Death of athlete leads to safety questions
Tragedy strikes again on the high school gridiron. Ridge Barden, 16, a player for Phoenix High School, was injured during a game at Homer High School in Cortland County over the weekend. He later died. Medical officials say a collision on the field had caused bleeding in his brain. YNN's Bill Carey says such deaths remain rare, but still have the experts searching for answers.
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NEW YORK STATE -- Football has always been the harshest of contact sports. And head injuries are nothing new, although there have been widespread efforts to try to improve equipment to minimize those injuries. The good news is that that research has helped. The bad news is that the injuries continue.
Studies have repeatedly shown that the most dangerous period for any football player in their career comes not at the professional or college level, but in their high school years.
Dr. Brian Rieger is an expert in mild brain injuries, concussions, and has helped to advise state scholastic sports officials on steps to ease any hazards. Some of those steps come down to common sense.
"First of all, just educating people about what are the risks that come with these sports. What are the things we can do to try to minimize those risks? Are helmets in good condition? Are they properly fitted? Are there people on the sidelines who know what to do in a case like this?" Rieger said.
And the responsibility extends beyond just the staff of high school teams. Parents can play a role by being aware of their child's injuries, which sometimes go unreported to a coach. Multiple injuries increase the risk of a catastrophic outcome.
But Rieger and others say there also needs to be an awareness that despite all of the steps designed to improve safety, there will always be some risk.
"Despite our best efforts, with the head, you know, the brain is still fragile and even with a properly worn and fitted helmet, the contact forces can be high enough where it can produce severe injuries sometimes," Rieger said.
And other communities and teams will be left to answer the question of how the worst could have been avoided.
The experts are quick to remind us that brain injuries can occur in any sports. Football is most notable for boys, but there are also injuries in other sports, like hockey. For female high schoolers, the greatest risk for head injuries come in lacrosse and soccer.