Help prevent deaths in high school football
It was the last play of the football game. My 17-year-old nephew Andre Smith was running to get the ball when an opponent tackled him. Andre flipped, and landed on his head. He walked off the field, but looked to be in pain. He said “my head is burning,” and those turned out to be his last words.
Andre collapsed and it took the ambulance 30 minutes to get to the scene. His coaches just watched, helpless, as he seized and went limp. The fact that there wasn’t already an ambulance and paramedics at the game, waiting in case of just such an accident, haunts me. I believe this cost my nephew his life.
These injuries are known to occur. They kill multiple high school football players every year. In fact, Andre’s is the seventh death of a high school football player this year. And, still, there aren’t measures in place to protect young people like Andre.
I’m calling on the Illinois High School Association (IHSA), which regulates sports in Illinois high schools, to implement measures to protect our children. Two simple changes -- requiring an ambulance at every football game, and continued training of football coaches in basic medical care for injured players -- could mean the difference between life and death.
According to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office, Andre died from "blunt force head injuries." Victims of this kind of injury can be saved, if proper resuscitation practices are followed immediately. My nephew could be alive today if he hadn’t been forced to wait those crucial minutes for the ambulance.
Andre’s death has hit our family especially hard, because his father -- my brother -- recently died from head trauma caused by a motorcycle accident. I am beside myself with grief. The deaths of these strong, healthy men were entirely preventable.
All I can do is fight to prevent more needless deaths by calling on the IHSA to take this issue seriously. Requiring ambulances at high school football games and training coaches in basic medical care for trauma injury victims could go a long way toward saving lives. Please sign my petition.
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