CHAPEL HILL - Six young football players - all high school students -- died across the United States last year as a direct result of injuries suffered on the field, a new University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill study shows. Eight other players also died, but those fatalities were not directly tied to the game and could have resulted from other vigorous activities.
"Five of the six injury deaths resulted from damage to the brain, while the other came from a blow to the chest that caused the boy's heart to stop," said Dr. Frederick Mueller, professor and chair of physical education, exercise and sport science at UNC-CH. "Seven of the indirect deaths were heart-related, and one was from heatstroke."
Mueller, chairman of the American Football Coaches' Committee of Football Injuries, directs the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injuries, based at the university. Every year, the center issues reports on deaths and severe injuries from amateur and professional sports.
Reports are based partly on newspaper stories from around the United States, along with information from the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the National Federation of State High School Associations and about 150 volunteers who monitor sports accidents.
The study also revealed seven cases of permanent paralysis from neck injuries among high school students, one to a college player and one to a professional athlete. Another seven high school football players and one college player suffered permanently disabling head injuries. Twelve young men completely recovered from catastrophic accidents during games or practice.
"Players need to be reminded often, especially by coaches, that the head has no place in football," Mueller said. "No player should make first contact with his head when blocking and tackling. That's against the rules, but more importantly, it's dangerous."