Unidentified Player

An unidentified 14 year-old Cranford HS (NJ) freshman was airlifted to Morristown Memorial Hospital after a helmet-to-helmet hit in a freshman game on 10/10/14.  Lebanon Township police also responded.  There was concern that the player might have suffered head or spinal injuries.  According to game host Voorhees HS Athletic Director, Allan Stumpf, the Cranford athletic director said the player suffered a concussion, but is otherwise fine.—“High school football player airlifted to hospital after hit ‘doing well,’ Voorhees official says”, LehighValleyLive.com 10/14/14, Nick Falsone, The Express-Times.

Daniel Bukal

DANIEL BUKAL, 29, quarterback with Notre Dame College Prep (IL), 1999-2003, has filed a lawsuit as a lead plaintiff for former high school players as a whole against the Illinois High School Association (IHSA), saying it didn’t do enough to protect him from concussions when he played and still doesn’t do enough to protect current players.  He received multiple concussions at the suburban Chicago school and, a decade on, still suffers frequent migraines and has experienced notable memory loss, according to the suit (he did not play beyond high school).  The IHSA did not have concussion protocols in place at the time, the suit alleges.—“High school head injury lawsuit filed in Illinois”, CentralMaine.com 12/29/14, AP.

Jonathan Stoddard

JONATHAN STODDARD, 2013 graduate of Medina HS (OH), has filed a lawsuit against the school district stating that he was injured in an August 2012 football practice when he was hit in the chin by the helmet of another player, and that the team’s athletic trainer recognized Stoddard displayed 22 signs of concussion and a neck injury.  The suit claims several days later the coaches ordered him to resume practice, even though he was never medically cleared to resume sports activities.  A month later he was injured in a game and, according to the suit, “…dazed and injured, but was not removed from the game.  Later, when he walked to the sidelines, he was unable to recognize some of his fellow players.”  The suit claims Stoddard had not recovered from the first injury when he was hurt the second time, resulting in a “double concussion.”  Stoddard said he has obtained medical treatment and hospital care, but the injuries caused a “decreased ability to enjoy a normal healthy life.”—“Student-athlete’s suit: Pushed to play with pair of concussions”, The Medina Gazette 12/6/14, Nick Glunt, Gazette online.

Colin Sherden

COLIN SHERDEN, senior quarterback with Byron HS (MN), took a hard hit to the top of his head bending over to pick up a low snap in a 9/13/13 game and began to stumble after the play was over.  Athletic trainers did a concussion test, realized his heart rate had slowed significantly, and called an ambulance.  He suffered a fractured C3 vertebra, a ruptured disc and a torn spinal ligament.  He underwent successful surgery to remove the ruptured disc, but doctors told him he would never play contact sports again.  Sherden has a metal plate and 4 screws securing his vertebrae.  Determined to prove the doctors wrong, he attacked his rehab and began weightlifting, making it back to play not only football but hockey in his senior year.—Boys Hockey: “Dodge County’s Sherden back after severe injuries”, PostBulletin.com 12/26/14, Jason Feldman.

Alijiah Reeves

ALIJIAH REEVES, 18, senior linebacker and 4-year starter with Stanhope Elmore HS (AL), suffered a career-ending spinal injury on the opening play of the game on 9/12/14 when a teammate’s helmet hit him in the side of the head just after Reeves had made a tackle.  “I tried to get up, and my body…just felt like needles kept poking me in my arm.  And I got up, and my legs weren’t stable.  I kept dragging my leg, and my body just collapsed, and I hit the ground face-first.  I couldn’t move for like a minute.”  He was later told by a doctor that his spinal cord was inflamed: “If you get one more hit, you’ll be paralyzed from the neck down.”  Immersed in football since age 6, and thinking he’d play in college and beyond, he cried at the news.  Known as “Duck,” Reeves had also sustained a similar blow as a 10th grader that left him with little mobility in his extremities and having to be carried off the field on a stretcher.  He was misdiagnosed as having a stinger.  Little did he know his life was at risk every play for the next 2 seasons.—“Spine injury ends Stanhope linebacker’s career”, MontgomeryAdvertiser.com 10/8/14, Ethan Bernal.

Concussions & Deaths

Of the nearly 1500 Missouri high school football players who suffered concussions in 2012, the majority returned to play within 2 weeks. This raises concerns among doctors about “second-impact syndrome,” an often fatal condition that occurs when a player suffers a second concussion before the previous one has healed.  According to Brett Osborn, a neurosurgeon who has studied concussions in sports, adolescents are most susceptible to second-impact syndrome because their brains are still in the maturation process.  Osborn recommends players sit out at least 6 weeks after a concussion, even if it’s mild.  Missouri law requires only 1 day and Kansas has no timetable.  High school athletes suffer concussions at twice the rate of college players, according to the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council (October 2013).  Brian Mahaffey, who has written about concussions in the journal Missouri Medicine, advises that high school athletes should be symptom-free for 7 days before returning to the practice field (10 days for middle-schoolers).  “Can you have one concussion that causes permanent damage?  You most certainly can,” said Mahaffey.  According to the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research, there were 17 deaths across all levels of football in 2013—all 17 were high school players.  High School Football Fatalities: 2013: 17…2012: 9…2011: 13…2010: 11…2009: 16…2008: 14…2007: 9…2006: 13…2005: 10…2004: 11…2003: 7…2002: 9…2001: 18…2000: 14.  The numbers include both direct and indirect fatalities.  A direct fatality is classified as one that results directly from participation in football.  An indirect fatality is one caused by systemic failure as a result of exertion while participating in a football activity.—“After a concussion, it’s unclear when—or if—high school athletes should return to action”, LebanonDemocrat.com 10/24/14, Sam McDowell, The Kansas City Star.

Alex Kunz

ALEX KUNZ, with Olathe South HS (KS), in 2013 suffered a concussion in practice on a helmet-to-helmet hit that knocked him backward but not out.  The next day he had trouble comprehending basic math concepts and showered himself with milk in the school cafeteria, thinking he hadn’t opened his carton of milk and it still needed to be shaken.  That day he saw a doctor, who diagnosed the concussion.  His mother, Barb, forbade him from ever playing football again, and also pulled his brother Andy from the Olathe South team.  “The best way to ensure he doesn’t come back too early is to not let him come back at all,” said Barb.  She and her husband, Ed, had their sons watch a CNN special on the potentially life-altering effects of repeated concussions before breaking the news.  The special included the story of Spring Hill HS (KS) senior Nathan Stiles, who died hours after collapsing on the field during a game on 10/29/10 of a “re-bleed” of an undetected subdural hematoma.—“After a concussion, it’s unclear when—or if—high school athletes should return to action”, LebanonDemocrat.com 10/24/14, Sam McDowell, The Kansas City Star.

Nathan Stiles

NATHAN STILES, 17, senior running back with Spring Hill HS (KS), died from a re-bleed of an undetected subdural hematoma on 10/29/10 after collapsing on the field.  The coroner said the initial injury most likely occurred in a game several weeks earlier, which would make the death a case of second-impact syndrome, where the brain sustains a second concussion or injury before the first one has fully healed.  His father, Ron, said his son wouldn’t have returned to the field had the family known the initial concussion wasn’t yet healed.  A CT scan at the time revealed nothing, so he played in a game only 3 weeks later—with a doctor’s permission.  Boston University later determined that Stiles had the youngest reported case of CTE.  He scored 2 touchdowns in his final game.—“After a concussion it’s unclear when—or if—high school athletes should return to action”, LebanonDemocrat.com 10/24/14, Sam McDowell, The Kansas City Star.

James McGinnis

JAMES McGINNIS, senior linebacker with Olathe East HS (KS), suffered a subdural hematoma on 9/12/14, bleeding in the lining of the brain, while making a tackle when the right side of his head hit the hip of the ball-carrier.  He remained in the game for another play, then collapsed as he was walking back to his position—he never stopped breathing.  “I knew it was serious when they rolled him over on the football field and I saw his eyes,” his father, Patrick, said.  McGinnis underwent emergency surgery to stop the bleeding and reduce swelling around the brain, spent 2 weeks in the intensive care unit, and then was transferred to rehab.  Patrick said his son is showing progress in his recovery.  “Intellectually, he’s there.  He’s fully there.”  He’s able to do algebraic calculations in his head.  McGinnis still has swelling on his brain, but he’s able to communicate with his family, even though his speech is slurred.  He’s unable to walk on his own and cannot swallow food or drink water, and will have to re-learn how to speak and write.  He could potentially make a full recovery, but it may take years.  McGinnis is the recipient of the fourth annual Nathan Stiles Inspiration Award.  (Stiles was a Kansas high school football player who died on 10/29/10 from a re-bleed of an undetected subdural hematoma after collapsing on the field.)—“Olathe East football player James McGinnis making progress since brain injury, says dad”, KansasCity.com 12/9/14, Sam McDowell, The Kansas City Star.

Mychal Shaw

MYCHAL SHAW, 18, defensive end/fullback with Lee’s Summit North HS (MO), suffered a concussion on a helmet-to-helmet hit in a 2013 game and continued to play in the game—he doesn’t remember the second half.  He was later temporarily unable to walk or speak and his season ended.  Extreme light and sound sensitivity prevented him from attending his team’s games.  Memory loss forced him to drop 2 classes and he has memory problems more than a year later.  A neurologist initially diagnosed him with a migraine, his father, Michael, said.  Shaw was cleared to play 5 days after the concussion, but missed 5 months.  A second doctor said most of his post-concussion complications were likely caused by the hits he suffered after the first one.  Shaw said, “A lot of guys want to hide it because they want to protect their pride.  I’m a victim of that.  I did that.”  He returned to play his senior season and his mother, Ryana, led the family in a prayer ritual before each game.—“After a concussion, it’s unclear when—or if—high school athletes should return to action”, LebanonDemocrat.com 10/24/14, Sam McDowell, The Kansas City Star.