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Improving safety on the football field

CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta says it's going to be rule changes, not better equipment, that will make football a safer game to play.

Posted: Oct 3, 2018 9:27 AM
Updated: Oct 3, 2018 9:46 AM

Dylan Thomas loved all sports but found his passion in football.

On Wednesday, his family will begin to pay tribute to the 16-year-old linebacker nearly three miles away from the field where he played his last game while the cause of his fatal injury is still unknown.

Dylan's death has rattled the rural community of Zebulon, Georgia. Residents have gathered for vigils and put up his No. 32 jersey online and around the town. And his teammates were given the option to skip an away game this Friday in Macon.

"Dylan lived life to the fullest," his obituary says. "He was a true friend, who never met a stranger."

He was a loving son and a brother. Prior to football, he played recreational baseball and he enjoyed fishing as well as deer hunting.

A visitation is scheduled Wednesday afternoon at Moody-Daniel Funeral Home and a memorial service will take place Thursday at the Oak Hill Baptist Church in Zebulon, Pike County Schools said.

He was scared of hurting others

The excitement of Friday night football at the Pike County High School's football field became a nightmare for Dylan's family and also his coach.

"Any time I see one of our players on the ground, you just fear for the worst," said coach Brad Webber. "The worst happened this time."

Dylan fell in the third quarter and needed to be helped off the field. He was taken to a hospital after he lost consciousness while a doctor and trainer examined him. He died two days later of a head injury.

The organization that oversees Georgia high school sports said there is no evidence of negligence in his death.

"There is no indication of any negligent action by anyone associated with Pike County in this incident," the Georgia High School Association said. "The coaches had taken every precaution to prepare for potential injuries and went beyond the required standards when working within the concussion protocol."

Nick Burgess, Dylan's uncle, posted on Facebook that Dylan had been scared of injuries on the field.

"The one that had the biggest heart. The one that told me personally he was always scared to seriously hurt somebody on the field and never thought it would happen to him," Burgess wrote.

How did he get injured?

It's still unclear when or how in the game Dylan was injured, Webber said.

He said coaches reviewed video of the game to try to pinpoint what happened -- if he had taken a big hit to the head, for example -- but nothing stuck out.

"That makes it almost harder as well that we just didn't know," he said. "If you know, you can prevent things. But just the way that happened, it's just devastating. It's just sad."

In reviewing the game film and speaking with school officials, the GHSA said there was no indication Dylan suffered an injury in the second quarter.

The high schooler was wearing a top-of-the-line Riddell SpeedFlex helmet that his parents had bought for him to prevent a head injury.

"Dylan's dad took his own money and bought an NFL-quality helmet for Dylan, because he was somewhat concerned about head injuries," said Steve Fry, a first responder and the mayor of Williamson, Georgia.

Game-related deaths of football players are rare, but they happen every fall. Last year, of the 4 million young people who played organized football, 13 died from the sport, according to the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research.

Four of the deaths had "direct" causes from on-field trauma or injuries, and nine deaths were due to "indirect" causes such as heat stroke or cardiac arrest. The 2017 death toll was consistent with football-related fatalities dating back to 2000.

Professional and college football administrators have been increasingly focused on limiting head injuries amid concerns in recent years that the country's most popular sport is damaging young people's brains. Efforts to limit concussions and other brain injuries have found mixed results, given the inherent violence of a sport based on large, fast men and boys repeatedly crashing into each other.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 484675

Reported Deaths: 9480
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison33151493
Hinds31184589
DeSoto30803365
Jackson23735349
Rankin21390373
Lee14963221
Madison14206272
Jones13430227
Forrest13199241
Lauderdale11623307
Lowndes10501176
Lamar10258130
Pearl River9151221
Lafayette8268137
Hancock7534113
Washington7144152
Oktibbeha6989124
Monroe6533167
Neshoba6489201
Warren6486166
Pontotoc632993
Panola6278127
Marshall6165126
Bolivar6129145
Union576089
Pike5626138
Alcorn540590
Lincoln5310132
George473572
Scott461596
Leflore4495140
Tippah448180
Prentiss447979
Itawamba4457100
Adams4429117
Tate4420103
Wayne434667
Simpson4339114
Copiah432988
Yazoo423686
Covington417192
Sunflower4155104
Marion4111104
Coahoma3986100
Leake398286
Newton372375
Grenada3565104
Stone351360
Tishomingo338389
Attala325987
Jasper316062
Winston305691
Clay297374
Chickasaw287866
Clarke283290
Calhoun267741
Holmes262887
Smith252249
Yalobusha224347
Tallahatchie221150
Walthall211758
Greene209945
Lawrence207034
Perry201054
Amite199452
Webster196942
Noxubee179339
Montgomery172954
Jefferson Davis168342
Carroll162537
Tunica154235
Benton143035
Kemper138840
Choctaw128826
Claiborne127134
Humphreys127038
Franklin116928
Quitman104227
Wilkinson102036
Jefferson91533
Sharkey63020
Issaquena1937
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 790648

Reported Deaths: 14025
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1117431765
Mobile709021237
Madison50032633
Shelby36350315
Baldwin36278495
Tuscaloosa34034548
Montgomery33229678
Lee22712220
Calhoun21297410
Morgan19852335
Etowah19341462
Marshall17716274
Houston16862386
St. Clair15479305
Cullman14659258
Limestone14609188
Elmore14507264
Lauderdale13557281
Talladega13015236
DeKalb12214237
Walker10604330
Blount9735157
Autauga9691137
Jackson9400158
Coffee8934175
Dale8631173
Colbert8545184
Tallapoosa6688181
Escambia6599121
Covington6466167
Chilton6395144
Russell608755
Franklin5805101
Chambers5425134
Marion4818120
Dallas4713189
Clarke464079
Pike463297
Geneva4433117
Winston427395
Lawrence4124108
Bibb410281
Barbour347470
Marengo326485
Monroe320253
Butler318490
Randolph306656
Pickens306474
Henry302658
Hale293085
Cherokee290855
Fayette280373
Washington245548
Crenshaw238770
Cleburne236751
Clay229265
Macon220658
Lamar200443
Conecuh182046
Coosa170835
Lowndes170858
Wilcox159736
Bullock149543
Perry136537
Sumter124736
Greene121443
Choctaw73427
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