Six Football Players Died In 1997 Season: New Study

July 07, 1998

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."

In 1968, 36 young men died after injuries in practices or in games. Mueller said. The drop in deaths directly attributable to football resulted from rule changes adopted in 1976 that prohibited using the head as the first point of contact.

Shorter practices and non-contact drills during which players don't wear helmets can help prevent heatstroke and reduce accidents, he said. Players should be allowed as much water as they want, and coaches should schedule regular cooling-off breaks.

"In the past three years, we have seen seven heatstroke deaths," Mueller said. "That's troubling because such tragedies are just about entirely preventable."

Eight players died from heatstroke in 1970, the highest one-year total, he said. Before 1955, no heatstroke deaths were recorded among football players. Few schools and homes had air conditioning, and thus it is likely players were better able to tolerate hot weather.

Mueller and other experts strongly recommend pre-practice physical examinations for boys -- and the small number of girls -- who want to play football. Such exams sometimes reveal hidden conditions that make heavy exertion hazardous. Parents should make sure their children are insured against catastrophic injury and that medical assistance is available during practice and games.

A Yale University faculty member began the yearly football death and injury survey in 1931. It was moved to Purdue University in 1942 and has been at UNC-CH since 1965. The American Football Coaches Association, the National Collegiate Athletic Association and the National Federation of State High School Associations sponsor the study to make the game safer.

By David Williamson
-end-
Note: Mueller can be reached at (919) 962-5171.
Contact: David Williamson, (919) 962-8596
-end-


University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Related Football Articles from Brightsurf:

Reasons for football injuries
If professional footballers are out of action due to injuries, this can have serious consequences for the club.

The best players are passionate about football
Sogndal football/soccer teams from Vestland county in Norway have now been studied by specialists.

Study provides the first data on concussion risk in youth football
'These are the first biomechanical data characterizing concussion risk in kids,' said Steve Rowson, an associate professor of biomedical engineering and mechanics and the director of the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab.

Changes in cardiovascular risk factors among college football players
Researchers recruited 126 college football players from two programs in Georgia and South Carolina to examine over three years how cardiovascular risk factors emerged and changed, including weight, blood pressure and heart structure and function.

Over-conditioning kills: Non-traumatic fatalities in football is preventable
Most non-traumatic fatalities among high school and college football athletes do not occur while playing the game of football, but rather during conditioning sessions which are often associated with overexertion or punishment drills required by coaches and team staff, according to research presented today at the American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine Annual Meeting.

American football: The first quarter is crucial
Researchers from Dartmouth College, New Hampshire have found evidence that players born in the first quarter of the year are more likely to play in the National Football League.

How do professional football players perform under immense pressure?
Professional football players need to keep a cool head during a match, but some are better at this than others.

New findings on concussion in football's youngest players
New research from Seattle Children's Research Institute and UW Medicine's Sports Health and Safety Institute found concussion rates among football players ages 5-14 were higher than previously reported, with five out of every 100 youth, or 5 percent, sustaining a football-related concussion each season.

Youth football changes nerve fibers in brain
MRI scans show that repetitive blows to the head result in brain changes among youth football players, according to a new study.

Playing youth football could affect brain development
Young football players may experience a disruption in brain development after a single season of the sport, according to a new study.

Read More: Football News and Football Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.