It isn't just the looming threat of broken bodies or chronic brain injuries that gives people pause when it comes to the risks associated with football. Almost every year, a few young people lose their lives on the field or as an indirect result of their actions on it.
In September, a high school football player from Zebulon, Georgia, died two days after he lost consciousness during a football game at Pike County High School. According to a statement from the Georgia High School Association
, 16-year-old Dylan Thomas was airlifted to a hospital after the game was halted in the third quarter. He reportedly suffered from signs of traumatic brain injury.
In June, University of Maryland offensive lineman Jordan McNair died as a result of heatstroke he developed during a practice in May
. His death devastated the university's football community, and inquiries into the school's handling of his treatment are ongoing.
It's a rare but reliable tragedy: rare in that the number of deaths at any level of organized football is a tiny fraction of the overall number of participants; reliable because the deaths happen for specific and recurring reasons, and program organizers across the board have to constantly consider ways to make this inherently brutal sport less so.