Ridge Barden

RIDGE BARDEN, 16, defensive tackle with John C Birdlebough HS (NY), died on 10/14/11 after suffering a subdural hematoma, a brain bleed, in a game.  Teenagers are especially susceptible to having multiple hits to the head result in brain bleeds and massive swelling, largely because the brain tissue has not yet fully developed.  According to the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research, Barden was the 13th high school player to die from a brain injury sustained on a football field since 2005 and the third in 2011.  Including college and youth football players, there have been 18 fatalities from 2005 to 2011.  Barden had no history of head trauma and showed no concussion symptoms, his coaches and father said.  The Cortland County coroner’s office said the autopsy showed no evidence of a pre-existing problem.  A review of game video showed no extraordinary hit that incapacitated Barden.  The coaching staff deduced that the critical blow was sustained on Barden’s second-to-last play, a routine collision with an opposing lineman at the line of scrimmage.  But Barden appeared to be fine as he prepared for the next play.  At first, after collapsing, he was groggy but responsive and coherent, head coach Jeff Charles said.  Barden told his coach that he had sustained a helmet-to-helmet hit and that his head hurt.  Barden rolled over on his back then sat up on his own, but his condition quickly deteriorated.  He began moaning and closing his eyes. When asked to stand up, he tried but immediately collapsed.  The emergency technicians planned to take Barden to University Hospital in Syracuse, about 45 minutes away, but they rerouted when Barden went into cardiac arrest. While the crew performed CPR, the ambulance drove three minutes to Cortland Medical Center instead.  When Barden’s father and grandmother arrived from Phoenix, NY, the doctor told them he was dying and only CPR was keeping him alive.  At 10:18 p.m., less than two hours after the seemingly ordinary play at the 6-yard line, Barden was pronounced dead.  Dr. Robert Cantu, a neurosurgeon at Boston University and a leading expert in sports-related head injuries, said that in cases similar to Barden’s, in which the person was conscious right after the hit before quickly deteriorating, he had discovered that the subdural hematoma was not the cause of death but rather massive brain swelling.  And in many cases the condition began with a previous hit and a second impact was the lethal blow.  He could not comment on Barden’s specific case without examining his brain.  Barden was a straight-A student who would walk a long way from home to school for voluntary workouts in the summer.  His last game was his first start with the varsity team.  The community was left wondering what could have been done differently.  Coach Charles contemplated whether he could return to coaching football.  His team’s last game of the season was canceled.  Barden’s father, Jody, said he had no objection to the sport in the wake of his son’s death.  “I just don’t want a negative spin on this.  There is no blame in this.  I don’t want to scare kids from playing the game.  Ridge loved playing the game, and I know he wouldn’t want it to get a bad name.”–“An Ordinary Football Game, Then a Player Dies”, NY Times 10/19/11, Jorge Castillo.



John D Rittling

JOHN D RITTLING, 17, fullback with Cardinal Dougherty, caught a pass in 1965 and while running absorbed a helmet-to-helmet hit to the back of his head that snapped his neck.  Several other players from Nichols were also involved in the tackle, which occurred during a scrimmage game.  At the end of the play Rittling complained that his neck hurt and he could not move his hands or fingers.  He was taken to Kenmore Mercy where he died 2 days later.  A medical examiner said the 182-pound fullback suffered fractures and dislocations of two neck vertebrae. Rittling was one of 12 children to very religious parents, who witnessed the play, along with 2 brothers who were also on the team. “Johnny was a very special person,” said Coach Hersey. “He was a good-looking kid, bright, a good student, a big, strong kid, he would have gone on to play college football. If you had to pick an All-American boy, he would have been it.”–“When football is life and death”, BuffaloNews.com 10/18/13, Mary Jo Monnin.

Norman Panzarella

NORMAN PANZARELLA, 18, Grover Cleveland HS (NY), died in 1933 one day after being found unconscious at practice and was determined to have a broken neck.  Completely paralyzed below the chest, he was given first aid on the field and rushed to Millard Fillmore Hospital, where attendants entertained little hope for his recovery.  Also a track man who captured many honors on the cinder paths, Panzarella’s death caused the school to cancel its football season out of respect for his memory.–“When football is life and death”, BuffaloNews.com 10/8/13, Mary Jo Monnin.

Harry C Finnegan

HARRY C FINNEGAN, 16, a junior playing secondary defense with South Park HS (NY), made a flying tackle, hit his head against the runner’s thigh, was knocked unconscious, fractured vertebrae and died the next day, 11/21/26.  South Park cancelled its final game and the tragedy brought calls to abolish city football.  Instead, Finnegan’s death eventually led to the construction of a new stadium.–“When football is life and death”, BuffaloNews.com 10/8/13, Mary Jo Monnin.

Boone Bartlome

BOONE BARTLOME, wide receiver with Kuna HS (ID), tripped in a November 2013 game while attempting to block and hit his head on an opponent’s leg as he fell to the ground, shattered his C4 vertebra and cracked his C5, and bruising to his spinal cord left him temporarily paralyzed from the neck down.  “I didn’t even know I hit anybody.  I just started falling, and it felt like it took me forever to fall.  When I hit the ground, I didn’t hear a thump or anything, and I was never in any pain.  I tried to get up and nothing happened.  I tried again, and I knew something was wrong.”  Bartlome had a steel plate placed in his spine during surgery soon after arriving at Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center and 2 weeks later was transferred to Denver’s Craig Hospital, which specializes in rehab for patients with spinal cord and brain injuries.  “Once I got in there and saw people that one day could barely move their leg and a few days later were moving their legs and walking, that was very motivating to just get going and keep fighting.”  Though in a wheelchair and lacking some feeling, he has movement in his arms and legs and can walk with the aid of forearm crutches.  He’ll graduate on 5/22/15 from Kuna High and plans to study business at the College of Western Idaho in the fall. “It’s been a lot of ups and down obviously, but I’m just trying to live a regular life,” Bartlome said. “Things are obviously different with me, but basically I’m just trying to get back to normal, get back to a daily schedule and try to do the things I usually do.”–“Injured Kuna football player continuing to improve, set for graduation”, IdahoPress.com 5/16/15, B.J. Rains.


Concussion Care

Concussion Care

After taking a forceful blow, athletes experiencing any of the following signs or symptoms should be removed from play and examined by a health-care professional trained in concussion evaluation.

The rule of thumb? When in doubt, sit players out.

Observable Signs

• Dazed or stunned appearance.
• Confusion about the game, player’s position, score, or opponent.
• Inability to remember instructions.
• Vacant stare or glassy eyes.
• Clumsy movements.
• Answering questions slowly.
• Loss of consciousness, even brief.
• Mood, behavior, or personality changes.
• Inability to recall events before or after the blow.
• Any seizure.

Self-Reported Symptoms

• Headache or pressure in head.
• Nausea or vomiting.
• Balance problems or dizziness.
• Ringing in ears.
• Double or blurry vision; seeing stars or flashing lights.
• Sensitivity to light or noise.
• Feeling sluggish, hazy, foggy, or groggy.
• Problems with concentration, thinking, or memory.
• Depression, sadness, irritability, or anxiety.
• Change in sleep pattern or trouble falling asleep.

After a concussion, athletes need physical and mental rest—no television, video games, music, reading, computer use, school attendance, or homework. Sleep is essential.

A return to regular activities should take place slowly after all signs and symptoms have resolved, under the supervision of a neurologist or other medical professional. Current medical guidelines call for a graduated series of monitored steps, in the following order, with each successive step allowed only if no concussion signs or symptoms manifest themselves:

1. Total rest.
2. Return to school half days.
3. Full return to school.
4. Light exercise (walking, stationary cycling).
5. Non-contact-sport activities and training (running, throwing).
6. Drills without body contact; light weight training.
7. Drills with body contact; heavy weight training.
8. Game play.

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 3rd International Conference on Concussion in Sport, Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation, TheConcussionBlog.com.

Austin Trenum

AUSTIN TRENUM, 17, fullback and linebacker with Brentsville HS (VA), committed suicide by hanging on 9/27/10.  His parents, Gil and Michelle, who grew up in the football-steeped cultures of Ohio and Texas, said Austin had about 4 concussions.  After being taken to the hospital for a concussion sustained in a game, Michelle asked him if he wanted a Tylenol because he’d had a headache the previous time he’d sustained a concussion.  “Mom, I’m fine.  I don’t have a headache.  Except for my normal football headache.  I get them after every game.”  Some experts believe 8 of 10 concussions go undiagnosed.  A concussion is not a bruise, but a disruption of the intricate system of electrochemical signals that constitute normal brain function, and can drain the brain of energy.  Symptoms include headaches, sensitivity to light, confusion, lack of focus, irritability, and loss of interest in favorite activities.  With rest and a gradual return to regular activity, most athletes who suffer a single concussion experience no permanent ill effects. Some, however, suffer post-concussion syndrome, in which symptoms persist for months or years, in rare cases permanently. Having one concussion may increase the risk of another. Multiple concussions are associated with an increased risk of post-concussion syndrome as well as depression and memory loss.  Dr. Gerard Gioia says the conventional medical wisdom of waking concussion patients every few hours to check for brain bleeding is actually not a good idea, because sleep is essential to allow cells to rebalance themselves.  He says the frontal lobes, which house our executive control centers and constitute about one-third of total brain mass, and are located just behind the forehead, absorb much of the contact in football.  In teenagers, the frontal lobes are still developing and require a great amount of energy to function properly.  Any disruption can affect the ability to reason, to choose right from wrong, to override impulses, to connect current actions to future consequences.  An excellent student and extremely stable individual, Austin Trenum did not show any signs of depression and did not leave a suicide note.  A post-mortem examination showed no signs of CTE.  He had multifocal axonal injury, a condition where axons, which connect neurons and conduct electricity in the brain, are badly damaged.  He had 2 younger brothers who have since stopped playing football: Cody finished his high school season and quit football; Walker suffered a concussion and was persuaded by his mother to stop playing.–“Did Football Kill Austin Trenum?”, Washingtonian.com 7/23/12, Patrick Hruby.

Jason Bryngelson

JASON BRYNGELSON, 19, offensive and defensive lineman with Westview HS (OR), died on 2/22/10 after suffering a seizure.  February 22nd was the day he was supposed to sign the final paperwork to enter the U.S. Army.  He loved football and played about 8 years, often coming home with so many cuts and bruises that his mother was afraid to go out in public with him for fear that people might think she was abusing him.  On the way to his first high school game, he said, “Tonight I get to play under the lights, if after the game I die I would be complete and happy.”   He was a giving person with a gift for making people laugh.  Bryngelson wanted to be an organ donor, but multiple organ failure prevented that.  His parents said he would want to do anything he could to make football safer and donated his brain to the Sports Legacy Institute for analysis at Boston University.–“Jason Bryngelson”, Sports Legacy Institute 5/14/15 memorial written by his parents.

Brett Cde Baca

BRETT CDE BACA, middle linebacker with St. Ignatius HS (SF, CA) and Trinity College (CT), sustained 2 concussions in 2013 training camp at Trinity that affected him more than 6 months and forced him to withdraw from the college.  He played middle linebacker and fullback for 10 years. Baca underwent treatment that included more than 100 sessions of hyperbaric oxygen therapy and eventually recovered and graduated, now working at a San Francisco tech company.  His parents, Darren and Jill Cde Baca, started a foundation called One Hit Away to promote education and awareness of sports-related head injuries and disseminate information on brain healing.   http://www.onehitaway.org   “Parents turn son’s concussions into an opportunity to educate”, SF Chronicle 3/29/15, Ron Kroichick.

Cody Williams

CODY WILLIAMS, 21, defensive player with Santa Monica HS (CA), was 16 when he was instantly paralyzed on 9/11/09 while making a tackle.  The quarterback’s leg collided with Williams’ facemask with such force that his neck was snapped.  Most people with severe spinal cord injuries rarely survive a month or two.  It took 9 hours for doctors to stabilize the front and back of his neck.  When he awoke from surgery, he was able to move his left arm.  A week later, to his mother’s dismay, he had football on the TV in his hospital room.  “I’ve played football since I was eight – it teaches you a lot in life,” Williams said. “I still love the sport.”  Now taking night classes at Santa Monica College, Williams is raising money to purchase a specially outfitted pickup truck with a crane in the back and hand controls for the gas and brakes at gofundme.com/helpcodydrive

“Paralyzed Santa Monica High Alumnus Sets Sights On His First Set Of Wheels”, smmirror.com 4/3/15, Mariella Rudi, Santa Monica Mirror.