TREVOR KNIGHT, 21, quarterback with Oklahoma, 2012-present, suffered transient quadriplegia after he took a hit in the fourth quarter of a game against Baylor on 11/8/14. Transient quadriplegia is a cervical spine injury typically caused by hyperextension of the neck, causing burning sensations, numbness, tingling or loss of sensation on both sides of the body. (It differs from a stinger, which affects just one side of the body.) Transient quadriplegia can last from 15 minutes to 36 hours. Knight was taken off the field on a backboard, but not immediately transported to a hospital. He was walking around and talking to teammates in the locker room after the game, and left the complex under his own power. Tests later that night showed no structural damage, including spinal stenosis, a narrowing of spaces in the spine that causes pressure on the spinal cord. Spinal stenosis makes incidents of transient quadriplegia more common. (Missouri cornerback Munir Prince experienced transient quadriplegia during a scrimmage in 2010 and decided to give up the sport. Kansas’ Taniela Pahulu had a similar injury in the mid-90s and was not allowed to return after doctors discovered spinal stenosis. He sued Kansas to be allowed to return, but lost, and finished his career at Southern Utah.) Trevor Knight was cleared to practice on 12/13 and play in Oklahoma’s bowl game on 12/29/14.—“Oklahoma football: Trevor Knight’s injury diagnosed as transient quadriplegia”, newsOK.com 11/13/14, Ryan Aber.
MILES KIRKLAND-THOMAS, 16, offensive and defensive lineman with Curtis HS (NY), died after collapsing at practice on 9/1/14. The cause was a heart condition known as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a condition in which the heart muscle becomes thick, making it harder for blood to leave the heart. Obesity was a contributing factor in the death of Kirkland-Thomas, who was 295 pounds. He had been running sprints in 80 degree-70% humidity weather. He was a role model in the Staten Island housing projects where he lived, into church and hoping football would be his ticket to escape poverty.–“Miles Kirkland-Thomas, Curtis football player who collapsed at practice, died of heart condition, medical examiner’s office says”, silive.com 10/7/14, Mira Wassef. “Staten Island High School Football Player, 16, Dies After Collapsing During Practice”, newyork.CBSlocal.com 9/2/14, Glenn Schuck. [I learned of this death from Chaney’s Blog.]
WILLIAM SHOGRAN Jr., 14, home-schooled, died on 8/13/14 after having heat issues at a football training camp at a military base used by Sebastian River HS (FL). He had been playing in full pads in 85 degree heat with high humidity. He fell ill and threw up, at which time 911 was called. He died later at a nearby hospital. His mother, Maria Wray, said this was Shogran’s first year of football.—“Florida teen dies after playing football in scorching temperatures”, NYdailynews.com 8/15/14, Nicole Hensley. TCPalm.com & WJXT-TV, also. [I learned of this football death from Chaney’s Blog.]
ZYREES OLIVER, 17, with Douglas County HS (GA), died on 8/11/14 after drinking too much fluid during practice 6 days earlier. He had complained of cramping and drank 2 gallons of water and 2 gallons of Gatorade. He later collapsed at home and was taken to the hospital by helicopter. Oliver suffered massive swelling around the brain from over-hydration. After showing no signs of brain activity for several days, Oliver was removed from life support. Drinking large quantities of water in a short period of time can throw off the body’s balance of electrolytes, causing brain swelling, seizures, coma, or even death. Hyponatremia is a condition that arises when athletes or others drink too much water or sports drinks. Excessive fluid consumption can overwhelm the body’s ability to remove excess water, which dilutes the sodium content of your blood. Your body’s water levels then rise to equalize sodium levels in your cells, which swell. The swelling can cause problems including muscle cramps, nausea, vomiting and seizures. If swelling occurs in your brain it can be fatal. Loyola University Medical Center researchers advise athletes to consume water and sports drinks only when thirsty. Don’t drink a predetermined amount or try to “get ahead” of thirst by drinking more than you actually want. —“Georgia teen dies from drinking too much water, Gatorade”, CBSnews.com 8/12/14, CBS/AP. [I learned of this death from Chaney’s Blog.] “Avoid Dangerous Over-Hydration this Summer”, KKTV.com 7/1/15.
WALKER WILBANKS, 17, junior with Jackson Prep (MS), died on 8/25/14 from a severe sodium deficiency known as hyponatremia, caused by his sweating during the game. Wilbanks came to the sideline in the second half, not feeling well, and after being examined by a doctor on the sideline was taken to the hospital, where he began to cramp and vomit and had a seizure as his brain started to swell and was not getting enough oxygen. According to his doctor, Dr. Joe Pressler, the lack of sodium caused water to leak into Wilbanks’ brain, causing cerebral edema, swelling of the brain. He lost more sodium than was being replenished by rehydration during the game, and as sodium levels dropped, water shifted from his blood to his brain. Pressler called the death a “fluke” and a “freak” occurrence that could not have been prevented.—“Doctor: Wilbanks’ death unpreventable, freak occurrence”, ClarionLedger.com 8/27/14, Riley Blevins & Therese Apel. [I learned of this football death from Chaney’s Blog.]
NOAH CORNUET, 16, offensive tackle with Burrell HS (PA), collapsed during preseason conditioning drills and died on 8/6/14 when a noncancerous heart tumor about the size of a “small orange” broke off and blocked blood flow between the heart’s chambers, preventing the heart from pumping blood to the rest of the body. Pennsylvania requires 3 days of conditioning before contact to acclimate high school players to the high summer temperatures. The high was about 80 degrees that day and his parents do not believe it was a heat-related death. Paramedics on hand could not save Cornuet, also a wrestler. His older brother, Shane, plays football at Geneva College. Noah would have been a sophomore.–“Tumor Blamed for Teen’s Football Practice Death”, ABC News 8/8/14, Sydney Lupkin. “Autopsy reveals Burrell High School football player died from noncancerous heart tumor”, WTAE.com 8/8/14, Action News 4, Courtney Fischer & Ashlie Hardway. [I learned of this death from Chaney’s Blog.]
JEREMIAH PIERCE, 12, with Salem Midget Football (NJ), died on 9/28/14 after collapsing and passing out during tackling drills on 9/23/14. Assistant coach Cody Loatman, a firefighter who knows CPR, attended medically to Pierce, who was taken to the hospital and later transported to A.I. DuPont Hospital for Children in Delaware, where he died. Known as “Lil’J”, he was described as a good, energetic kid by Salem Mayor Charles Washington. “It’s sad to see one of our kids go so soon doing a sport he loved: Football,” said Loatman, who started a donation drive on gofundme.com to help with the family’s medical and funeral expenses.—“Salem Midget Football honors player who died after collapsing at practice”, NJ.com 9/29/14, Don E. Woods, South Jersey Times. [I learned of this football death from Chaney’s Blog.]
JAMOND SALLEY, 16, linebacker with Park View HS (VA), died as a result of blunt force trauma sustained on a head-to-head hit while making a tackle on a kickoff in a 10/17/14 game against Brunswick HS. He walked to the sideline, where he received medical attention after complaining of a headache, but fell unconscious and started having seizures. Salley was given CPR, but died on the way to the hospital. The cause of death was confirmed by Mecklenburg County Public Schools on 10/23/14.—“Cause of death released for high school football player who died after hit”, WTVR.com 10/23/14, Scott Wise. WTVR CBS 6 News, Sandra Jones.
PEYTON FLOWERS, 18, linebacker and running back with Loyd Star (MS), died on 11/6/14, six days after suffering an apparent brain injury in a homecoming game against West Lincoln. He asked for a break in the third quarter, fell unconscious on the sideline shortly thereafter, and was airlifted to the University of Mississippi Medical Center. The cause of death has not been released per family request. Flowers became the ninth high school player to die directly from football in the 2014 season, the most since 11 died in 1986, according to the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Research at UNC Chapel Hill. A 2-way player, he played most every offensive and defensive series. Flowers was named after NFL quarterback Peyton Manning, whose father, Archie, expressed condolences to the family.—“Loyd Star linebacker Peyton Flowers has died”, Clarion-Ledger 11/7/14, Courtney Cronin & Therese Apel. “Mississippi linebacker becomes ninth player to die this season”, USA Today 11/6/14, Courtney Cronin, Therese Apel & Cam Smith. [I learned of this football death from Chaney’s Blog.]
CALVIN CLARK, 11, running back with the Jennings County (IN) Youth Football travel team, suffered a burst blood vessel in his brain on 11/1/14 during an end-of-season all-star tournament game. In the first of 2 games played that day, he was horse-collared on one play and later blindsided by a tackle, got up from the ground, dropped his head, grabbed his facemask, appearing distraught. He was crying in the huddle when the coach asked him if he was OK, and Clark said, “Yeah,” and kept playing. After being tackled in the second game that same day, he walked to the sideline and told the coach and his father that he felt sick. Moments later he collapsed, unresponsive, and was taken by ambulance to the hospital and later airlifted to Riley Hospital for Children, in Indianapolis, where he had brain surgery. At this point, the deaths of 9 high school players had been directly attributed to football in 2014. A 2012 study showed that players age 7 and 8 sustained some hits as forceful as the more severe ones on the college level. His community has raised thousands of dollars to help him and his family. Contributions can be made through Jennings County Youth Football. Calvin Clark remains in a coma.—“A Boy’s Injury Rallies a County”, NY Times 11/16/14, Juliet Macur.