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”, 12/26/14, Jason Feldman.

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”, 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”, 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”, 10/24/14, Sam McDowell, The Kansas City Star.

Nathaniel Brummett

NATHANIEL BRUMMETT, 14, freshman running back/defensive lineman with Coal Grove HS (OH), fractured cervical vertebrae on a routine play in practice in early September 2014.  Commonly known as a broken neck, the injury spurred the release of a blood clot that caused a stroke a few minutes later.  His mother, Brooke, said, “He’s a walking miracle…He is walking with no assistance and shows no signs of having any long-term ill effects.  It’s remarkable considering after the injury he had full paralysis on his left side; his face was drooped and his arm drawn in…Both teams of doctors—the one dealing with his stroke and the one dealing with his neck—said they can’t remember someone recovering so fully so quickly.”  He never lost his memory or mental abilities and will be able to play sports, just not football.  Brummett still faces spinal fusion surgery.—“A walking miracle”, 11/27/14, Brandon Roberts.

Donnovan Hill

DONNOVAN HILL, 16, a defensive star player with the Lakewood Lancers (Pop Warner football), fractured his spine on 11/6/11 while making a head-first tackle in the Midget Orange Bowl championship game at Laguna Hills HS (CA).  According to a lawsuit that has been allowed to proceed to trial now that Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Frederick Shaller has rejected Pop Warner’s motion to dismiss, Hill, though fatigued, was sent back into the game as a substitute and was hurt trying to prevent an opposing player from entering the end zone.  The suit states, “Donnovan immediately went limp and dropped to the field, unmoving.  Donnovan told those gathered around him that he could not feel his legs.”  Hill has minimal use of his arms and no independent movement from the upper chest down.  His mother, Crystal Dixon, claims in the suit that she suffered emotional distress from witnessing her son’s injury.  Pop Warner’s defense attorneys stated, “To encourage aggressive play in football is simply to encourage participants to play the game as it should be played.”—“Lawsuit against Pop Warner football over teen’s spinal injury will go to trial”, 12/17/17, John Schreiber.

David Edwards

DAVID EDWARDS, 20, safety with San Antonio Madison HS (TX), was paralyzed in a November 2003 playoff game making a hit on receiver Coy Aune of Austin Westlake and died on 2/27/08 of pneumonia.  The players’ eyes met for a split second just before Edwards broke up the pass by driving his helmet into Aune’s chest.  Both bodies came to rest on the field as silence descended.  Only Aune was able to get up, after a struggle and with his head ringing and everything hurting after the hardest hit he’d ever taken.  Edwards’ sister screamed.  The players and crowd chanted “David” repeatedly, but there was no response from him.  After a 20-minute delay he was rushed to the Brackenridge Hospital by ambulance.  Surgeons worked to save his life, put him on life support until he could breathe on his own, and explained to his family that he was paralyzed from the neck down.  Days later when Edwards could finally speak, his first words were, “How’s the other guy?”  This incident became the basis for the first episode of the TV series “Friday Night Lights”.  Aune wanted to quit football, but during a meeting with Edwards the safety told him, “No, you keep on.”  Aune gave Edwards his word that he would: “From then on I felt like I was playing for both of us.”  Aune walked on with the Texas Longhorns and played on the 2005 national championship team, which was invited to the White House.  “It felt like David was there with me.  And I was there for him too.”  When asked if he had any regrets, Edwards said that he’d do it again, that he never liked doing anything as much as playing football.  Edwards was helped by the Gridiron Heroes Spinal Cord Injury Foundation.  Contact: Eddie Canales,—“David Edwards—inspiration for ‘Friday Night Lights’—gone, but not forgotten”, 3/11/08, Gare Joyce.

Brandon Guidry

BRANDON GUIDRY, 15, sophomore with High Island HS (TX), sustained a season-ending hit to the chest in practice on 9/3/14.  The injury was so serious that he had to be airlifted in a medical helicopter to a Galveston hospital.  He was released 2 days later and his family is confident that he will be back to play football next year.—“High Island football player released from hospital”, & KFDM 9/6/14, Haley Bull.

Zyrees Oliver

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”, 8/12/14, CBS/AP.  [I learned of this death from Chaney’s Blog.]  “Avoid Dangerous Over-Hydration this Summer”, 7/1/15.

Walker Wilbanks

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”, 8/27/14, Riley Blevins & Therese Apel.  [I learned of this football death from Chaney’s Blog.]