By Vicente Vitela, Sports Editor
The death of a teen football player brings up the question now of brain injuries occurring at the high school level.
Dylan Thomas, a Georgia high school football player, recently collapsed on the field, and later died after receiving a hard hit to the head during a game, which raises more questions about the link between football and traumatic brain injuries.
“I can’t feel my legs,” said Thomas to his coach as he lay motionless on the field according to cbslocal.com.
I believe there are far too many brain-related injuries in football that will lead to Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, and even death. According to Time magazine, CTE is found in over 87 percent of football players’ brains.
As a most recent example, football fans are familiar with the suicide of Hall of Fame linebacker Junior Seau, who played most notably for the Dolphins, Chargers and Patriots before officially retiring in 2009. The family of Seau filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the NFL back in 2012, and settled this year for an undisclosed amount of money.
Seau’s death in 2012 is still one of the most severe cases of CTE known due to his brain looking similar to a pound of ground beef. After Seau’s death, he was diagnosed with a degenerative brain, caused by repeated head hits taken during his career despite being only 43 years old, according to the New York Times.
Between 2010 and 2014, there were 14 high school football related deaths caused by traumatic brain injuries suffered while playing, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
“This required the perfect amount of pressure, on the perfect spot, at the perfect angle,” said the doctor when describing the situation to Thomas’s parents, according to CNN.com
The NFL and its well-documented struggles to prevent CTE has made this a hot-button issue for all football players, including teenagers. Brain injuries, once thought to only happen among pro football players, is now being discovered amongst high school players as well, and if something is not done to prevent it, we can expect more and more cases like Thomas’s to make the morning papers.
A possible solution to this may be to force football players to bring back the uniforms of the Leatherhead days. These uniforms had little to no padding, and slight head protection, however players during that area didn’t experience CTE in as many players as we see today.
There were less brain-related injuries back then due to less protection, forcing the players to dial it back, because of the more vulnerability to pain. A study by the University of North Carolina showed that four times the number of young football players have died from head, and spine injuries from 2005 to 2014 as compared to 1965 to 1974.
Thomas is just another unfortunate casualty of this sport and joins a now long list of people who have died due to brain-related football injuries. Although he will be remembered for how he died, it will be how we react to this, which will prove whether or not he died for nothing or he died to finally force a solution to this dark cloud on the sport.