Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Review Finds 73 Catastrophic Injuries in Football 2011

By Matt Chaney for The Phanatic Magazine

The rate of catastrophic injuries in American football could be a record in 2011, with more than 70 survivor cases of conditions such as brain hemorrhage and spinal fracture, according to an intensive electronic survey by this reporter.
See the complete annotated list of cases below, with juveniles comprising the large majority of victims.
The findings belie talk of “culture change” by football officials, their popular claim of “safer” football in America, and raise question whether catastrophic injuries of the inherently brutal sport are significantly under-reported in record-keeping of the present and past.
Last year the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research (NCCSI) logged only 24 survivor cases—barely half the 2010 cases still available online, including players with brain bleeds and spinal paralysis missed in the report.
Now stronger accounting is assured for 2011, standing on results of my daily searching of Google banks that's garnered a solid 70 survivor cases for verification as catastrophic football injuries, defined by the NCCSI as affecting the brain, skull, spinal cord and/or vertebral column.
My cases include the following:
*1 comatose preschooler, a 5-year-old “Tiny Mite” player hospitalized with brain trauma of full-contact football.
*23 head injuries such as brain hemorrhage and skull fracture, cases including surgery for 16 players suffering cerebral bleeding.
*41 spinal traumas, the vast majority fractures, including 17 cases requiring surgery and at least 5 involving continuing paralysis.
*1 case of MRSA infection of the spinal column apparently triggered by football contact.
*6 cases of cardiac arrest, including 5 players revived by portable defibrillator and CPR.
*1 case of heart attack.
In addition:
*7 reported brain and spinal casualties require expert consideration for catastrophic data, including the football-related trauma of a Tennessee schoolteacher hospitalized in an ICU, after she was struck in the head sitting along a sideline, by helmet of a diving player.
My basic approach is regular filtering of Google content, utilizing Boolean command terms such as football andhospitalfootball medical centerfootball brainfootball head injuryfootball spine and football vertebra, along with substituting main adjectives like “player” for “football,” to recycle search on terms like player hospitalplayer brainand so forth.
Every 2011 incident I have found requires expert follow-up and verification as football catastrophic injury, but available data indicate about 90 percent are locks for the classification by the national center based at the University of North Carolina.
At the NCCSI, funded primarily by the NCAA, two of football’s associate experts have co-authored annual injury reports for a quarter-century: Frederick Mueller, who holds a PhD in education, is a professor of sport administration at the university and a former football coach, and Dr. Robert Cantu, of Boston, is the renowned sport neurosurgeon who leads NFL-funded research documenting permanent brain damage in deceased athletes, primarily football players.
Since the 1970s, Mueller and Cantu have been key figures in the modern movement for “safer” football in America, which promotes initiatives such as rule changes, injury awareness, helmet standards, “concussion testing” and anti-concussion law, along with “behavior modification” of players that teaches theoretical “proper contact,” collisions supposedly avoiding head impacts.
Roger Goodell, NFL commissioner and associate of Cantu, has taken up the safer football campaign since fall 2009, when a congressional committee lambasted him for the league’s deplorable record on brain trauma in active and retired players.
In recent years, the Mueller-Cantu research on catastrophic injuries is cited as evidence of a trend toward less risky football in America, especially for youths.
For 2008, the NCCSI logs 63 survivor cases, adding updates, which is the highest mark among UNC reports available online. The center’s same numbers drop to a current 44 for 2009 and the 24 last year.
These figures are recognized as authoritative epidemiology on American football’s worst casualties, the cases most lethal and costly, with many survivors requiring lifetime care.
This year’s alarming amount of brain-bleed injuries alone translates to tens of million dollars for healthcare in the present and future, perhaps a nine-figure cost for long-term inflation, according to an expert I consulted. And the estimate accounts for this year’s brain-injured players who recover functionally, as some already have.
Risk assessors, obviously, are among parties relying on catastrophic-injury data, as they in turn represent interests in healthcare and insurance, the co-op industries that essentially carry medical and liability damages for American football.
But information gathering and presentation have been problematic for the Mueller-Cantu team at North Carolina, beginning with reporting language that presents data in absolute terms rather than accompanied by qualifiers likeat least 24 survivors for the football year and among available reports.
The UNC documents do contain disclaimers for inadequate data or gathering, but the notes are brief and buried with no prominence in methodology passages. There is no formal declaration of study limitations.
News media, meanwhile, parrot the annual UNC numbers as hard facts of American football, disseminating worldwide the misinformation and erroneous injury context.
In reality, no epidemiological method is proven for reliably assessing rates of catastrophic injury in American football, and the recognized Mueller-Cantu approach also lacks consistency of definitions and breadth in categories. The final UNC data on survivors ignore football-related injuries such as peripheral paralysis, heatstroke, blood clots, kidney rupture, staph infection and “compartmental syndrome.”
No collection approach is yet validated for producing a representative sampling or thorough accounting of grave injuries in football, with promising e-search like mine notwithstanding.
Indeed, multiple teams for annual comparison and pooling of data might become sound strategy, if any method could prove reliable. For example, I find cases missed by Mueller and Cantu and vice versa; they have sources in medicine and athletics for information I cannot get.
Regardless, the UNC research needs year-round, state-of-art collection for finding catastrophic injuries in football, particularly through electronic search. Far too many injuries are presently missed in Google alone, inexcusably.
Regarding 2010, for example, the Mueller-Cantu report online lists merely 14 spinal injuries, ranging from paralysis victims to cases of “complete recovery,” another dubious term.
Cross-checking those cases with mine, I find twice their number online and at least 30 catastrophic spinal injuries are now known to exist for 2010, thanks to a pair of cases reported by the UNC team, of a 12-year-old youth-league player with transient paralysis and a 13-year-old rendered quadriplegic of contact at a school football practice.
Overall, the Mueller-Cantu reports for 2010 omit some 15 spinal cases I have for American football, including 3 paralyzed school players who have largely recovered motor function and touch sensitivity through surgery, healing and rehabilitation.
Mueller and Cantu likewise underreport cases of brain hemorrhages in football 2010, logging 7 presently while missing at least 5 teen victims currently reported online. Also overlooked is the NFL “chain-gang” official struck by a speeding player along a sideline in New Orleans; the middle-aged man suffered a severe head injury and was hospitalized for weeks.
At least 2 apparent cardiac cases, survivors, are missed in the UNC report for last year: a 50-year-old Texas man who collapsed while playing flag football and a Hawaii teenager stricken during practice at school. Both were revived by bystanders who employed CPR and portable automated external defibrillators (AEDs).
Bottom line, the Mueller-Cantu report for 2010 presently omits at least 22 catastrophic-injury survivors—along with omitting known football fatalities such as a youth player killed of contact in Philadelphia, Quadaar White, and a college player in Minnesota, Ben Bundy, dead of brain aneurysm suffered during a team workout.
Tough critique of research by Mueller and Cantu aside, I commend them for assembling a foundation for catastrophic-injury information on modern American football.
Foremost, limitations dog any collection effort, including my review based in tapping the jet streams of Internet search mode.
The problems of locating information on bodily catastrophe in American football begin with the incalculable cases never reported publicly, by any medium, for reasons including privacy concern, medical misdiagnosis, and even victim ignorance of injury like “walking” spinal fracture, of which an untold number occurs.
Moreover, media of all types will not or cannot report every grave injury in the vast domain and populace of American football, encompassing about five million players among tens of thousand programs across 50 states.
For injury events made public or emerging in even scantest detail, attritional effects weigh further on the communication.
A significant portion of local print and broadcast news in America does not reach posting online, and then cyber flow is divided among content providers like subscription databases and Google, the monster search engine that nevertheless cannot access everything Internet. Finally, many online pages are removed after a period of posting.
This report continues with my annotated list of 2011 survivor cases in catastrophic injury of American football.
I am forwarding these cases to medical authorities and other parties with interest in the focus, such as risk assessors, for soliciting their review and comment. Dr. Cantu and Professor Mueller are on the list of recipients.
I urge other media to do the same, contact experts regarding the cases below, which are public information.
Look for updates on this blog and elsewhere.

73 Survivor Cases of Catastrophic Injury in American Football 2011
From Reports Retrieved in Google Search Through December 21
By Matt Chaney,

Note: List below does not include 17-20 football-related fatalities in 2011, retrieved from online thus far, such as 4 deaths of head injuries from contact, along with more than 50 player survivors of grave conditions such as blood clots, femoral artery rupture, heatstroke, internal organ rupture/laceration, staph infection or MRSA, and peripheral nerve damage/paralysis.

Online Report of Comatose Youth Player, Preschooler, American Football 2011

Sept. 29, circa: An unidentified“Tiny Mite” player, 5-years-old, Hawaii, reportedly fell comatose at a hospital following a head injury. The child was injured while participating in “Tiny-Mite” division of Oahu Pop Warner football, for ages 5, 6 and 7, according to KHON-TV. Oahu doctor Josh Green said, “Five might be a little young. I’m concerned about it."
Online Reports of Brain Hemorrhage and Surgery, American Football 2011
March 19:  Logan Weber, 21, Iowa, offensive guard for Coe College, experienced severe headaches while stretching for weightlifting. Weber was hospitalized within 24 hours for brain bleeding linked to “arteriovenous malformation,” or AVM, a congenital condition. Surgery was performed to insert a shunt and Weber was hospitalized for 20 days. He recovered, returned to college, but ceased playing football, serving instead as student coach for the Coe team. Source: Cedar Rapids Gazette.
May 18:  Josh Mercer, teenager, Louisiana, senior-to-be linebacker for Alexandria Senior High School, was injured while tackling a teammate in spring practice. Hospitalized for brain bleeding, Mercer was initially released after a few days but his condition worsened and he was readmitted to intensive care. Surgery was performed 10 days post-injury and Mercer began recovery, quickly completing physical therapy. He was released from hospital then completed a scheduled 12 weeks of speech therapy in half the time. Mercer could not play football this year but serves as a student coach for the school, according to
Aug. 5:  Brennan Barber, 17, South Carolina, defensive lineman for Mid-Carolina High School, was injured by a reported “routine” helmet hit during a scrimmage and collapsed minutes later. Surgery was performed for brain bleeding. Barber began walking three days later and was released from the hospital within a week. He is undergoing therapy and is expected to make strong recovery. Source: The State.
Sept. 2:  Tucker Montgomery, 17, Tennessee, receiver/linebacker for Tri-Cities Christian School, was injured in helmet-to-helmet contact while running the football during a 6-man game. Surgery was performed for brain bleeding. Montgomery remained comatose for more than a month. Still hospitalized on Oct. 25, Montgomery was conscious and responding to some commands, according to reporter Preston Ayres. Montgomery faced “a long road to recovery,” Ayres reported. Sources: WCYB-TV,, Johnson City Press.
Sept. 10:  Dominic Morris, 21, Nebraska, running back for Chadron State College, injured by reported “glancing” contact from an opponent’s facemask during a game. Surgery was performed on brain bleeding that had caused a blood clot. “Following the operation… Morris was alert and showed no signs of any ill effects from the injury,” states a CSC release. Morris was discharged from hospital on Sept. 12 for recovery at home in California. Sources: Chadron State College, Omaha World.
Sept. 16:  Robby Mounce, 17, Texas, running back/receiver and honors student at Community Christian School, suffered brain bleeding and collapsed during a 6-man game. Surgery was performed and Mounce began therapy while in critical care. Progress has been slow but steady and Mounce was recently able to return home for a period, including the Thanksgiving holidays. He wears an eye patch and has difficulty moving his right side, and on Dec. 7 the teen was admitted to a rehabilitation facility for daily therapies. “One of the things they will work on with Robby is stabilizing his walking and balance,” his mother Janet Mounce reports. Lengthy recovery remains. Sources: KDFW-TV, Mineral Wells Index, and Janet Mounce on
Sept. 16:  Zeth Shouse, 17, Nevada, tight end/defensive end for Elko High School, suffered brain bleeding during a game and collapsed. Multiple surgeries were performed.  The honors student remained hospitalized on Oct. 21, when his father, Todd Shouse, reported that Zeth was able to swallow and had begun therapies. Sources: KENV-TV, Reno Gazette-Journal.
Sept. 16:  Adrian Padilla, 17, California, safety for Oxnard High School, collapsed following head contact during a game. Surgery was performed for brain swelling of a reported severe concussion. Padilla was released from hospital on Oct. 4 and attended the Oxnard football game days later; he walked onto the field for the opening coin flip wearing street clothes and protective helmet. Padilla told media he suffered a concussion in football two weeks prior to the Sept. 16 injury. The teen continued schoolwork at home for remainder of the semester. Sources: Ventura County Star, Concussion Inc. blog, and
Sept. 16:  Adam Ingle, 17, Kansas, quarterback/linebacker for Valley Center High School, was injured in helmet-to-helmet contact during a game. Surgery was performed for brain bleeding. Family members say Ingle likely was concussed three days before game injury, during football practice, but the player did not inform anyone of his headaches, reported blogger Irvin Muchnick. By early October Ingle was home and attending school events, with recovery work remaining. Sources: Concussion Inc. blog, Wichita Eagle, and
Sept. 30:  Bobby Clark, 17, Idaho, lineman/linebacker for Priest River Lamanna High School, collapsed while leaving the field during a game. Surgery was performed for brain bleeding. District superintendent Mike McGuire said Clark might have mentioned headaches in the week leading to his injury, unbeknownst to coaches and school officials. At least 9 players on the team have been diagnosed with concussion this season, among 45 players in the small school, officials said. A local TV station reported Clark was among 3 diagnosed concussion cases on the team the night he was airlifted for emergency surgery. Clark was hospitalized about six weeks then transferred to a rehabilitation facility for therapies that will continue through December, at least. His mother, Julie Clark, writes a detailed, vivid journal online about Bobby’s ordeal, and she reports he is talking, eating, socializing and re-acclimating to school subjects such as math; he walks regularly, although with assistance for difficulty in moving his right side. Bobby and family members hope for his release from inpatient therapy by early January, to coincide with pending surgery to replace the piece of skullcap removed at injury, then he could return home. “So today I am praying that his mental status and physical status come together quickly in the next 3 weeks,” Julie Clark posted on Dec. 8, “and that surgery will happen at the right time when his body and mind are ready. I have patience. It’s what has gotten me this far, so I’m not impatient; I just want for everything to fall into place at the same time for his well-being. This is something too important to rush.” Sources: Julie Clark on, WASWX-TV, Spokane Spokesman-Review, and Bonner County Daily Bee.
Sept. 30:  Shelton Dvorak, 17, Nebraska, fullback/linebacker for Pierce High School, collided with multiple opponents while running the football during a game. Moments later he collapsed, suffering a brain bleed. A week after surgery, Dvorak was released from ICU and hospital to a rehabilitation center, where he progressed markedly in a few weeks, solo walking, exercising, eating and conversing with visitors. Dvorak returned home on Oct. 27 in strong recovery mode, resuming activities such as attending football games and going hunting with family members. Follow-up surgery replaced the skullcap piece and Dvorak continued his comeback, returning to school in mid-November. “Shelton is a living miracle,” a family member posted on Nov. 21. “He is doing things that everyone prayed he would do.” Sources: Dvorak Family on,, Lincoln Journal Star andNorfork Daily News.
Sept. 30:  Dillon Lackhan, teenager, Arizona, senior lineman/linebacker for Valley Christian High School, suffered brain bleeding of a headshot during a game. Surgery was performed and Lackhan was conscious within a few days, eating and conversing. “Dillon shows positive signs for recovery, but a long-term prognosis is not clear,” school athletic director Marlin Broek stated in an Oct. 6 email, reported sportswriter Richard Obert. Sources:, and East Valley Tribune.
Oct. 1:  An unidentified teenager, Massachusetts, a wide receiver for Sandwich High School, complained of wooziness following contact during a game and a trainer called for medical attention. “The player later underwent emergency surgery to remove a blood clot in his brain,” reported Michael J. Rausch, on Oct. 14. “The boy is now home and recovering well from his injury.” Source: Sandwich Enterprise.
Oct. 13:  Dennis Pena, teenager, California, sophomore player for Los Angeles High School, suffered a head injury and collapsed during a junior varsity game. Surgery was performed for a brain hemorrhage, and David Craft, LAHS athletic director, said Pena’s prognosis was “supposed to be good.” Source: Los Angeles Times.
Online Reports of Vessel Rupture and Stroke, Surgery in American Football 2011
Sept. 6:  Connor Laudenslager, teenager, Pennsylvania, senior offensive/defensive tackle for Line Mountain High School, was stricken of a blood clot at beginning of indoor practice, causing stroke. Laundenslager, 6-foot, 270 pounds, was hospitalized for emergency brain surgery then made “remarkable progress,” said coach Mike Carson, moving quickly through therapies and returning to school. By mid-October Laudenslager was working out with teammates and hoping to be cleared to resume football, although that did not occur in 2011. Laudenslager wants to play football in college. Sources:, and Pottsville Republican Herald.
Sept. 23:  Dylan Mercadante, 16, Vermont, receiver/defensive back for Montpelier High School, suffered a ruptured blood vessel in his neck during the second half of a game, causing strokes. The injury possibly stemmed from contact on his team’s first kickoff of the game. Following surgery, Mercadante was hospitalized for month then continued therapies as an outpatient. “His recovery has been faster than expected, but he faces a lengthy rehab,” reported Tom Herzig, on Nov. 3. Mercadante plans to graduate with his class and attend college. Sources:Montpelier Bridge and Barre-Montpelier Times Argus.
Online Reports of Brain Bleeding or Swelling, No Surgery, American Football 2011
Feb. 14:  Neiron Ball, 19, linebacker for the University of Florida, experienced headaches following a workout and was hospitalized the following day for a burst blood vessel of the brain linked to a congenital malformation of arteries known as AVM. Ball was released from ICU after five days and in March began “radial” treatment described as a non-intrusive procedure, similar to radiation for cancer. Ball did not play football last season, and a relative said his future in the game was uncertain. Sources: Orlando Sentinel and
Aug. 19:  Alan Mohika, 17, Hawaii, quarterback for Damien Memorial High School, was injured by contact during a game, rose and walked off, then fell into seizure. Mohika suffered brain bleeding and was hospitalized in ICU for a reported severe concussion. No surgery was necessary and the teen was discharged from hospital after five days. Mohika returned to school in mid-September but did not play football. He hoped to return to sports. Sources:Honolulu Star-Advertiser, and
Sept. 9:  Matt Ringer, 15, California, running back for Central Catholic High School, suffered an apparent concussion during a tackle. Later he was hospitalized for a detected brain bleed, although fully conscious. No surgery was necessary and Ringer was released from hospital within 48 hours. He returned to school but not football. Source: Modesto Bee.
Oct. 7:  Jadon Adams, 16, Kansas, running back for Beloit High School, collapsed during a game and was hospitalized for brain swelling. Doctors sedated Adams as treatment and discontinued the drugs as swelling subsided within 24 hours, and no surgery was necessary. The teen entered a rehabilitation hospital on Oct. 21 and made steady progress, according to updates by family friend Steph Barrett. Adams was released on Dec. 2 and is continuing therapies at home, where he has resumed schoolwork with a tutor, according to reports. Sources: Salina Journal, KAKE-TV, and Steph Barrett on
Online Reports of Skull Fracture in American Football 2011
April 2:  Lamont Baldwin, 17, Washington, D.C., touted receiver for Carroll High School, suffered a fractured skull and other injuries in a four-player collision during  private camp without pads and helmets in Virginia. Baldwin was hospitalized in ICU for two days and could not return to school for the remaining semester, facing months of recovery. When injured, Baldwin was a top college prospect reportedly being recruited by several major programs; he did not play football in 2011. Sources: Washington Post and
Online Report of Head and Neck Injury With Nerve Damage in Football 2011
Sept. 12:  Spencer Eller, 14, Missouri, wide receiver/cornerback at Lee’s Summit North High School, was struck in back of his neck by a teammate’s helmet during a practice drill. Eller was hospitalized with paralysis through his right side and legs. “The doctors diagnosed Spencer with a brain injury, a spinal cord injury, vertigo and muscle and nerve damage,” reported Miranda Wycoff. Imaging tests were negative for cranial swelling, and Eller was released to go home with outpatient therapy. Six weeks after injury, the teen was walking but with a cane while still experiencing numbness through his right side; pain radiated everywhere, including migraine headaches preventing his sleep. At October’s end, Eller’s family hoped for his condition to improve enough for a return to school, but doctors remained cautious of his complex injury. “When he went in for the CAT scan and the MRI nothing was broken and there was no bleeding in the brain,” said Cheryl Eller, the teen’s mother, in a report of Oct. 26. “It makes it harder to understand because you can’t even see it.” Source: Lee’s Summit Journal.
Online Reports of Spinal Injury Requiring Surgery, American Football 2011
May 7:  Rob Marrero, 31, Pennsylvania, semi-pro player for the Mountain Top Reapers, suffered a broken neck and severed spinal cord during a game. Friends reported after surgery that Marrero is paralyzed permanently from chest down. Marrero, married and a father of two, continues treatment and therapy. Source: Lehighton Times News.
May 27:  Jeremy Bingham, 34, Arizona, fractured cervical and thoracic vertebrae during a game in pads and helmets between alumni of two local high schools. He was injured colliding with another player. Doctors diagnosed no paralysis in Bingham and surgery was performed to stabilize the C7 and T1 vertebrae. Bingham is married and the father of four. Sources: Eastern Arizona Courier and the Bingham Family on
Sept. 1: Torell Troup, 24, New York, defensive lineman for the Buffalo Bills, sustained a reported “minor fracture” in his spine during an NFL preseason game. Troup missed several games while playing in about six before placed on injured reserve for the season. Troup was reportedly scheduled for surgery on Dec. 16; Google had no further update at time of this blog posting.
Sept. 18:  Nick Collins, 28, Wisconsin, free safety for the Green Bay Packers, ruptured a lumbar disc during a collision in an NFL game. Cervical-fusion surgery was performed and Collins faces lengthy rehabilitation. Doctors expect full recovery for normal lifestyle, but Collins hopes to resume pro football. Sources: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and
Sept. 23:  Corpio Dennard, 16, Alabama, receiver/running back for Saks High School, suffered a broken neck during a game while being tackled from behind, pinning his arms and sending him into ground headfirst. Dennard experienced no paralysis and walked to the sidelines, but coaches did not return him to the game. The next day his mother sent him for a doctor’s exam and Dennard was hospitalized, with X-rays showing fractures in his 5th and 6th cervical vertebrae. Surgery was performed on Sept. 25, for stabilizing the spine with plate and screws. “The doctors that saw him were just amazed that he got up and walked off the field,” Saks coach Clint Smith told reporter Joe Medley. Dennard said, “If I had gone back in the game, I don’t know where I’d be right now. I’d probably be paralyzed or even dead.” Dennard has begun 6-to-12 months rehabilitation and doctors expect he can return to sports, although probably not football. Source: Anniston Star.
Sept. 29:  Luis Morales, teenager, Texas, junior player for Vega High School, suffered fracture of the C6 vertebra while colliding with bleachers during a junior varsity game. Surgery was performed in Texas, and Morales was flown to California for specialized rehabilitation on Oct. 13. Reports state the teen is paralyzed from waist down while also hardly able to move his arms. Sources: Amarillo Globe-NewsHigh Plains Observer and
Oct. 1: Shontrelle Johnson, 19, Iowa, running back for Iowa State University, suffered a reported “neck injury” in a game and was sidelined for the season, with no paralysis reported. Surgery was performed on Nov. 22 and Johnson faced lengthy recovery, according to ISU coach Paul Rhoads, who said the player’s possible return to football was uncertain.
Oct. 7:  Porter Hancock, 16, Utah, running back/linebacker for South Summit High School, suffered a broken neck and paralysis while making a tackle in a game. “Porter finished off the tackle. It was nothing big,” said South Summit coach Jerry Parker. “He turned his head the wrong way.” During surgery on Oct. 8, doctors removed two cervical discs and inserted a stabilizing plate. Hancock was released from hospital on Dec. 16 and remains paralyzed from chest down. Sources: Deseret NewsSalt Lake TribunePark City Record,
Oct. 20:  Hunter Casebolt, 13, Arkansas, defensive player for Elkins Junior High School, fractured two cervical vertebrae in a helmet-to-helmet collision during a game. No paralysis occurred and surgery was performed to stabilize the fractures. Casebolt was released from hospital after one week, wearing a collar brace. Sources:, and KFSM-TV.
Oct. 21:  Anthony Conner, 23, Kentucky, cornerback for the University of Louisville, fractured a cervical vertebra when his helmet struck the knee of an opponent during a game. No paralysis occurred and surgery stabilized the fracture. Conner was released from hospital within days, wearing a collar brace. Sources: Louisville Courier-Journal,Syracuse Post-Standard and WDRB-TV.
Oct. 22:  Aaron Smith, 35, Pennsylvania, defensive end for the Pittsburgh Steelers, was diagnosed with damage to cervical discs and placed on NFL injured reserve for the season. Surgery was performed around Nov. 15, fusing the damaged discs, and Smith’s future in football is unknown. Sources:, and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Oct. 26:  Joe Aulisio, adult, Ohio, a sports reporter for WKBN-TV, suffered fractures of two cervical vertebrae of accidental contact with football players during practice at Liberty High School. No paralysis occurred and surgery stabilized the neck column, according to The Warren Tribune Chronicle.
Oct. 29:  Carlton Downs, adult, West Virginia, senior safety for Concord University, fractured his C5 vertebra during a game. No paralysis occurred and surgery stabilized the cervical break. Downs was released from hospital within days and wore a neck brace to begin therapy, according to The Bluefield Daily Telegraph.
Nov. 4:  Christian Hurt, teenager, North Carolina, quarterback/defensive back for Starmount High School, suffered CV fracture while being tackled in a game. No paralysis occurred and surgery stabilized the fracture. Hurt was released from hospital within days and wears a halo brace, according to The Yadkin Ripple.
Nov. 5:  Tyler Vitiello, 17, New Jersey, running back/defensive end for Saddle Brook High School, suffered a fractured CV while returning a kickoff during a game. Initially paralyzed in his lower body, Vitiello underwent surgery and was standing with assistance after a week, then walking two weeks post-injury. He was released from a rehabilitation hospital in December and wears a collar brace, according to The Bergen Record.
Nov. 6:  Donnovan Hill, 13, California, running back/linebacker for the Lakewood Lancers of the Lakewood Pacific Junior Football and Cheer program, fractured his C4 vertebra while trying to make a tackle. Surgery stabilized the injury, paralysis remained in Hill’s extremities. Doctors predict incomplete recovery. Sources: KTLA-TV, KCAL-TV, KNBC-TV and
Dec. 8:  Chris Hoke, 35, Pennsylvania, nose tackle for the Pittsburgh Steelers, was diagnosed with a reported “neck injury” and placed on NFL injured reserve for the season. Surgery was performed on Dec. 14, and Hoke’s football future is uncertain. Sources: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and The Associated Press.
Dec. 18:  Johnny Knox, 25, Illinois, wide receiver for the Chicago Bears, suffered fracture of a reported vertebra “facet joint” in his back during contact in an NFL game. Surgery stabilized the injury and Knox faces at least four months of rehabilitation, according to The Chicago Tribune.
Online Reports of Spinal Fracture Without Surgery, American Football 2011
Note: Football cases of spinal fracture often involve no displacement of vertebrae or puncture of spinal cord, resulting in no paralysis or other acute alert, and in fact unknowing victims can function normally for long periods after injury, including playing tackle football. For such injury that is diagnosed and treated, recovery is often strong to complete. Among severe or catastrophic injuries in tackle football, diagnosed spinal fracture without displacement qualifies among least serious types, and undoubtedly a portion each year will never be reported or associated with the sport. Some spinal-injured football players return to full contact in the same season, even quickly, as did several in 2011, youths and adults. For this section, available details are fewer and less precise, and no case involves mention of surgery. No paralysis was reported in a case unless otherwise noted.  Additional cases of spinal fracture for the football year, yet unpublicized, will become public in the future.
March, circa:  Kendric Cook, 20, Mississippi, tight end for Mississippi State University, was diagnosed with stenosis of the cervical spine, narrowing of the neck column encasing the spinal cord, which could be adversely affected by football contact, including death. Cook ceased playing football and became a student coach in the program, according to The Clarion Ledger.  
April, circa: John Goode, 22, Illinois, fullback for Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, was injured while blocking a teammate in a drill during spring practice. Doctors diagnosed bulging discs in the lumbar spine, along with damage to a pelvis joint, and Goode could not return to football. In mid-September he began a 14-week rehabilitation program that effectively ended his playing career, according to The Carbondale Southern.
June 25:  Evan Gray, teenager, California, senior running back for Poway High School, suffered three fractured vertebrae during a fall in pass-league competition. Following rest and rehab, Gray returned for Poway’s football season but was sidelined for a reported fractured kneecap. Sources: Damian Gonzalez on andPoway News Chieftan.
Aug. 9:  Jeff Wozniak, teenager, Indiana, sophomore quarterback for Morton High School, suffered fractured vertebrae, broken neck bones and bruised spinal cord in practice when “hit under his chin during a drill and driven backward,” initially leaving him paralyzed, reports sportswriter Steve Hanlon. Doctors fitted Wozniak with a steel halo head brace, requiring drilling of screws but not open surgery. In ICU he progressively regained feeling and motor function and in two weeks left the hospital for a rehabilitation facility, where he was also released after two weeks. He continues outpatient therapy and hopes to play football again. Source:
Aug. 10, circa:  Mario Crawford, 21, Virginia, running back for Old Dominion University, sustained fracture of the C1 vertebrae in a preseason practice, striking his helmet on a medicine ball in a drill. A CT scan revealed the injury, two weeks post-injury, and Crawford was likely sidelined for the season, wearing a collar brace, according to The Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot.
Aug. 20, circa:  Devin Mahina, adult, Utah, redshirt sophomore tight end for Brigham Young University, sustained a fractured vertebrae in a preseason scrimmage. Initially the injury was not diagnosed and Mahina practiced football for about 10 days, until doctors found it by CT scan on Aug. 30, sidelining him for the year. Mahina wore a collar brace. Sources: Deseret Sun and Salt Lake Tribune.
Aug. 25:  Will Rishell, teenager, Connecticut, junior quarterback/safety/kicker for RHAM High School, suffered fractures of lumbar vertebrae in a preseason scrimmage. Rishell was sidelined until Oct. 22, when he played in a game and re-injured his lower back. Rishell did not play football again in 2011, according to The Norwich Bulletin.
Aug. 26:  Dustin Newman, teenager, Alabama, junior player for Pike Liberal Arts Academy, sustained a fractured thoracic or T5 vertebrae during a kickoff. He wore a collar brace for three months, reportedly. Sources: Troy Messenger and
Sept. 1:  Kellen Bernard, 15, Texas, running back/linebacker for Palmer High School, sustained a fractured lumbar vertebra on a hit while returning a punt. He reportedly had temporary paralysis and was expected to recover. Sources: Ennis Daily News and WFAA-TV.
Sept. 2: Jerram Rojo, 17, Texas, quarterback/linebacker for Marfa High School, was injured running the ball in a game, with his heading striking the ground. He walked off the field then was hospitalized, where a CT scan revealed fracture of the C6 vertebrae. Rojo wore a collar brace and did not resume football in 2011. Sources: Jerram Rojo on and The Big Bend Sentinel.
Sept. 2, circa:  Sam Scholting, teenager, Missouri, junior offensive tackle for Mexico High School, suffered a broken vertebrae and was sidelined, coach Nick Hoth told The Mexico Ledger.
Sept. 9:  Frank de Braga, teenager, Nevada, senior running back/safety for Fallon High School, suffered a fractured T3 vertebrae and brain concussion while making a tackle. Initially unconscious, the teen had movement before transport to hospital, where he spent the overnight under observation. De Braga was cleared to return to play two weeks later and finished the season in the Fallon lineup, according to The Lahontan Valley News.
Sept. 10:  Brian Tyms, 22, Florida, receiver for Florida A&M University, sustained a fractured vertebra during a game. He returned to playing football on Oct. 1 and finished the season. Sources: Tallahassee Democrat and The Associated Press.
Sept. 11:  Ron Bartell, 29, Missouri, cornerback for the St. Louis Rams, sustained fractures of the C7 vertebrae in an NFL game. Bartell wore neck braces for three months and was declared healed by doctors. He expects to return to football. Sources: and The St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Sept. 16:  Scott Thibeault, teenager, Maine, senior running back/linebacker for Mountain Valley High School, suffered two fractured vertebrae and was sidelined. He returned to playing football on Oct. 14 and finished the season. Sources: Portland Press Herald and Scarborough Leader.
Sept. 17, circa:  Matt Lindamood, 21, West Virginia, fullback for Western Virginia University, had a recurring neck injury of “stingers” and numbness checked out by MRI, and doctors found stenosis of the cervical vertebrae, narrowing of the spinal canal that affects many football players while threatening only a few with potential grave consequences of added impacts. One doctor determined Lindamood should cease playing football and consider surgery, but another examining specialist concluded the athlete could still compete, finding no degeneration in his motor and sensory function. Lindamood returned to the team and finished the season, according to The Charleston Daily Mail.
Sept. 24:  Derek Hayden, 22, Georgia, safety for Georgia Southern University, fractured his C1 vertebra during helmet-to-helmet contact in a game. Hayden was fitted with a halo brace and released from hospital within days. He did not return to football in 2011, according to The Savannah Morning News.
Sept. 30:  Deangelo Peete, 17, Michigan, linebacker for Livonia Franklin High School, fractured his C1 vertebrae in three places during a helmet-to-helmet collision in a game. A halo brace was fitted to stabilize the injuries and Peete was released from hospital within days, according to WJBK-TV.
Sept. 30:  Cody Ashcraft, teenager, Missouri, senior receiver for Scott City High School, sustained a fractured cervical vertebra in a game, according to The Southeast Missourian.
Oct. 8:  Chris Thompson, 20, Florida, running back for Florida State University, suffered fractures of the T5 and T6 vertebrae while being tackled in a game and was hospitalized overnight. Thompson wore a collar brace as he began rehab, sidelined for the season. He hopes to play football again, according to The Orlando Sentinel.
Oct. 14:  Sean Walsh, teenager, California, senior offensive guard/defensive tackle for Saratoga High School, suffered a reported “broken back” in a game. Walsh was sidelined for remainder of the football season. Sources:Saratoga Falcon and Saratoga News.
Oct. 28, circa:  Ronald Tolbert, teenager, Georgia, sophomore defensive tackle for Mt. Zion High School, suffered a reported “cracked vertebrae” played football and was sidelined, according to The Times-Georgian.
Nov. 4:  Andrew Barr, teenager, Michigan, senior running back for Portland High School, suffered fracture of his C1 vertebra and a concussion during a hit in a game. Barr was fitted with a neck brace and released from the hospital within days, sidelined for the football season, according to The Lansing State Journal.
Nov. 4:  Hunter Harden, teenager, Tennessee, junior running back for Munford High School, suffered a fractured CV during a game, reportedly “dumped onto his head and shoulders” while trying to catch a pass, according to The Paris Post-Intelligencer.
Online Report of Staph Infection in Spinal Column, American Football 2011
Sept. 10:  Aaron Thibodeaux, 19, Louisiana, defensive lineman for University of Louisiana-Lafayette, sustained a concussion in helmet-to-helmet contact during a game. Moreover, the collision injured Thibodeaux’s back and reportedly “reawakened” dormant methicillin-resistant staphylococcus, or MRSA, which had infected the player’s elbow in the preseason, and it formed a cyst in his spinal canal. Hospitalized a week in intensive care, Thibodeaux survived the infection and did not suffer paralysis like an Arkansas teen football player in 2010. Doctors determined Thibodeaux should cease playing football, according to The Shreveport Times.
Online Reports, Survivors of Cardiac Arrest and Heart Attack, Football 2011 
May 19:  Teddrick Lewis, 15, Louisiana, player for Breaux Bridge High School, collapsed on the sidelines during a spring football scrimmage, his heart stopped. Coach Paul Broussard employed a portable automated external defibrillator, or AED—after having trained in a mock drill with his team and school personnel weeks earlier—to restart the heartbeat and save Lewis’ life. “Because we had a plan in place, we knew exactly what to do,” Broussard said. Lewis was hospitalized for a week and has since recovered for normal activity, but doctors advise he not return to contact sport. Sources: KATC-TV and ZOLL Medical Corporation.
Aug. 22:  Unidentified teenager, Missouri, eighth-grade player for Waynesville Middle School, collapsed of cardiac arrest during afternoon practice. Local fire and ambulance personnel responded and restored the boy’s heartbeat. “The defibrillator devices were absolutely what saved him,” said Mike McCort, of the ambulance district. Source:Pulaski County Daily News.
Aug. 30:  Ross Palmer, 17, Idaho, receiver/cornerback for American Falls High School, collapsed of apparent cardiac arrest while running wind sprints at practice. Two coaches began CPR while another fetched a portable defibrillator, then they correctly ignored a directive not to use the device, from responding paramedics, reports journalist Patty Henetz. “If [the stricken player] had not been shocked, no way would he have come out of that,” said cardiac surgeon Dr. Brian Crandall. Three days post-incident, surgeons implanted a self-activating stimulator in Palmer’s chest. Henetz reported “if Ross’ heart goes into ventricle fibrillation arrest—quivering instead of beating—the implantable cardiac defibrillator, or ICD, will shock his heart back into action.” Source: Salt Lake Tribune.
Sept. 2:  David Wilganowski, 17, Texas, touted lineman for Rudder High School, collapsed of cardiac arrest during a game. Rudder certified athletic trainer Jamie Woodell revived the heartbeat with an AED and staff performed CPR, saving the teen. Wilganowski was hospitalized 10 days, and surgery placed an ICD device in his chest. An honors student, aspiring engineer, Wilganowski is formerly a prized football recruit at 6-foot-5, 240 pounds and athletic. He will not play football again, but Rice University reportedly pledges to honor its scholarship offer. Sources: KBTX-TV, KCEN-TV and Bryan-College Station Eagle.
Sept. 9:  Brett Greenwood, 23, Iowa, former University of Iowa safety just released by the Pittsburgh Steelers of the NFL, suffered a reported heart attack during an individual workout at his former high school in Bettendorf. Personnel of Pleasant Valley High were present and likely kept the athlete alive until paramedics arrived, media report. School athletic director Randy Treymer said, “The school nurse ran a defibrillator where our athletic trainer was working on Brett. … They kept pushing with the defibrillator and CPR. If they weren’t around, who knows what could have happened?” Doctors placed Greenwood in medically induced coma and on life support, and he was hospitalized in ICU for about two weeks. Greenwood was transferred to a specialized care facility where he remains, reportedly awake, talking and walking. Lengthy recovery work remains. Sources: Quad City Times and Daily Iowan.
Sept. 20:  Alex Templeton, 13, Texas, a linebacker for Azle Junior High School, went into cardiac arrest of contact during a game. Templeton chased down an opponent near the sideline, making the tackle from behind, and the player’s cleat jabbed his chest. The seventh-grader stood up, looked at the grandstands and collapsed. A coach performed CPR while a nurse who was a spectator administered a portable AED owned by the school; Templeton lay still until the defibrillator restored heartbeat, rousing him. “Seeing the boy spring back to life was an emotional experience for all those involved,” Edwin Newton reported. Templeton is recovering and hopes to play football again in about two years, when doctors might grant permission, but his dad, Matt Templeton, may not: “I don’t want him to play, but we will have to make the decision later,” the father said. Azle school officials, meanwhile, have ordered 11 additional defibrillators, intending to station one for every athletic activity of the district.  Sources: Azle News, WFFA-TV and
Oct. 1:  Ty Egan, 8, Illinois, youth-league player in LeRoy, was sprinting open for a touchdown when he slowed and collapsed, his heart having stopped. An ambulance was on site and medical personnel were watching as spectators, and they scrambled in response. But only oxygen was administered before the grade-schooler revived, resuming normal pulse and heartbeat. An electrophysiologist later told the parents their son was in cardiac arrest and a miracle saved him, not oxygen. Doctors are restricting Egan from all sports except golf in the future, reports Randy Kindred, The Bloomington Pantagraph.
Additional Reports of Injury for Expert Review as Catastrophic, American Football 2011
July 16:  Regina Pickel, adult, Tennessee, a teacher in the Bradley County School District, suffered a severe head injury during her son’s football scrimmage at Bradley Central High School. Pickel was sitting along the sideline when struck by the helmet of a diving player, causing profuse bleeding of a head laceration. Pickel was conscious and hospitalized in intensive care, according to The Cleveland Daily Banner.
Sept. 23:  Ikenasio Nuku, teenager, Washington, senior running back for Mount Ranier High School, sustained a reported serious injury of contact during a game. Nuku was removed from the field strapped on a long board and hospitalized, but his parents have not allowed release of further information, according to The Seattle Times.
October, circa:  Jesse Winn, teenager, Utah, senior running back for Emery High School, sustained a reported neck injury that sidelined him for the season, according to The Emery County Progress.
Oct. 10:  Josh Inhof, 15, Wisconsin, a center/defensive end for West Bend East High School, sustained a likely concussion, undiagnosed, during a collision at practice. Three days later, during a game, Inhof sustained one or more hits that rendered him unresponsive on a sideline. The unconscious teen was airlifted to a hospital, where he remained two days and was released, according to The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Oct. 14:  Sam Casinelli, teenager, California, junior wide receiver/defensive back for La Costa Canyon High School, sustained a neck injury during a game and was hospitalized, with no paralysis, according to CHS-TV.
Oct. 14:  Keegan Speas, teenager, Oklahoma, sophomore wide receiver for McGuinness High School, sustained a contact injury during a game that left him prone on the field for about 30 minutes. No paralysis occurred and Speas was transported to a hospital, according to
Oct. 24:  Alton Brunson, 13, Florida, player on a youth-league team in Miami, suffered temporary paralysis of a helmet-to-helmet hit during a game. Brunson regained complete mobility while hospitalized for about a week, according to WSVN-TV.

Matt Chaney is a writer, editor, teacher and restaurant worker living in Missouri, USA. His 2001 graduate thesis for an MA degree at the University of Central Missouri is qualitative media analysis of 466 football reports, historical print coverage of anabolic steroids and HGH in American football, largely based on electronic search among thousands of news texts from the 1970s through 1999. For more information, including contact numbers and his 2009 book,Spiral of Denial: Muscle Doping in American Football, visit the homepage at

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