John McClamrock

JOHN McCLAMROCK, 51, died on 3/18/08 from respiratory problems arising from paralysis caused on 10/17/73 as a junior varsity special teamer with Hillcrest HS (TX).  Charging at a Spruce HS ball carrier on the opening kickoff, the 17-year-old junior broke his neck when his face struck the opponent’s thigh.  The tackle left McClamrock paralyzed from the neck down, unable to lie with his head elevated off a flat bed, or even sit in a wheel chair, for the rest of his life.  Doctors initially were unsure whether he would survive the trauma, but his mother, Ann McClamrock, rejected suggestions that the family place him in a nursing home or other institution for quadriplegia victims.  Instead she brought her son home and devoted the rest of her life to his daily care in his own bedroom.  She remained by John’s bedside day and night for the next 35 years, reading and watching television with him, feeding him, and tending to his health and hygiene needs.  When she left the room or went outside for church or shopping, it was only for an hour or two at a time. It was “a wonderful life together,” mother and son agreed.  For more than three decades, Ann never thought of herself as a hero.  “I’m just a mother,” she would say to friends, struck by her devotion.  Ann McClamrock collapsed on the morning of John’s funeral, and died eight weeks later.–“Youth Sports Hero of the Month: Ann McClamrock (North Dallas, Texas)”, 11/7/10, Douglas E. Abrams, J.D.

Alex Pierscionek

ALEX PIERSCIONEK, 19, defensive lineman with South Elgin HS (IL), blacked out after a head-on collision with an offensive lineman and woke up hours later in an emergency room.  He had collapsed on the field and was airlifted to the hospital, events he does not remember.  He has suffered from headaches, depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts.  Pierscionek is suing the Illinois High School Association in an effort to protect future student athletes from concussions.–“Parents face difficult decision when it comes to football and their kids”, 8/10/15, John M. Crisp, Tribune News Service.  “Suit Tackles Risk of Concussion in High School Football”, 5/24/15, John Yang.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

New Orleans-based doctors Paul Harch and Keith Van Meter are performing treatment on traumatic brain injury through hyperbaric oxygen.  A patient gets into a chamber that is pressurized to a level greater than the earth’s atmosphere, and then breathes 100 percent oxygen.  In Harch and Van Meter’s treatments, the patient undergoes a minimum of 40 one-hour treatments in the chamber. Through the combination of increased pressure and oxygen, the oxygen is dissolved into the liquid portion of the blood and becomes immediately available for use.  The oxygenated liquid blood is transported and diffused to all areas of the body.  “That rise in oxygen and pressure, and then removal of it, signals in some fashion … the 8,101 genes in our DNA to begin either elaborating proteins or shutting down bad genes,” Harch said. “The genes coded for cell death are shut off.”  The science itself has been difficult even for neurologists to understand, but the results from Harch and Van Meter’s prior research have been stunning.  Most of Harch and Van Meter’s research on treatment of traumatic brain injury through hyperbaric oxygen has centered on military veterans returning from combat.  Roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan have left a large number of servicemen dealing with precisely the type of injuries Harch and Van Meter are trying to heal.  According to a pilot trial conducted by Harch and Van Meter in 2011, “veterans achieved improvements in memory, concentration, executive function and quality of life and a reduction in headaches, concussion symptoms, depression and anxiety” with “an increase in IQ of 15 points.”  In each case, Harch and Van Meter found that single photon emission computer tomography (SPECT) images, which provide a look at the inner workings of the brain, showed improved blood flow to the damaged areas.  Their findings are potentially revolutionary in the neurology field, which has traditionally looked at brain injuries as untreatable.  “There is some science here that’s really pretty special,” LSU coach Les Miles said. “Frankly, I think there’s a bunch of ways we could use it.  Certainly concussions are one.”–LSU, Miles seeking solutions to the concussion problem”, 8/12/13, Luke Johnson.

Robo F-pads

Alberto Garcia, of Shallowater, Texas, received the Chief of Naval Research Scholarship Award for his research into traumatic brain injuries (TBI).  Garcia’s project looked primarily at sport-related traumatic brain injuries, something the former football player is all too familiar with.  With that in mind, he developed Robo F-pads, a series of sensors and stabilizers as part of a shoulder pad-helmet system that can reduce the whiplash motion correlated with concussion, spinal cord and neck injuries.  “When I first started this project, I envisioned football and hockey players being able to use it,” said Garcia. “I never thought this could be used in the military until a year into my research; now every improvement on my system is added with the thought of it not only being used in physical contact sports, but in the military as well.”–“ONR Awards High School Student Scholarship Money for TBI Research”, 6/4/15, Sierra Jones, Office of Naval Research.

SMRT Mouth

Retired Super Bowl champ Mike Robinson is pioneering the SMRT Mouth, a mouthguard that tracks players’ hydration, respiration, circulation and exertion levels to keep them safe and excelling in the summer heat.  The SMRT Mouth uses sensors to collect real-time data from inside the player’s mouth, then sends it to tablets that coaches, parents and team physicians can monitor from the sidelines.  Thanks to a crowd-funding campaign, SMRT Mouth is expected to launch at next year’s Consumer Electronics Show for $159.  With traditional mouthguards costing a tiny fraction of that, it’s an investment — but one that may save lives.  Heat-related injuries are the leading cause of death and disability in high school athletes, according to the CDC.  Football players, with their heavy gear, pose an especially high risk — 10 times the rate of another athlete.  Since 1995, there have been 55 football player deaths from heat: 42 of them were middle and high school students.  And the numbers are getting worse: Heat stroke has killed an average of three football players each year since 1995.  From 1980 to 1994, it was only one per year.  The rise may be because players are bigger and temperatures are hotter, said a 2011 study from the University of Georgia. High school boys are the most likely to have heat-related illness that sends them to the E.R., and two-thirds of players show up to practice significantly dehydrated, according to the Youth Sports Safety Alliance.–“This smart mouthguard measures how hydrated you are”, 7/28/15, Meredith Engel.

Robert Roll

ROBERT ROLL, 31, running back with Constantine HS (MI), playing in an alumni game on 7/3/15 sustained a helmet-to-helmet hit, was knocked unconscious, and suffered a shattered seventh cervical vertebra (his spinal cord is intact).  Roll was hospitalized at Bronson Methodist Hospital, where he underwent surgery the next day.  He’s likely to be transferred to a Grand Rapids rehabilitation center, where doctors say he’ll likely spend months working to regain use of his limbs.  Roll was hit by a White Pigeon player who is several years younger than Roll and owns his own gym.  Kevin Roll, the older brother of Robert Roll, said that his brother signed a waiver and there is no lawsuit pending.  “It’s one thing for young kids to play football,” he said. “But when you’ve done nothing like that for a long time, and then you get out there and start smashing people, it’s not going to turn out good.”  Though the alumni game has been a popular community fundraiser, there is considerable discussion about whether to continue the game.–“After devastating injury, alumni football games reconsidered”, 7/6/15, Julie Mack.


Toney Graham

TONEY GRAHAM, 13, freshman with Granite City HS (IL), gasped for air and collapsed at a voluntary workout and died 2 hours later at a hospital on 6/17/15.  At 6’4″ and over 300 pounds, he was already catching the attention of football scouts and was planning to skip freshman football and try out for the varsity team.  Graham was known for his big personality and being the life of the party.  The exact cause of death has yet to be determined, but the coroner found “evidence of cardiac disease,” according to the autopsy. Friends and family created a GoFundMe page to help Graham’s mother pay for his funeral.–“Granite City teen dies suddenly at football practice”, 6/18/15, Casey Nolen, KSDK.  

Letter From a Long-Time Coach

Letter: Don’t let young kids play tackle football 

By Bill Perkins  

It doesn’t surprise me that children 8 to 14 years old want to play tackle football. What surprises me is that any parents allow it.

I love football. I coached high school and college football for 37 years. I’ve seen my share of concussions and traumatic brain injuries (some requiring players to drop out of school to recover); ACL tears and subsequent surgery and nine months or more of painful rehabilitation. I’ve witnessed neck and spinal cord injuries; one resulting in the player becoming a quadriplegic. Other serious injuries included broken femurs, dislocated elbows (both requiring surgery), etc.

These injuries were all tragic. Short term — they were painful and required long rehabilitation. Long term — the effects won’t be known for decades (early dementia, premature knee and hip replacement surgery, etc.).

In all the above cases these were highly trained, well coached, well equipped college or high school players. The pain and suffering as a result of traumatic injury to a college or high school athlete is devastating. I can’t imagine the effect of these types of injuries happening to a child aged 11 to 14.

There are many reasons to not allow young children to play tackle football and few, if any, reasons to allow them to play. Most of the skills kids will need to be compete in high school football can be developed by playing flag football or even just playing anything (soccer, track, basketball, etc.). Blocking and tackling can and should wait until high school when children’s bodies are more mature and resilient and the coaches are well trained, skilled and experienced.

Here is a list of reasons why to not allow kids to play youth tackle football (pre-high school, Pop Warner/Parks and Recreation):

1. Lack of trained and experienced coaches: The highest level of coaching is NFL, next is collegiate, followed by high school and finally youth football. Consider the words of Hall of Fame receiver Cris Carter, “Our worst coaches are coaching the most critical position, and that is the 9, 10, 11-year-olds … “

2. Lack of certified training staff at practices: Many, if not most, concussions occur in practice and many are not diagnosed even at the highest levels of coaching. Certified trainers are an integral part of injury treatment and diagnosis as well as prevention.

3. Risk of head and neck trauma: Current research indicates that much of the permanent damage to the brain is the result of repetitive concussion syndrome. The brains of younger children are more vulnerable than when those same children are older and more physically developed. Consider the words of physician Ann McKee, chief neuropathologist at Boston University who explains, “Because a young athlete’s brain is still developing, the effects of a concussion, or even many smaller hits over a season, can be far more detrimental, compared to the head injury of an older player.”

4. Risk of injuries other than concussion: ACL tears requiring surgery and months of rehabilitation. Spinal cord injury and possible loss of mobility as a result.

List of reasons to allow kids to play tackle football prior to high school:

1. I’ll have to think about it and get back to you …

Pre-high school tackle football should be outlawed. I was shocked to learn recently that Bend-La Pine Schools support and sponsor middle school tackle football. Why? Especially when there is no correlation between youth football success and high school football success.

Football is a wonderful sport, but it should be illegal to subject young children to the brutality of tackle football before they are physically ready. It simply isn’t worth the risk.

I encourage all of you and especially the school board and the Bend Park and Recreation leadership to view the documentary, “The United States of Football.”

“Dancing is a contact sport … football is a collision sport.” — Vince Lombardi.

Let ’em play anything and everything except tackle football until they get to high school … please!

— Bill Perkins lives in Bend.

Mike Jenkins

MIKE JENKINS, 45, tight end with Warren Central HS (IN), 1981-83, suffered multiple concussions, committed suicide on 5/5/11 and was found to have CTE.  Originally a quarterback who began playing football when he was 7, his nickname was “Crash”.  He also played baseball, basketball, swam, and raced motor bikes, always going all out.  He was an ultra-dedicated, loving husband and father to 2 sons, a coach and mentor.  Extremely generous, Jenkins would help anyone in need, and, using CPR, once saved the life of a man who had a heart attack at a NASCAR race.  He also helped the family of a neighbor who was diagnosed with cancer.  Jenkins began to have angry outbursts, became combative at work, struggled with alcoholism, and hated himself for being unable to stop drinking.  His last concussion was in February 2011, caused by slipping on ice.  He was sick with post-concussion symptoms, sometimes had a blank look in his eyes, began to miss his sons’ games, and there was a weekend when he did not get out of bed.  He once spaced out driving his semi and a coworker had to grab the steering wheel to prevent the truck from crossing the center line.  After having dinner together on Easter Sunday 2011, Jenkins couldn’t remember how to get back to his brother’s house, which was located in the neighborhood where they’d grown up.  It was the last day his brother, Rick, saw Mike alive.–“Mike Jenkins Legacy Donor Page”, Sports Legacy Institute.  Memorials from the Jenkins family: mother Marcia, wife Kim, brother Rick, and sons Nick and Kyle.

Dominick Treemarchi

DOMINICK TREEMARCHI, 17, a football player with Central Valley HS (PA), died of a drug overdose on 12/7/14, 2 days before he was to play in a PIAA Class AAA championship game.  He overdosed on prescription anti-anxiety medication and heroin.  Authorities allege that a mother and daughter sold Treemarchi 17 Xanax pills, but they aren’t charged with having caused his death.  However, two 18-year-olds who were with Treemarchi when he overdosed are charged with involuntary manslaughter and other counts in the case.–“Mother, daughter charged in Pa. football star’s OD death”, 6/10/15, John Luciew.