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.
DEREK SHEELY, 22, senior fullback with Frostburg State (MD), died on 8/28/11 of a brain injury, six days after collapsing in practice after participating in repeated helmet-to-helmet contact in a variation of the “Oklahoma drill,” in which 2 players line up 3 yards apart and crash into each other at full-speed. This was done 30-40 times per drill, during Frostburg’s 2-a-day practices. A lawsuit filed by Sheely’s family against the NCAA, the helmet manufacturer Schutt, and his coaches claims that running backs coach Jamie Schumacher commanded players to lead with their helmet—“hat first.” If the players did not comply, it claims, Schumacher would berate them and call them a “bitch.” Four times over 3 days Sheely’s forehead was opened with a bleeding wound that was bandaged, and each time he was sent back into practice without a concussion test, the suit claims, despite the fact that he’d suffered a concussion the previous season. His mother, Kris, says that Sheely was involved in 13.5 hours of contact over the 3 days.—“Family Of Player Killed In Practice Sues NCAA, Coaches, Helmet Maker”, deadspin.com 8/23/13, Barry Petchesky.
SHERMAN LOGAN, 30 (app), defensive end with Richmond (VA), 2004-08, took a knee to the head in practice on Friday 8/13/04 that caused a concussion and a bruise to his spinal cord that paralyzed him for 30 minutes. His NFL aspirations ended on this play, as he was viewed as too much of a risk. Unable to focus on schoolwork, he withdrew from school his first semester and did not play the 2004 season. Logan went on to win a Division I-AA championship with Richmond and earn first-team All-Atlantic 10 honors, but refused to report other minor concussions throughout his college career. He now wakes up with joint pain, has muffled hearing, a virtually nonexistent sense of smell, and has suffered memory loss. Logan said current players should stop and think about the rest of their life and the quality of life they want to live. He said football provided him with endless opportunities, and he was forever thankful, but at the end of the day, “it’s just a sport.”—“Using your head: Concussions make an impact for Richmond football”, the Collegian 4/18/14, Lauren Shute. “Richmond Spider refuses to break despite injury troubles”, PilotOnline.com 10/9/08, Paul White, The Virginian-Pilot.
KURT SCHMITZ, 22, offensive lineman with the University of Richmond (VA), 2010-12, was found dead in his apartment over the weekend of 11/28/14. Police said foul play was not suspected and there was no evidence of suicide. “My son did not want to die,” said his mother, Yvonne. He had suffered at least 4 concussions while playing for Richmond and hid the first 3 from the team training staff. On the fourth one he woke up in the hospital and, when asked by a doctor where he was, said “out in the field having fun on fun day.” His father talked to him about stopping football and a neurologist told him he had to stop, as he was medically disqualified from playing. Schmitz, gregarious and a true friend to many, became frustrated with the effects of the concussions, which hurt his academic performance (he’d been valedictorian of his eighth grade class in New Jersey, a member of the National Honor Society, and spoke German fluently). He struggled with being unable to play and cried. He became a student assistant with the team to maintain his connection to his teammates, but later told his mom he couldn’t be around the game anymore and would concentrate on his studies. “He accepted it,” his mother said. While he advocated for greater awareness of brain trauma in sports, he never sought to blame anyone for his injuries. “My son went out there willingly.” The Schmitz family donated his brain and spinal cord to the Sports Legacy Institute in Boston for examination.—“Former Don Bosco star’s brain donated for concussion research, family says”, NJ.com 12/4/14, Myles Ma. “Foul play not suspected in death of former Spider football player”, WTVR.com (CBS6) 12/1/14, Scott Wise, Jake Burns & Laura French. “Using your head: Concussions make an impact for Richmond football”, theCollegian.com 4/18/14, Lauren Shute.
Mothers Against Concussions (MAC) was formed in November 2013 to protect children, increase public awareness of the problem of concussions in sports, and aid families who need assistance. MAC supports players, coaches, teachers and doctors, and pushes for early and rigorous testing to assure players are medically cleared to return playing only when they are fully and safely ready. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, MAC accepts donations at: http://mothersagainstconcussions.org/about-us/
BEN UTECHT, 33, tight end with Indianapolis and Cincinnati, 2004-09, retired from football after suffering his fifth documented concussion in a preseason game, one that left him unconscious for 90 seconds before being carted off to an ambulance. The Super Bowl champion underwent an 8-month rehab and recovery from traumatic brain injury. “It’s unlike any other injury in that it truly affects the soul.” He began to have memory loss at 29, and has experienced headaches, dizziness, blurred vision, mild stuttering, sleepless nights and night sweats. The Minnesota native suffered his first concussion in organized middle school football and has endured more concussions than he can count, including at least one he can’t remember getting. “And there are some injuries that you can play through, absolutely. But not brain injuries.” He’s heard of parents being called weak for not letting their sons play football and believes that is advocating for brain disease, since he believes there is no way to play football without concussions occurring. A father with 3 daughters, Utecht would allow a son to play football, but not until high school. He has nothing against football and nothing against the NFL, and is appreciative of his opportunity to play in the league, though he wants better care given to the players. He has spoken out on his condition at Senate committee hearings and is the national spokesman for the American Brain Foundation and the American Academy of Neurology. “One of the things that scares me the most is being trapped inside a coffin in my mind.” An accomplished lifelong musician, he has written a song to his family with a view to the possibility of his brain’s further deterioration: “You Will Always Be My Girls”. His wife Karyn, daughters Elleora, Katriel and Amy appear in a moving video that accompanies the song.—“Former Colt Ben Utecht deals with traumatic brain injury”, indystar.com 11/22/14, Dana Hunsinger Benbow. CBS This Morning 6/27/14, Jim Axelrod. Neurology Now interview with Mike Smolinsky, Managing Editor, on YouTube. [I learned of Utecht’s story from http://mothersagainstconcussions.org/ ].
CLINT TRICKETT, 24, senior quarterback with Florida State & West Virginia, 2010-14, retired from football on 12/26/14 because of concussions. He had endured 5 concussions over the previous 14 months and suggested he hadn’t told the medical staff about some of them at the time they happened. “That was on me. If they would have known, they probably would have been more cautious about it, but I was trying to push through it.” Trickett was not medically cleared to play his final college game in the Liberty Bowl. “It would be dangerous for me to be out there.” He’s the son of Florida State offensive line coach Rick Trickett.—“West Virginia QB Trickett retires from concussions”, XFINITY from AP 12/26/14.
KOSTA KARAGEORGE, 22, senior defensive tackle with Ohio State, 2014, was found dead in a dumpster on campus on 11/30/14, having committed suicide by shooting himself (a handgun was found in the dumpster). He’d been missing for 4 days. According to his mother, Susan Karageorge, the walk-on had had several concussions and a few spells of being extremely confused. He’d texted her about 1:30 a.m. the day he went missing, apologizing and saying concussions had messed up his head. “I’m sorry if I’m an embarrassment.” He’d also complained of head pain at other times. Called “an important practice player” by head coach Urban Meyer, Karageorge appeared in only one game and was known for never missing practice. [ My Comment: Though OSU issued a statement that he was given medical care and proper protocol was followed, the fact that he never missed practice despite several concussions raises doubt, given that most medical professionals now recommend a minimum of 10 days on the sidelines with a strict reduction of mental activity to give the brain time to recuperate.]—“Missing Ohio State football player is found dead”, SF Chronicle 12/1/14, from AP.
STEVE SMITH, 50, fullback with the LA Raiders and Seattle, 1987-95, has been afflicted with ALS since July 2002. He cannot speak because of a ventilator and receives food through a feeding tube. He communicates by using his eyes to control a computer’s voice-activated system. In addition to medical professionals, he’s cared for by his wife Chie and son Dante, who also played football and said of his father: “…he’s a prisoner in his own body…” As recently as December 2012 the captain of the 1986 Penn State national championship team was able to stand with the assistance of Dante and a therapist. Smith has not given up hope of being cured and pushes to try any new medical procedure that could possibly help him. He has received enormous support from the Penn State community. Boston University neuropathologist Ann McKee says that brain damage can lead to ALS. Toxic proteins that form after brain trauma and lead to depression and dementia may also cause ALS. Though ALS strikes only 1 in 100,000 in the general population, the disease afflicts athletes in far greater numbers, slowly destroying the muscles and leading to death by respiratory failure. Donations for Smith can be made by calling 1-800-242-0335. —“Boston University study by Ann McKee finds link between concussions and Lou Gehrig’s disease”, NYDailyNews.com 8/17/10, Michael O’Keefe. “Penn State’s Steve Smith still amazes from his hospital bed”, ydr.com 12/24/12, York Daily Record, Frank Bodani.
DARRYL TALLEY, 54, linebacker with Buffalo, Atlanta and Minnesota, 1983-96, has told The Buffalo News that he is suffering from depression and has contemplated suicide in what he considers side-effects from his hard-hitting playing days. A key player on the Buffalo teams that went to 4 consecutive Super Bowls, he says he’s had too many concussions to count and at least 75 times he saw flashes of light after being hit. He has memory loss, trouble sleeping, and lives in constant pain as a result of 14 operations he had during his playing days to repair various injuries. Financially, Talley has had trouble making ends meet since the company he owned closed in 2008 and has received financial assistance from former teammates. “It would be easy to call it a day…I’m convinced I’m not dead yet. But the future doesn’t look bright.”—“Former Bills star Talley suffers from depression”, AP NFL website 11/28/14. 11/29/14 Update: According to ESPN.com, within 2 days of Talley’s press conference Buffalo Bills fans had raised over $100,000 to help him. Contributions can be made at http://www.gofundme.com/hvkgjo