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.