3 deaths in 1 week: How risky is high school football?


A 16-year-old high school football player died Wednesday following an on-field collision.

Tom Cutinella was a junior at Shoreham-Wading River High School. He was pronounced dead after collapsing during the third quarter of a varsity football game.  But school officials say football is not to blame.

STEVEN COHEN, Shoreham-Wading Superintendent WNBC: "It was the result of a typical football play.  It was just a freak accident."

Cutinella's death is the third death of a high school football player due to football-related injuries in a week.  Demario Harris Jr. of Troy, Alabama, died Friday after being tackled. That same day, Isaiah Langston of Rolesville High School collapsed and died during pre-game warm-ups.

That certainly makes for an eye-catching headline. But let's look at the overall numbers behind school football deaths.

In a 2013 study, The American Journal of Sports Medicine found football-related fatalities in high school and college average 12.2 per year.  That is about one in every 100,000 participants. Fatalities are most commonly from indirect causes, such as heat illness and cardiac failure. College football players are also 2.8 times more likely to suffer fatal injury than high schoolers.

And the popularity of college football may be an issue here. The New York Times paraphrases Kate Carr, president and chief executive of Safe Kids Worldwide, as saying that "some of the intense culture of professional and collegiate football is trickling down to the high school level."

Some school districts have instituted stricter practice and equipment guidelines in response to evidence that deaths have increased since 1994.

According to a study in the International Journal of Biometeorology, deaths from heat-related injuries nearly tripled from 1994 to 2009. Researchers said some of the increase may be explained by higher temperatures during practice times and an increase in average BMI among football players, though those are only a couple of possible factors.

Students and teammates held a candlelight vigil for Cutinella on the school's football field Thursday.  Cutinella's grandfather told The New York Times that even though there are risks associated with football, he would never ask his grandsons to quit playing.

 



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in High School Sports

LOOK: These reflective Louisville uniforms are the most creative of 2017
LOOK: These reflective Louisville uniforms are the most creative of 2017

Louisville is getting decked out in some of the most flashiest uniforms, literally, that you’ll ever see. The Cardinals are squaring off with Memphis on Saturday in the Gotham Classic from Madison Square Garden. Louisville (7-2) is aiming for its second four-game winning streak of the season. A few hours before tipoff, the Cardinals ...
Kory Taylor commits to Purdue: Boilermakers land 2018 WR
Kory Taylor commits to Purdue: Boilermakers land 2018 WR

Alabama will pay almost $3 million for two non-conference games next season
Alabama will pay almost $3 million for two non-conference games next season

Alabama will pay a pretty penny for two of its non-conference games next season. The Crimson Tide’s matchups against Arkansas State and Louisiana will total just shy of $3 million for them to come to Bryant-Denny Stadium, according to Chandler Rome of The Anniston Star. Alabama’s game against Arkansas State on Sept...
Texas Tech AD Kirby Hocutt reportedly receives raise, extension through 2025
Texas Tech AD Kirby Hocutt reportedly receives raise, extension through 2025

Kirby Hocutt isn’t going anywhere. On Friday evening, the Texas Tech Board of Regents approved a raise and contract extension that will keep the Red Raiders Athletic Director in Lubbock through 2025, according to a report from Don Williams of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. “The Tech Board of Regents on Thursday...
Mark Dantonio passes on answering awkward question about Jim Harbaugh’s khakis
Mark Dantonio passes on answering awkward question about Jim Harbaugh’s khakis

Mark Dantonio was on the west coast earlier this week doing some interviews in the lead up to Michigan State’s meeting with Washington State in the Holiday Bowl. There was one question that caught him off guard — and it had to do with a rival coach’s pants. Toward the end of an joint interview with Washington...
More Stories