Over the weekend, Navy football player Will McKamey was hospitalized after collapsing during practice. The 19-year-old freshman running back and Fourth Class Midshipman fell into a coma, and three days days later the Naval Academy Superintendent VADM Mike Miller has confirmed the McKamey has died.
Despite his family releasing a statement that McKamey did not suffer any unusually hard hits or “extreme contact” all signs point to traumatic brain injury. Soon after being hospitalized Randy McKamey, Will’s father, posted an update to Twitter saying that his son underwent surgery Saturday in an effort to relieve pressure on the brain.
McKamey’s mother also confirmed that this was not the first time her son collapsed, referring back to an incident during 2012, when Will was still in high school.
“Since his prior accident in 2012 Will has been seen by four different neurosurgeons,” said Kara McKamey. “He had 4-6 CAT scans and MRI’s to rule out any issue and clear him for contact. After his prior incident he went without any contact for over nine months to just be safe. We feel obviously there is more going on in his brain than we could have ever detected. I want to be clear that the Navy football program nor us as his parents would have ever allowed him to be in a dangerous situation.”
The 2012 injury occurred during a game late in the season when Will played at Grace Christian Academy.
Will’s death is tragic, but he should serve as a reminder that the brain and traumatic brain injuries are still a long way from being understood. While the debate around the biggest sport in the country grows more and more tense, we should keep in mind that the majority of the casualties of brain injuries never make it to the NFL.
Will’s injury may not even be entirely related to football. As the family and Naval Academy search for answers of what happened, they say they have already “poured through the films of practice and seen nothing more than Will carrying the football, doing what he truly loves.”
Still, his passing should be seen as proof that concussions are brain injuries are more serious than “getting knocked silly”. It is unclear whether McKamey’s death is connected to the old brain injury or a new injury that went unnoticed, but most likely it is a combination of the two. The dangers of suffering another concussion increase following the first injury, and subsequent brain injuries have been shown to be more severe than the first.
“During this most difficult of times, first and foremost, our prayers and thoughts turn to Randy, Kara and their beautiful family,” Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “Our deepest and most sincere condolences go out to their entire family and friends. As our Navy football family mourns the loss of one of our brothers, we also celebrate and honor his life. He loved his family, his friends and his teammates. The Brotherhood loves you! Keep the ball ‘high and tight’ in Heaven.”