players or even college players, they will most likely have mental repercussions for the rest of their lives.