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Two recent deaths of high school football players have shifted some parents' focus from head injuries to abdominal injuries. From heat stroke to sickle cell trait to concussions and now the rupture of internal organs, the dangers of playing football seem to increase every day.
But are abdominal injuries avoidable in high school football, or just the cost of playing the sport?
High School Risk
Taylor Haugen suffered a ruptured liver during a high school football game in Florida in 2008. After being hit hard in the front and back while reaching up to catch a pass, Haugen left the game wincing in pain. Haugen's mother Kathy told USAToday her son was pale and gray on the sidelines. "He lost consciousness in the ambulance, and never regained it." Haugen's parents removed him from life support after doctors were unable to repair his liver.
Then just weeks ago New Jersey high school quarterback Evan Murray died after taking a helmet to the stomach. Murray collapsed on the sideline and later passed away from a massive abdominal hemorrhage.
In all, it's difficult to tell how many high school football players suffer serious abdominal injuries because reporting has been inconsistent. But injuries to the liver, spleen, and kidneys are common.
A few years after Haugen's death, his parents formed the Taylor Haugen Foundation and Youth Equipment for Sports Safety (YESS) to educate and equip high school football players to protect them from abdominal injuries. While NFL and many college players were wearing rib protectors, back plates, and other extra padding, these options were absent in high school locker rooms.
The Haugens believe padded shirts like the EvoShield can give athletes more protection, and have donated 2,500 of the custom moldable shirts to youth athletes. While football may never be perfectly safe, similar precautions may minimize the effect of abdominal injuries.
If your child has been injured playing high school sports, even if you signed a liability waiver, you may want to talk to an experienced injury attorney about your case.