Ferris State linebacker Matt Sklom died Wednesday after collapsing during a routine practice. The 18-year-old was a walk-on, who had been practicing with the team for a couple of weeks.
Sklom was participating in a tackling drill when he collapsed on the field. Reports indicate that his death was due to heart failure.
Although no one really expects football players to die of heat stroke or heart attack during routine practices, it happens. My main concern is that most of the time these deaths could have been prevented.
Coaches see players exhausted, struggling and parched. They shrug it off, raise their voices and insist that the players push themselves harder. Coaches want to win games. Players want to win games. So players push themselves harder and in rare incidents push themselves to death. One five-minute rest may save a player’s life; a quick drink of water may save another.
Where does a coach draw the line and say enough is enough? I know where he should draw the line.
If a player says he can’t take anymore, he should draw the line. If a player says he needs a drink of water, he should draw the line. Even if a player says that he’s O.K. and the coach feels that he is not, he should draw the line.
A coach is to a player what a referee is to a fighter. The referee stops the fight when he feels that a fighter can take no more. A coach needs to stop the practice when he sees that the players can take no more. If a player collapses on the field, it may be too late to draw that line.
Fourteen-year old Leonard Carter II died Aug. 17, 2001 after collapsing during his high school football practice. Minnesota Vikings tackle Korey Stringer collapsed during practice July 31, 2001 and died the next day. Florida football player Eraste Thomas Autin collapsed on the field July 19, 2001 and died six days later. A 17-year old high school player died of heat stroke Sept. 5, 2000. Florida State’s Devaughn Darling collapsed and died during an off-season work-out Feb. 26.
According to a study done by the University of North Carolina, 23 football players died nationwide last year. Eight of those deaths were the result of injuries. Three were attributed to heat stroke and 12 to causes intensified by extreme exercise.
Football is an intense sport and only the strong survive. Precision and perfection takes lots of practice. There are many sacrifices that you must make if you want to be a football player. You must be willing to practice under the sun in sweltering temperatures and unbearable humidity. You must run every play until the grass beneath your feet no longer exists.
This sport requires complete dedication. Sometimes it requires you to skip that water break, push yourself to the limit and collapse in the middle of the practice field. You may lose your life, but your death will teach other players that the weak don’t survive in the world of football. So you decide, is it really worth it?
-Elizabeth Broadway, 19, is a sophomore, newspaper journalism student from Alpharetta, Ga. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.