Prior to Saturday, there had been five deaths total "directly due to [college] football" since 2002, according to the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research. The last time two college players died in the same year playing the game was ...and more »
One of the deadliest college football Saturdays in decades has added to one of the deadliest college football years in decades.
Midwestern State cornerback Robert Grays died Tuesday after suffering an apparent serious neck injury while making a tackle Saturday against Texas A&M-Kingsville, the school confirmed early Wednesday.
Grays was one of two college football players who played Saturday to die and the fifth college football player to die this year. Prior to Saturday, there had been five deaths total "directly due to [college] football" since 2002, according to the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research.
The last time two college players died in the same year playing the game was 2011, according to the NCCSIR. When medical examinations are finalized, two may have died on the same day Saturday.
College of Wooster senior offensive lineman Clayton Geib died Monday after reportedly cramping and hyperventilating in the locker room following Saturday's game against Ohio Wesleyan. No immediate cause of death was determined. Geib's organs were being donated.
A coroner recently confirmed Kent State offensive lineman Tyler Heintz died of extertional heat stroke following the second day of conditioning drills on June 13.
Kent State later fired strength coach Ross Browsher after a CBS Sports investigation found the school couldn't produce NCAA-required certification for Browsher.
"From my perspective, it's a traumatic game. We anticipate traumatic catastrophic injury and traumatic catastrophic death. We work to prevent those things," said Scott Anderson, Oklahoma head athletic trainer and leading authority on player safety. "We certainly don't expect non-traumatic death in our sport and training for our sport."
Three of the five deaths this year came in the offseason.
At the time, Heintz became the 35th college football player across all divisions to die since 2000, according to Anderson's research. Only six of those were traumatic deaths, occurring outside preseason conditioning or offseason drills.
Factors relating to overexertion have become the leading cause of death for college football players since the beginning of the century.
As for in-game deaths, Anderson said the leading cause was "poor blocking and poor tackling. Enforcement will drive technique."
There was dramatic drop in traumatic and catastrophic injuries when the NCAA outlawed spearing in 1976. More recently, targeting rules have been aimed at reducing injuries.
Professional and college teams have embraced so-called "rugby tackling" techniques to keep the head out of danger.
The NCAA was formed in 1906 after 19 players died on the field. Recently, chief medical officer Brian Hainline has started several initiations to increase player safety, particularly regarding head trauma.
"If you really saw it, it was a football play," said a witness who saw the play Grays was injured on. "He was in on a tackle. It wasn't like anything you'd see on any other play."
Midwestern State, a Division II program, released a statement through president Suzanne Shipley.
"This tragedy has struck at the heart of our community and has affected us in many ways. Today, I encourage you to join with your peers to help one another. Together we are stronger. We will continue to offer counseling and support services to all members of the Midwestern community."
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