A high school football player from Arizona died Monday night, days after suffering a severe brain injury during a game. The Hopi High School football running back Charles Youvella was dealt a terrible blow to the head after being tackled. He scored the only touchdown for the team that night in a 60-6 defeat.
During the final quarter, Youvella was tackled in what was described as a “typical football tackle” by officials. On the way down, the back of Youvella’s head came in hard contact with the ground.
Initially everything seemed fine, as Youvella immediately returned to his feet and participated in two more plays before suddenly collapsing on the field. He was conscious and talking when he was taken off the field by paramedics, but USA Today reports he was in critical condition by the time he arrived at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix.
Concussions in football may be a more popular topic of discussion at the moment, but it is still common to hear that “it’s not a big deal,” or “they knew what they were signing up for.” A lot of this is because the conversation centers on professional or collegiate level football players. It is easy to dismiss the decisions of adults to participate in an obviously brutal sport, but what about the huge number of children playing contact football across the United States.
In the US, football is the most popular sport in almost every age-range, and many children and teenagers step out onto the field every week to fight it out on the gridiron. Sure, they aren’t 400 pound men beating each other, but anyone who has watched a high school football game knows the harsh way the game is played, even at lower levels.
Youvella is just the latest in a line of young victims to terrible brain injuries suffered in football. While the sport may be deeply ingrained in American culture, it is time we take a good look at ourselves and decide if the death toll is worth it. Grown men may or may not “know what they’re signing up for,” but no family expects that their high school athlete is going to die from joining the most popular sport in the country.
Chuck Schmidt, Associate Executive Director of the Arizona Interscholastic Association, said the organization would open an account to which people can donate to help the family with medical bills.