High School Football Player Dies from Head Injury


October 17, 2011

On Friday, a a 16-year-old high school lineman in New York state died after suffering from a traumatic brain injury during a game. According to the coroner, Ridge Barden suffered a massive subdural hematoma after a particularly hard helmet-to-helmet hit.

Increased attention to head injuries in football, from high school to the pros, has resulted new laws across the country, including a recent one passed in New York. But it’s rare that a player dies from a head injury sustained on the field; the Post reports that each year, a “handful” of high school football players are fatally injured while playing.

Ridge Barden’s mother Jacqueline insisted that the opposing team’s players were not at fault. “[Ridge] just would not want those people to think that it was their fault.  It was just an accident,” she told the media.

But, as we explored in Football High last April, there is a growing concern that helmet-to-helmet hits are too prevalent among inexperienced high school players.

Gregg Easterbrook, a writer and ESPN columnist, told us that helmets are too often used as a weapon in high school. “If players were tossed out of games for deliberate helmet-to-helmet contact, it would go down pretty quickly,” he said.

Or these hits may just be the result of poor technique among inexperienced players. “What you’ll find is, they will launch into a play, and they will lead with their helmet,” says Tom Talavage, a professor who studies brain injuries in high school football players. “Other players will more correctly keep their head up, try to get their arms up as a blocking technique, or when they’re rushing, they will try to get their arms up as a means to push the offensive lineman out of the way. Those technique differences lead to a very large difference in the total number of blows experienced and where those blows are experienced on the head.”

Players, coaches and parents can learn more on how to protect against head injuries and other issues that affect the health and safety of high school football players here.

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