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: 245847

Reported Deaths: 5356
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto16717168
Hinds15748310
Harrison12806188
Rankin10334204
Jackson9996172
Lee8666135
Madison7994158
Jones6112108
Forrest5826117
Lauderdale5672174
Lowndes5186106
Lafayette482792
Lamar471162
Washington4700122
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Panola357274
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Monroe3463101
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Warren334692
Marshall333264
Neshoba3310149
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Lincoln290185
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Tate264759
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Pike254876
Hancock246957
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Simpson230166
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Tishomingo179059
Holmes167467
Jasper163533
Clay155632
Stone138818
Tallahatchie137033
Clarke135160
Calhoun132021
Smith117322
Yalobusha112534
Walthall110536
Noxubee108922
Greene108229
Montgomery107134
Carroll102320
Lawrence99817
Perry98631
Amite95725
Webster90024
Claiborne84125
Tunica84021
Jefferson Davis82925
Humphreys80324
Benton79722
Kemper75620
Quitman6678
Franklin64613
Choctaw59412
Wilkinson57424
Jefferson52019
Sharkey42317
Issaquena1576
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 414583

Reported Deaths: 5945
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson60842887
Mobile29590538
Madison26466183
Tuscaloosa20537267
Montgomery18562304
Shelby18181112
Baldwin15841177
Lee1212097
Morgan12002112
Etowah11488142
Calhoun10863197
Marshall10048106
Houston8405123
Cullman792294
Limestone785073
Elmore7670101
DeKalb757282
St. Clair7417120
Lauderdale740282
Talladega6036108
Walker5834176
Jackson571937
Colbert522270
Blount521980
Autauga507555
Coffee431456
Dale388278
Franklin362145
Chilton332965
Covington325567
Russell318910
Escambia309842
Dallas297988
Chambers275769
Clarke272933
Tallapoosa2591107
Pike245829
Lawrence239345
Marion238649
Winston222535
Bibb211347
Geneva196331
Marengo196329
Pickens195331
Hale172542
Barbour169636
Butler166958
Fayette164026
Cherokee158330
Henry149219
Monroe143617
Randolph137635
Washington135426
Clay124446
Crenshaw117444
Lamar116819
Cleburne115123
Macon111935
Lowndes107935
Wilcox99921
Bullock97128
Perry95019
Conecuh92820
Sumter89126
Greene75123
Coosa59814
Choctaw50824
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