Football season is almost upon us, and I for one can hardly wait.
I’ve already been hanging around the practice fields, soaking up the atmosphere and trying to learn the new faces before teams play their preseason games next Friday.
After seeing a report from a sports blogger, my excitement is tempered by caution.
Matt Chaney, author of ChaneysBlog.com, has spent a great deal of time researching news stories on amateur football injuries.
Sprained ankles, dislocated fingers and strained hamstrings happen in practically every game. However, more serious injuries are always a concern.
Chaney has compiled a database of 26 deaths and 193 other severe incidents from the 2011 season.
“The list is comprised strictly of information available in Google banks,” noted Chaney.
One of the news stories in the footnotes of his research was written by yours truly. Last year, Mount Airy’s Joktan Moore suffered a ruptured spleen against North Surry. He had emergency surgery that night at Northern Hospital of Surry County.
Chaney found stories of 14 other young men with the same injury.
From the Murfreesboro Daily News comes a story of a Middle Tennessee State wide receiver who was hurt.
Shane Blissard, 22, collided with tacklers after catching a pass during a team scrimmage; one helmet struck Blissard in the torso.
“It was a normal hit, and I thought the wind was knocked out of me,” Blissard later recalled. “That’s what it probably looked like to everybody.”
Similarly, Moore didn’t know how bad his injury was at the time.
Blissard felt dizzy and began to vomit. His blood pressure crashed.
He lost more than three and a half liters of blood from internal bleeding from the spleen. Then he underwent a second surgery the next morning after losing more blood because of a damaged blood vessel.
Blissard recovered and played every game of the 2011 season. Moore also vowed to return strong, saying he would be ready for track season. Then he earned gold, silver and bronze medals at the state 1A track meet in May.
Not all who were hurt last year were able to make full recoveries.
Chaney found four people suffering from “compartment syndrome” of a leg, which is where intense pressure crushes the leg and causes circulation problems.
Last September, Jacob Rainey, senior quarterback for Woodberry Forest in Virginia, was tackled from behind, according to Charlottesville, Va., paper The Daily Progress.
The crushing weight of the tacklers caused his femoral artery to burst. After several procedures in a week’s time, the doctors amputated Rainey’s lower leg.
Chaney’s findings also included 16 survivors of a collapsed lung, 12 with kidney damage and six with liver laceration.
There were also dozens of cases where no contact was involved. Instead, eight players suffered from heatstroke, eight survived cardiac arrest and five were hospitalized with MRSA, the most-serious form of staph infection.
On May 12, 2011, the Morganton News Herald reported on the death of Luke Killian, 16, a lineman for the Morganton Mountaineers.
Killian and some teammates were warming up for a conditioning session when the overweight teen collapsed. Authorities at the time weren’t sure if his death was due to heat exhaustion or an unidentified heart condition.
The Florence Times reported in July 2011 on the death of Tyquan Brantley, 14, of South Carolina. He was working out with a friend in 100-degree weather. He died from heat-related complications of sickle cell trait.
The report even included the death of one cheerleader from California, who collapsed on the sidelines while performing for the fans.
While an undiagnosed heart condition can kill someone at any time of the year, the report does show that more incidents occurred in the first third of the season when the temperatures are hottest.
Much research has gone into studying concussions and neck injuries in recent years.
Yet, at the same time, schools have been starting sooner than ever, which would appear to be more dangerous for fall sports like football, soccer, tennis, golf and cross country running.
Back in 1988, when I started my senior year at North Surry, we students returned to class on Aug. 24. Now, my daughter will be back at school on Wednesday, 16 days earlier than I did.
Teams will be scrimmaging this Friday during a time of year referred to as the Dog Days of Summer because of the stifling heat.
Since the death of Minnesota Viking Korey Stringer in 2001, there is a greater awareness of the dangers of heat stroke. Still, in a tough-guy sport like football, players have a tendency to keep quiet.
Just like players should report head injuries to their trainers, I hope these young men will keep the staff informed if they feel the symptoms of heat stroke coming on.
Avoid caffeine (which can worsen dehydration), drink plenty of water and keep an eye on teammates. Signs of heat stroke include nausea, vomiting, mental confusion and dry skin when they should be sweating.
Hopefully, we can all enjoy some great high school football — with as few injuries and illnesses as possible.
Jeff Linville is a staff reporter for The Mount Airy News. He can be reached at 719-1920 or email@example.com.