The tragic Friday night death of standout Creekside High student-athlete DeAntre “Tre Tre” Turman stunned the South Fulton County community and most likely thousands of Georgia high school football fans, too.
The 16-year-old Turman, a rising junior cornerback who had been receiving significant recruiting attention, suffered a broken neck, including a fracture of his third cervical vertebra, on what was described as a routine football tackle during his team's scrimmage against Banneker High.
Witnesses said he went instantly limp after the blow and the especially well-liked Turman was pronounced dead hours later at Grady Memorial Hospital. Several hundred turned out for a candlelight vigil on Sunday night,and other events are expected in the time following Turman's Saturday funeral.
Over the weekend, Ralph Swearngin, Georgia High School Association executive director, expressed his sympathy at the GHSA website:
”Any kind of death of an adolescent, it’s a tragedy,” said Swearngin. “You think about the loss to the family and a young life being cut off whether it’s an athletic event or car accident or natural causes. As a father and grandfather, it strikes you personally.”
Creekside begins a new season on Aug. 30 versus visiting Langston Hughes, but there are 56 games statewide this coming weekend to kickoff the 2013 season in Georgia.
Deaths from high school football are very rare according to theNational Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research at the University of North Carolina, which says that over the last decade, fewer than three boys a year on average have died as a result of football on-field injuries.
Spinal injuries are also rather rare in prep football with the same UNC-based research center reporting that fewer than 1 in 100,000 high school participants suffer a spinal injury each year.
But there’s no denying that football is a rough and violent game, and the risk of catastrophic injury or death is present. The reality is that equipment improvements have helped reduce the rate of injury, but because of other factors, including the angle of a person’s head at impact, there will continue to be serious injuries suffered on the football field.
Forty-nine states, including Georgia, have in the last five yearspassed laws to help better care for young athletes who have suffered head injuries, as well as heightened the overall awareness of concussions and their long term effects.
Nearly 50 percent of the concussions in high school sports occur on the football field, and the National Federation of State High School Associations has approved new rules for the 2013 football season in an effort to minimize player injuries to the head.
Even President Barack Obama chimed in on the subject earlier this year: "Those of us who love the sport are going to have to wrestle with the fact that it will probably change gradually to try to reduce some of the violence," the president said.
Of course, parents have led the drive in supporting their children’s athletic careers - but now mom and dad - as you watch from the stands under those Friday night lights (or possibly Saturday sunshine), how concerned are you about your child’s safety, even on a play-to-play basis?
What type of discussions have you had with your young football star about the possibility of serious injury on the field? Have you ever encouraged your child to consider focusing on a less-dangerous sport?