The death of 16 year old Georgia prep football star De'Antre Turman brings forth subjects that young athletes should remember heading into a new football season (heat exhaustion, brain traumatic head injuries, performance enhancing drugs). No new evidence has revealed that Turman took performance enhancing drugs or executed an improper tackle but the revelation by the Fulton County Medical examiner, that Turman suffered a broken neck and third cervical vertebra fracture presents a possibility of an improper angle, "spear" or "launch" when he made the tackle. Two examples can be cited--Former Rutgers football player Eric LeGrand suffered a paralyzing neck injury during a game against Navy in 2010 where he fractured his C3 and C4 cervical vertebrae. He was on the special teams unit and while trying to tackle the ball carrier on a kickoff return, LeGrand lowered his head to make the tackle at high speed. Devon Walker, a safety a Tulane University broke his neck during a football game to open last year's college football season while making a tackle. Walker launched his head to tackle a player already heading to the ground on a tackle and he collided with a fellow player.
The issue of high school athletes using performance enhancing drugs like anabolic steroids, androstenedoine, DHEA and stimulants has been documented more and more in the past five years. According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control, as of 2005, 6% of high school athletes surveyed had used performance enhancing drugs. Another study in 1998 (Buckley et al) in the Journal of the American Medical Association cited that male and female scholastic athletes had not only used steroids, but many had begun before age 16 and had undergone multiple cycle usage of steroids. A new high school year is beginning and many young athletes will be playing football. Last week, a 14 year old freshman athlete in California collapsed at a football practice from heat exhaustion caused by a heart condition. An autopsy is being planned as the correct cause has not been found. Heat exhaustion, brain traumatic injuries and performance enhancing drugs are a reality for any high school athlete no matter what age. Organized football is no more a casual participation and delight for parents during their child's formative years. Now parents must be involved and actively looking out for their child's safety and survival.